Action Adventure

Review: ‘Lightyear’ Offers an Action-Packed Take on a Beloved Character, Powered by the Expected Quota of Pixar Charm

June 13, 2022Ben MK

Movies are full of all sorts of memorable characters, but there are some who are so universally beloved that they require no introduction. Buzz Lightyear is one of those characters, and when you consider the immense popularity of Pixar's Toy Story films, it's easy to see why. Now, Buzz is getting his very own spinoff movie — a prequel, if you will. But whereas the Buzz we all know and love is very much a toy who thinks he's a Space Ranger, this Buzz is a flesh-and-blood man on a mission — one to redeem himself for mistakes made and prove his worthiness to wear the iconic Space Ranger suit.

Set sometime in the distant future, Lightyear begins wth Buzz (Chris Evans) and his best friend, fellow Space Ranger Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), charged with steering a state-of-the-art spaceship carrying 1,200 cryogenically frozen crew members back to Earth, following the completion of their latest mission. However, when the ship's sensors detect signs of life on T'Kani Prime, a potentially resource-rich planet situated deep within the far reaches of uncharted space, they decide to make an unplanned detour to investigate. Unfortunately, the alien plant life they end up encountering proves infinitely more unfriendlier than they could ever anticipate, and when Buzz's valiant attempt to escape the vicious vegetation winds up marooning the ship on the planet's surface instead, it puts their journey home in dire jeopardy, causing their priorities to shift dramatically.

Burdened by the fact that his actions might have doomed the entire crew, Buzz must help find a way to get everyone home, a task that seems all but impossible due to the destruction of the ship's hyperspeed crystal, the heart of the technology that allows them to travel faster than the speed of light. Thankfully, there may be a way to create another crystal using the minerals found on T'Kani Prime. There's just one catch, though — in order to perfect it, Buzz will have to embark on space flight after space flight to try to break the hyperspeed barrier. And while each journey only takes a matter of minutes for Buzz, each minute equates to roughly a year for those on the surface. So by the time Buzz finally succeeds, not only has 66 years gone by, but an army of robots has also descended upon the planet. And if there's any hope of going home, Buzz will have to find a way to defeat them.

Directed by Angus MacLane (Finding Dory), what follows will have Buzz teaming up with an adorable robotic feline named Sox (Peter Sohn) and a rag-tag group of willing yet inexperienced fighters led by Alisha's spunky granddaughter, Izzy (Keke Palmer), as they must formulate a winning strategy for outsmarting the robots' evil leader, Zurg (James Brolin) and taking down the gigantic robot mothership hovering menacingly in the planet's lower atmosphere. But just what could this mysterious villain possibly want with T'Kani Prime and its human inhabitants? And is Buzz prepared to discover his enemy's surprising, true identity?

Suffice to say, Lightyear addresses all of these questions in spectacular fashion, buoyed by the usual quota of Pixar charm. Still, the real issue is whether moviegoers are ready to bid adieu to Tim Allen's goofy portrayal of Buzz and say hello to Evans' more heroic embodiment. Either way, it certainly helps that the film positions itself as the inspiration behind Buzz Lightyear the toy, rather than being a reboot. And for those who grew up watching Toy Story or any of its three sequels, that means going to infinity and beyond has never felt so cool.

Lightyear releases June 17th, 2022 from Walt Disney Studios. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for action/peril. Its runtime is 1 hr. 40 min.

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