Released: 16th June
Seen: 4th July
In 1995 the film Toy Story was released and began what can only be called a revolution in what an animated film could look like. It was truly the first of its kind, a feature-length 3D animated film that effectively marked a moment where the medium itself changed forever. That sweet funny little film about a bunch of toys who came to life will go down in history as a landmark film, showing the potential of the 3D animated technology that was so new at the time.
Along with being a technological masterpiece, the film also created a set of characters that people would fall in love with. One of the most beloved of all was Buzz Lightyear, a cocky space ranger trying to get back to his home planet. He was the coolest toy of them all, but one question would linger in people’s minds… what inspired the creation of that toy? According to the opening text of Lightyear, we now know what lead to the creation of that toy and it makes total sense now why a kid in 1995 would become obsessed with that film.
Lightyear tells the story of Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans), a space ranger who, along with his commanding officer Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) are on a mission to see if the planet that they have just landed upon is safe for their crew. They quickly learn that it’s not really safe, but also end up severely damaging their ship which means the large crew has to make the planet into their temporary home until they can figure out how to get their ship repaired.
Buzz takes on full responsibility for this job and ends up handling the testing for the new hyperdrive engine but a 4-minute test flight ends up costing him 4 years and every new flight means that everyone around Buzz ages more and more while he keeps staying young. He will need to figure out how to fix the issue, eventually with the help of Alisha’s granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer) and a ragtag group of friends who might just help Buzz learn a valuable lesson… oh also at some point Buzz will have to fight evil Emperor Zurg because what the hell else is Buzz Lightyear going to do?
You can really tell that the Pixar people were trying to make the Toy Story universe’s version of Star Wars here, everything from the visual language used to the design of the weapons to the dramatic dialogue all feels like it belongs in a Star Wars knockoff film. There’s a love for this genre of film that’s undeniable, playing up the silliness of certain elements to try and help separate it from its obvious influences. Admittedly it doesn’t stray too far from those influences, this film still has the vibe of Babies First Sci-Fi but that works for the concept that this would’ve been something that blew minds back in 1995.
The film really does a great job of exploring the character of Buzz Lightyear, making sure that it’s very different from the character of the toy that we’ve spent the better part of three decades coming to love. It really fills in the blanks that we didn’t know about the toy, like what the catchphrases mean in their normal context or what’s the significance of that outfit. It’s reverse-engineered a pretty impressive backstory to explain the details of the toy while also just generally being a pretty great piece of entertainment itself.
It is kind of funny to me that the big controversy surrounding this film is the 2-second long lesbian kiss that takes place very early on in the film, it’s such a simple chaste moment that could only offend the terminally stupid so it’s wild to see how many people have chosen to be upset by it. It’s also funny because if we assume this is the film Andy saw in 1995 then that means that this movie technically beats Ellen’s coming out in 1997…. It’s been almost 25 years and some of you haven’t grown up, that’s kind of wild. Honestly, it’s the kind of sweet innocent moment that there should be more of in kids’ films and if the idea of exposing your kid to that one moment is why you haven’t taken them to this movie… you’re a bad parent, I was going to try and sugar coat it but if one cartoon lesbian kiss is too much for you then you have problems and need to fix them.
What doesn’t need much fixing is Lightyear, which does exactly what it sets out to do. It’s a big fun bombastic romp in the sci fi world that shows us the kind of movie that would inevitably inspire a line of toys that would be overwhelmingly popular among kids of any age. It’s funny, exciting and just a lot of fun. It might not be one of the best things Pixar have ever made but that’s only because Pixar is known for putting out absolutely jaw-droppingly brilliant films on a regular basis and this time they’ve just dropped something that’s really good instead of world-changing. It’s absolutely worth checking out… and also, hopefully this coming out means they’ll finally put the Buzz Lightyear cartoon up on Disney Plus