Lightyear⭐️⭐️ 1/2 Review by Andrea Carnevali
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. Out in cinemas now.
I had to happened sooner or later, even Pixar can miss its mark.
Lightyear is certainly not a bad film and the kids I watched this with (including my son) all seemed to love it, but it’s the first time I came out a screening of a Pixar animated feature feeling unimpressed and actually a bit bored too (and that comes from somebody who wasn’t very impressed by the previous Turning Red, but appreciated that at least that was trying to do something different, brave and new).
There are two main problems with Lightyear in my view: one is that it’s a film that is pretty derivative from any other sci-fi I have already seen millions of times.
It starts off just like Alien for example, with an astronaut waking up from hyper-sleep in a quiet spaceship. Then it becomes 2001, and then Wall-E, and The Iron Giant… Starship Troopers.
Even one of the best scenes in the film, a montage sequence when Buzz Lightyear’s friends and crew back at the base grow old in between his missions out in space, is essentially a direct copy of one in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.
As for the best character in the film, a Robot-cat called Sox, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Teddy Bear in Spielberg’s AI and of course R2D2, every time he was on the screen.
Kids may be unaware of all these references and they’ll still get wrapped up in the adventure (the film is mainly an all-action flick feeling more like a video-game moving from one level to the next) but while all of the above certainly doesn’t ruin the movie completely, it’s the first time that I felt a Pixar product wasn’t as fresh and original as they usually are. Just a very serviceable film with not a lot of emotional stirrings attached.
Even the aesthetic of the film itself, however beautifully rendered, with its impressive vistas and photorealistic landscapes, felt like a jumble of other familiar things, mainly from Star Wars (X-Wing-like spaceship and Clone Wars-like robots for example).
The other crucial problem for me was the fact that Buzz, at least in this film, is just not interesting enough as a character.
Now voiced by Chris Evans, who replaced Tim Allen from the original Toy Story, officially because they wanted to give the character more gravitas, he is devoid of any real emotions, any human history and crucially any humour. Not blaming Evans for it, but the whole thinking behind this ‘rebooting’ the character seemed to me pretty pointless.
It’s quite telling that when I asked the kids I was with “who is your favourite character in the film?” Buzz wasn’t even their second choice.
I’m not 100% sure about the logic behind the change, but to me it just backfired completely and made Buzz a character which is actually not very likeable and a bit dull overall. One hardly cares about what happens to him to be honest, at least for the first half of the film.
The film opens with a prologue that tells us that this was Andy’s favourite movie back in 1995 (when Toy Story was released) and that Buzz was everyone’s favourite character. Well, after seeing the film I find it hard to believe and I’m actually I’m beginning to wonder why Andy didn’t actually ask for Sox the Cat as a toy (Just like every child is going to do next Christmas… Well, at least all those who already have Baby Yoda).
Let’s face it, there was no reason to have Buzz as the main character in this film, it could have been any new character and probably would have been a slightly better film if it had not had all this baggage. They wanted to have some familiar face in it and to use the “to infinity and beyond” catchphrase. A very calculated cash-in exercise from a company which used to care about making its films unique and special. This ain’t either of them.
In the end I decided a three star rating would actually have been too generous even taking into account the fact that the kids liked it more than I did (or my wife did)…. But it’s more a disappointed 2 and 1/2 I’m afraid, especially considering where this character is coming from.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick
Lightyear is out in cinemas.
See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali
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