My Spoiler-Free First Look at Pixar’s Lightyear
Let me start off by saying this… I love a good origin story.
From the moment it begins, you will realize that Lightyear is very different than any other Pixar film you have seen before.
I had an opportunity to preview the first 30 minutes of the film recently, and immediately imagined myself being 6 year old Andy, sitting in a darkened movie theater with his parents, excitedly watching and being introduced to a new hero… and a new favorite toy.
My (spoiler-free) initial impression was that Pixar looked to not only break new ground technologically with Lightyear, but reflect new storytelling ground being broken, not just visually, but in tone, and especially pace.
Act one of Lightyear fires right out of the gate, hits the ground running, and moves at a very fast pace. The story beats come quickly, as we are introduced to a character we thought we knew well. We quickly come to find out that not only does Buzz have a rich and detailed backstory, but it is one that is also very much grounded in emotion. Like any (and all) good Pixar films, prepare to have your emotional heartstrings tugged.
And along the way, you can’t help but find yourself having your breath taken away by the incredibly realistic look and feel of the film. There is a sense of realism to the characters, costumes and environments that we have yet to see form Pixar, and I found myself forgetting that I was watching something “drawn by hand” rather than simply captured on film. The details, lighting, textures, and even sound design are nothing short of breathtaking. I was very much aware of not just what I was seeing, but what I was hearing… and feeling… along the way.
My heart was also happy because of the visuals, scenes, buildings, and ships that were clearly inspired by shows like Battlestar Galactica and Space: 1999. Art Director Greg Peltz explained that even Zurg was “inspired by a healthy dose of NASA, and influenced by Japanese anime.” The real-world inspirations that the creative staff utilized is clearly visible, but with a little bit of fantasy, futurism, and fun layered on top. The visuals are stunning to see, and the clear nods to nostalgia are very pleasantly welcome. It was interesting to realize that Instead of making toys from a film, Pixar made a film inspired by “toys” as well as taking inspiration from so many classic movies and television shows dating back to the 70’s and 80’s. I can’t wait to watch again in a theater to see how much more I missed on my first viewing!
What I also found myself realize what just what a deep and rich story was being told. Lightyear is a character development story, and we come to see that Buzz is not just a passionate Space Ranger, but someone who is, and has been, a character at odds with his surroundings… as well as time.
We come to learn that Buzz is not simply living his (first) “fish out of water” story, but is a lonely, passionate person (despite Woody’s later proclamations that he is just a toy), who is (seemingly always) looking to correct the mistakes of his past.
The voice actors are spectacular, and while Tim Allen doesn’t voice Buzz in this film (which makes sense), Chris Evans does a remarkable job. There is a level of emotion that is hard to quantify, but when you hear him speak, you’ll know I mean. We are also introduced to new characters, and Taika Waititi’s Morrison will be an instant fan favorite. James Brolin’s son may be Thanos, but as the big baddie Zurg, James… well… you’ll just have to wait and see for yourself. And I have a feeling that Sox is going to be the hot, new toy this year… because everyone wants an intelligent, gadget-laden, AI kitten!
I won’t say much more, for fear for spoiling anything, but suffice it to say that Lightyear is pleasantly surprising on so many levels. While it is, like all Pixar films, meant for families to enjoy together, I also believe it is a film that adults can (and will!) enjoy on their own. It is a more mature and developed character and story, which will be enjoyed on a very different level by adults than younger viewers.
What I CAN say is this… based on what I’ve seen so far, Lightyear is just the movie we need right now.
More than “just a pretty face” with amazing visuals, it is a film with heart, characters you will quickly come to love and remember, and a story that will make you see just why Andy, with the help of his toy Space Ranger, dreamed of going “To infinity… and beyond!”