When it comes to “Lightyear”, the odd thing is I knew this wasn’t going to live up to acclaimed status the Toy Story films have caved out for Pixar and I didn’t mind that…..for the first few minutes of the film. The longer it droned on, the more apparent it became that this is one of the most pedestrian efforts Pixar ever turned in.
Alongside The Good Dinosaur, Brave and Cars 2, this did not feel like a Pixar film outside of a few select scenes in splices. The direction borrows heavily from Star Wars, Star Trek and even Interstellar, mocking the type of movie this would’ve been in the 90’s but treading extremely lightly on the charm and wit that helps carry Pixar’s other films. If anything, it came off incredibly stilted. Luckily, Michael Giacchino’s music gets diegetic quickly which makes up for its surprising staleness, cinematography and editing are sturdy enough to convey the images placed on screen and the animation, per usual, is absolutely gorgeous despite the absence of vibrancy and spectacle.
Voice acting has a lot of charm around it but none of them are able to elevate the script to where all the characters feel like actual people. Evans and Palmer do their best but it isn’t enough; everyone is one note and unmemorable. Not venturing off into campiness was a missed opportunity, laughs are in scarcely short supply, the action is substandard, dialogue was more of the same, it’s not a far stretch to point out how fabricated most of the plots structure came off due to unnecessary complications and on top of that, the film’s gritty, down to earth, self-serious tone not only clashes but constantly butts heads with a tedious pace that doesn’t overcome the lull that washes over the limitations of its production design or the emptiness of the atmosphere, or lack thereof.
It’s story keeps playing safe against the material that it likens itself with and decides against being the all-out fun space opera the Buzz Lightyear TV show embraced, leading to a rather messy screenplay too repetitive to warrant any real excitement or anticipation and too hollow to be a deconstruction of heroic space dramas.
It’s only saving grace, outside of its simplicity, is a nice hyperbolic turn they did with its villain that reminded me of Lost In Space or Spider-Man: Edge Of Time (as forgettable as he ends up becoming) and it did help promote the message it was hammering but all it did was further emphasize how contradictory it was to the actual Zurg as well as the possible implications that this had a different script at some point.
On one hand, it’s efforts are not unfounded: there’s top-tier digital animation effects, ok voice acting, and moments rather touching in its simplicity. On the other, if this was an idea that Andy played out in his head instead of the the film that got him into Buzz, it would’ve been more believable than what we got. Imagine that: a movie about a giant red panda going through puberty beats out a 27 year old space toy that helped put Pixar on the map. That’s not good.