Pamela’s written most of this review, but I’m gonna stay on just a little longer to help her out by giving my own thoughts on the movie. First of all, I want to bring up that Toy Story 2 was one of the first movies I watched in theaters as a kid, so I have good memories of the series.
Lightyear is a space opera like Star Wars, i.e. a movie that uses space as a setting but is not about space. However, it does at least try to have some believable space science as a major plot mechanic, although it is a bit of a MacGuffin to move the plot along. No spoilers as to what science is used, but I think they handled it well.
Overall I liked the movie, particularly the visuals and variety of environments the characters found themselves in. Like a typical Disney movie, there’s something for all ages. I rate it: Childhood Not Ruined.
Now let’s go to Pamela for a more in-depth review.
As you may have noticed, Erik and I aren’t exactly from the same generation. While Toy Story 2 was the first movie he saw in theaters, Toy Story was one of the last Disney movies I saw in a theater while I was in college. The whole concept of “toys actually being alive” is one that has had a soft spot in my heart since I read Hans Christian Anderson’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier when I was little. From reading Lynne Reid Banks’s The Indian in the Attic as a kid to Matt Wallace’s Sundae about a toy bear, this genre is my jam.
And Disney’s new Lightyear has absolutely nothing to do with toys coming to life.
This animated film is meant to be the movie that the Buzz Lightyear toy was associated with. And this difference makes all the difference in… the universe.
This Lightyear looks and sounds as different from thetToy Buzz Lightyear as your typical Luke Skywalker toy is different from Mark Hammil’s live-action portrayal. Note the difference, appreciate the nuance, and move on with your day folks; Disney made a good choice.
And it was just one of many. This is a sweet movie about an exploration vehicle carrying a large and diverse crew setting out to see what new worlds have to offer. During a standard away mission – one that includes landing their entire turnip-shaped ship on a new planet – things go sideways and they have to sort a new way to get home. Like a planet-bound Star Trek: Voyager, we see relationships grow while science works to try and do the probably impossible.
As Erik hinted, the plot is carried by science — good science that doesn’t bog anything down with its details but simply carries the plot forward. Our hero has flaws that are endearing, and the ensemble cast is diverse in a way that feels normal for a future military, and they have quirks that make it all feel human in its animated sweetness. There are also AIs that feel real in their quirks and failings and feel impossibly futuristic in their empathy and some twists that left me saying, “Yes, this is how you get Cylons.” Oh, and there are lots of hidden Star Wars references, so that’s fun too.
This is just a feel-good science fiction movie that in no way made my science-loving brain go boink. If you need a smile and a gentle escape from our world, fall into Lightyear for an evening or afternoon, and enjoy our flawed heroes’ journey.