We've seen Pixar's latest flick, based on its iconic spaceman Buzz Lightyear.
In 1995, young Andy exchanges all his cowboy stuff for spaceships when he receives a real Buzz Lightyear doll as a birthday present. We all know the rivalry between Sheriff Woody and the intrusive cosmonaut, but few know the real story behind the space hero! Pixar's latest summer flick appears as Andy's favourite film in 1995, with Lightyear acting both as a solo film that can stand on its own two feet and as a "within-its-universe" spinoff. It's a little funny that a 1995 film looks much nicer than Toy Story's reality in the 90's! No, I won't be like that; I actually loved the premise as soon as Pixar announced it all, as I've always wanted a pure Buzz Lightyear adventure since Toy Story 2 opened with a Buzz-centric video game intro.
Lightyear is exactly the movie I wanted, a space adventure that can stand on its own two feet and that takes place here in a distant future where humanity tries to expand in the universe. The spaceman Buzz Lightyear suddenly becomes the most important person in the universe when his people are stranded on an inhospitable planet and he becomes their only chance to find home again, which does not directly ease his burden: can he live with the mistakes that can cost him (and humanity) everything?
To begin with, the film's first act is a brilliant start to the film. The emotional efforts are a mixture of Interstellar and the tear-jerking first ten minutes of Up, where our hero quickly realises that he must bend time and space to give his colony an honest chance in the empty, cold void that is space. Chris Evans is really good in the role of a fresher human variant of the toy veteran, who here does much more than just imitate Tim Allen's achievement and who gives the character even more dimension. This Lightyear lives for its lifelong mission, but does not live a real life himself and therefore the slightest mistake is like carrying an entire planet on his shoulders. His dynamics with the film's "rookies" become somewhat predictable, but above all, his relationship with the master Hawthorne is one of the film's great highlights.
I also like the breadth of the film, which thinks big from beginning to end but never gets lost among all the sci-fi twists and turns of which there are so many that not a single second feels dull. The second act becomes much more fast-paced and action-packed when the alien Zurg, who in the Toy Story films acted as Buzz's archenemy, invades and Buzz is forced to merge with a self-proclaimed elite force that lacks everything called "elite". The humour does not always land, but there are a number of fun side characters such as the artificial robot cat Sox (who is mostly there to sell toys) and Taika Waititi's Mo Morrison who amuses young and old. My personal favourite characters, however, was Lightyear's not always helpful autopilot, and the sullen Burnside, who has such a small presence that he could have been used even more in the film.
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The animation is not for the faint of hearted either, and although I would have preferred a slightly more stylised one (like the one in Toy Story) than the realism that the filmmakers invest in, the film's science fiction design is a really welcome step for Pixar's adventure catalogue and I hope to see more pure action movies from this studio. The action scenes are very focused and it's quite exciting thanks to the sequences, which is reminiscent of Brad Bird's ingenuity in The Incredibles movies. In other words, it is an incredibly beautiful film, where Spielberg magic and 2001: A Space Odyssey have been clear inspirations for the story.
On the other hand, I can think that the last act of the film is slightly weaker than the first half of the film, which unfortunately would not be the first time for Pixar. Movies like Up and Wall-E have suffered from the same problem, where it becomes a twist too much. Still, Lightyear felt a bit like a fulfilled childhood dream, which was the feeling I took with me after the movie ended. Seeing Lightyear's wide range of emotions and still holding his heroic chin high made you feel a bit like Andy in Toy Story: elated to see a childhood hero humanised in this way. Then it suddenly doesn't matter so much that the last act doesn't reach the heights of the rest. There is so much heart behind the spacesuit that it is nice to see Pixar delivering more hits like this and Turning Red after disappointments like Onward and Luca. It would also not hurt with more sequels to Lightyear to live up to the immortal line: "Towards infinity and beyond!"