Lightyear (2022)

Lightyear (2022) Cover

Lightyear has a completely different tone than any of the previous affiliated Toy Story franchise films and it is pleasantly unique. While the Toy Story movies take place in a reality where humans are unaware that Toys are alive, Lightyear is a high-stakes sci-fi adventure revolving around space ranger Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans). The space ranger’s mission is to get off a hostile planet with his peers, but the objective proves to be immensely challenging. After many unsuccessful attempts, Buzz’s life changes in ways you would not expect, and he must learn to rely on others to grow. The film opens explaining that Lightyear is a movie that Andy from the Toy Story films really enjoyed, and it mirrors a similar tone to that of Star Wars and the direct-to-video flick Buzz Lightyear of Star Commander.

Michael Giacchino is a freak of nature when it comes to his musical scores. The score compliments the thrills and dread that otherwise wouldn’t exist without the crescendos and galactic sounding music. There’s an early montage that results in a very emotional scene and the piano-space hitting music had me almost shedding tears.  Additionally, there’s a sequence where Buzz is trying multiple times to accomplish an objective that keeps resulting in failure and the score excellently communicates his determination and the defeat that he feels each time he does not accomplish his goal. The beats this film hit would not be executed as eloquently without the score.

The animation is incredibly wonderful; it would be a treat to see this picture and sound on an IMAX screen (and it’s interesting to think that in Andy’s world this type of quality is what he saw back in 1995!). Lightyear will be the first film since Onward that Pixar is putting into theaters and I am hoping it does well as monetary support will show that we want more content in theaters as opposed to it going directly to streaming. The overall cinematography is nothing to be surprised from regarding a Pixar film, but it is should certainly still be appreciated.

Lightyear subverted my expectations regarding its theme; the film begins with what you think is going to be the over-done theme of “Be resilient, do not give up on your dreams, and one day you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to.”. But instead, the film takes a turn and leans more towards, “You can’t always get what you seek after. Everyone makes mistakes. Forgive others and forgive yourself.” And “Be content with what/who you have and where you are.” Great themes to ponder and it is always interesting to see any character (in this case Buzz) change because of the adventure the character embarks on; it gives the story a meaningful purpose.

LGBTQ+ supporting audiences will be happy to see more prominent representation of a lesbian character in a widely distributed film. Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) is Buzz’s best friend and over the course of time gets in a significant relationship with another woman and together they take care of their granddaughter, Izzy (Keke Palmer). It made me smile to see the inclusion of this relationship because, growing up, the lack of representation in family films reinforced the social norm that same-sex relationships were abnormal or taboo. However, the film is one of the first family-friendly animated films to showcase a same-sex relationship in a positive light and in such a forward manner. I also liked the fact that the sexual orientation was not portrayed as a struggle and that the character was not seen as a social outcast due to her preference because seeing that reinforces the current climate of our society and ultimately, seeing a normal no-drama relationship exist without conflict is hopefully a glimpse of how society will evolve (the way it has slowly progressed regarding race). Kudos Pixar! It is perfectly fitting this film releases during Pride Month.

There are a few side quests that are mere filler and while they build the characters, they slightly slow down the pacing and are not as compelling as the over-arching mission. Nonetheless, the film is still  an overall breezy 1 hour and 43 minutes and the positive themes, score, and animation outweigh some of the disputable parts of the narrative. While the Toy Story films are more fascinating, Lightyear has a completely different tone and the aspects that are done well are to be appreciated in a different way.

Final Verdict:Despite having muddled side quests that bring this down to still a slightly above average journey, Lightyear has terrific themes of relying on friends and being content with imperfect circumstances. Additionally, the animation is beautiful.