“While spending years attempting to return home, marooned Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear encounters an army of ruthless robots commanded by Zurg who are attempting to steal his fuel source.”

Director: Angus MacLane
Writers: Angus Maclane, Matthew Aldrich, Jason Headley
Staring: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, James Brolin, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Release Date: June 17, 2022

Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) is a young space ranger with Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba). We meet the pair, along with a rookie ranger, on an abandoned planet chaperoning a ship of passengers. The trio go exploring, but when nature revolts against them, the entire envoy is forced to stay on this one planet due to terrible damage done to their ship. The hyper speed drive is busted, and only one man can solve it. The one who broke it. Buzz Lightyear.

Buzz Lightyear attempts to solve the problem by creating the proper energy source to engage hyper speed, but every time he attempts to rescue his friends from their desolate planet with his scientific tests, he loses years of time. Despite missing out on time with those he cares about most, Lightyear continues to try and figure out a solution to hyper speed. He continues work at this pace and drastic things are happening down on the planet. A community is growing and technology is evolving. People are aging, and the most heartbreaking scenes occurs when Lightyear returns home to find out that Alisa has passed away.

New leadership emerges after Alisha dies, and he is shutting down Lightyear’s quest to get the people home. Commander Burnside (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) wants to embrace the world they are living on now instead of focusing up on a world they don’t know exists anymore.

Lightyear doesn’t take this well. He breaks away from the community, attempts a Hail Mary attempt at hyper speed…and he succeeds! In ecstatic euphoria he touches down…and stumbles upon an alien invasion? The community under the leadership of Burnside has put up a massive deflector shield to save themselves from nature…and an invading robot army?

Zurg (James Brolin) has come to the planet with his robot minions and they have struck fear into every inhabitant. When Lightyear returns, Zurg certainly takes a sudden keen interest in him. Why is this purple monstrosity so keen on chasing after a youthful and over eager space ranger?

The answer to this question comes as Buzz starts to answer questions and concern about himself. The catalyst for Buzz’s change are the friends he makes after his final return from hyper speed. Izzy Hawthorne is the daughter of Alisha Hawthorne and the leader of a rag tag group that also includes criminal explosive expert Darby Steele (Dale Soules), and smart worry-wart Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi).

Together this quartet, well I guess five person group with SOX (Peter Sohn), have multiple tough tasks ahead of them. Can they survive the robots, save the community, defeat Zurg and get everyone to return home? The heroes must band together for what seems to be a truly disastrous set of challenges, and naturally teamwork and trust are among the key ingredients to success.

You know what readers, if you got through that very overly written plot synopsis, then good for you. Here is a good YouTube video for a reward before continuing my thoughts on Lightyear.

My first big question about Lightyear is this: Are we meant to like Buzz? There is a classic story arc here about Buzz learning about himself and how to relate with others, but the audience still needs to relate to him. That is where the struggles lie. When Buzz begins attempting this hyperspace travel and missing time down on the planet his hubris kept them on….I mean let’s be honest here, it it comes off as very selfish.

One of the main themes about Lightyear is that idea of Buzz battling his own demons; stubbornness, hubris and hero complex. This plays out literally in the final act of the movie. Pixar movies are usually excellent at making you buy into a characters 180-degree personality turn, but Lightyear falls short of the mark because there are very few redeeming qualities of the story’s main character even at the start. Movies need to entice the audience to take the first step in the journey. In Lightyear, it is easy to see how viewers can backstep.

Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans), SOX (Peter Sohn), Darby Steel (Dale Soules), and Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer)

In terms of the cast for Lightyear, the voice acting was perfectly fine and nothing remarkable. The most recognizable voices are Taika Waititi and Keke Palmer, both of whom have enthusiastic characters that scream and holler. Taika’s voice has been incredibly recognizable with his work as Korg in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Thor: Love And Thunder (2022) and IG-11 in The Mandalorian (2019). Keke Palmer immediately rang in my brain because I had just seen Nope (2022) where her enthusiasm shined (in a much better movie).

In terms of Chris Evans, he sounds more more looks the part of Buzz Lightyear than sounds like him.

Lightyear ends with the titular character at the helm of the revived Galactic Ranger corps and his team of rag-tag misfits are about to embark on their first mission in their new fancy suits. There are some post credit scenes that also hint about what world could explored by Disney if they wanted to continue the origin story of Buzz. The question remains…does Disney want to do that? Lightyear did not blow up the box office and it did not create any meaningful conversation upon its release. The movie itself got middling reviews despite having the built in IP that makes a movie more palatable to a wide audience.

The MacGuffin…

The budget for Lightyear was estimated at 200 million dollars. On its opening weekend it grossed just over 50 million and in its entire movie theater run, the flick only took in 226 million. There is not a lot of margin there between profitability and disaster. Disney may have to take a leap into infinity and beyond if it wants to continue this story and try and make a profit.

Speaking strictly as Jonathan Stanko, I could see Lightyear working as an animated TV show on Disney+. Whether or not the cast returns is a question, but this is a type of story that can be told to young audiences on a weekly basis. Imagine a show like this that is 30 minutes long that parents can put on to distract their kids while they are cleaning the house of washing this dishes. Lightyear can be a classic Saturday morning cartoon, because it definitely doesn’t seem like a classic Pixar and Walt Disney production.

Lightyear is a perfectly fine animated feature that leaves no emotional resonance and lacks the entertainment value one would expect. An overall disappointing movie does not mean it is bad, but it is fair to call it lackluster. It is a fine distraction or casual viewing experience, but Lightyear is not going to leave you in feeling fully and happy when the credits start rolling.

STANKO RATING: B- (2.5/5 Stars)

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