Film Review: Lightyear

by Julia DeKorte | 31 May 2023

Book Reviews

Lightyear tells the story of Buzz Lightyear, beloved character from the Toy Story franchise. The film begins with these words displayed on a black screen: “In 1995, a boy named Andy got a Buzz Lightyear toy for his birthday. It was from his favorite movie. This is that movie.” Buzz is a Space Ranger, and with his Commander, Alisha Hawthorne, and their rookie, they explore a new planet, T’Kani Prime. Finding it ridden with dangerous creatures, they race back to their ship, but crash as they try to escape. Marooned on T’Kani prime, members of the crew spend the next year developing a new hyperspace fuel crystal. Buzz volunteers to be the test pilot and launches into space. While only four and a half minutes pass for Buzz, four years pass for everyone else on T’Kani Prime, due to the effects of time dilation.  


As Buzz, who is voiced by Chris Evans, continues to fail his mission, Alisha and everyone else settle into T’Kani Prime – Alisha even gets married and raises a son with her wife Kiko. All the while, Buzz only has one focus: complete the mission. He is given a robotic cat companion, who after 62 years, develops the right composition for the fuel crystal to work. Finally, Buzz goes on one final mission to test the fuel, and with Sox’s formula, it works! However, when he gets back to T’Kani Prime from space 22 years later, he finds that Zurg robots have invaded. He reluctantly teams up with a team of junior space rangers, including Izzy Hawthorne, Alisha’s granddaughter who is voiced by Keke Palmer, and they embark on a new mission: blow up the Zurg ship, rescue the crew, and leave T’Kani Prime using the fuel crystal Sox created.


From the very beginning of the film, Buzz is reluctant to work with the rookie joining him and Alisha. He trusts her, but nobody else. He doesn’t like to ask for help, or rely on others, so when Izzy and the other misfits that make up the junior space ranger program are the only other people not being held captive by Zurg, he is very skeptical, and tries to work alone. Eventually, however, he comes to realize they are more resourceful than he gave them credit for, and the unique team works together to overcome obstacles. 


Buzz shows everyone that it’s okay to ask for help, and to also not discount the abilities of someone before you get to know them. Lightyear is the perfect backstory for Buzz Lightyear, who viewers will know and love through Toy Story. The film brings some understanding not only to why Buzz was such an exciting toy for Andy to receive, but also to how Buzz’s personality formed. 


Produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios, many familiar elements of the Buzz viewers know from Toy Story were preserved, like the space ranger uniform. The film also introduced new elements, separating it from the Toy Story franchise. Lightyear is certainly a stand-alone movie, and one does not have to have seen Toy Story for it to make sense. The animation was top notch, the storyline engaging and educational, and the cherry on top: a twist that nobody could see coming. 

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