This week Pixar released its most recent and perhaps most controversial film of the last decade. Taking one of the company's most lovable characters from one of its most beloved franchises and making a stand-alone film was always going to be tough.
Importantly Pixar makes the context of the film easy for everyone to understand early on. The following words flash on the screen before the film begins: “In 1995 Andy got a toy. The toy was from his favourite movie. This is that movie.”
What this introduction allows us all to do is suspend our connections between the character we are about to see on screen and those we have come to love in the four Toy Story films. For some of us older kids, it also gives us a sense of connection to Andy who we all grew up with through the 90s and 2000s.
The biggest change people will notice is the change of Buzz Lightyear from being voiced by Tim Allen to now being voiced by Chris Evans. Of course, the characters are not the same, the toy played by Tim Allen is based on the Evans character from the film.
If you want to look at it from a realistic point of view it makes sense the toy would have a different voice actor in the film. For instance, Tom Hanks gets his brother Jim to do the voice acting for the physical Woody toys.
Is Chris Evans any good?
Everyone's favourite Chris from the Marvel films makes his transition from live-action to voice acting with ease. It's not easy to get the correct emotion during voice work alone but Evans being a consummate professional has clearly done the required training.
Whether it be the emotional scenes, those who have seen the movie will know the exact montage I mean. Or it be action scenes that require yelling or a strain in the voice he does it perfectly. Some of the credit of course has to come down to the editing team as well as Pixar in general who would just never let a bad performance happen.
The plotline is half Interstellar half Star Wars
If you haven't seen the film possibly stop here and go see the film first, so take this as your spoiler warning.
We start off with Lightyear and the space ranger crew upon a spaceship that is affectionately nicknamed the turnip. It seems like their civilisation is looking for a deep space planet that could inhabit human life.
The team gets stuck thanks to a flying mistake by Lightyear who takes it awfully hard (more on that a little later). Essentially what happens is the crystal that allows the speed of light travel breaks and has to be rebuilt. After some negotiation Lightyear is tasked with testing the hyperdrive by flying into space for what is meant to be only four minutes.
That is when the Interstellar storyline kicks in. For those of you that have seen Interstellar you know what comes next - essentially time slows down for Buzz as he approaches the speed of light so, in reality, four years on the base planet have passed in the only minutes Lightyear has been in space.
This leads to arguably one of the saddest montages in Pixar history and yes that includes UP. To fast forward a little bit Buzz eventually gets the hyperspeed right but 26 years pass during that time which then leads us to the Star Wars story.
Buzz is confronted by Zurg who he believes is his father after seeing him come out of the robotic Zurg suit. The older-looking Buzz actually reveals that he is just a future timeline Buzz who flew past the planet into deep space to find a ship that was full of futuristic technology.
Young Buzz is drawn to the arguments of older Buzz (the dark side storyline) but eventually finds the light having to defeat the older Buzz. After Buzz's eventually victory he is greeted back on the base planet as a hero and is given the role of starting up the space ranger program once again. The finish sets us up with a sequel, especially after the three post-credit scenes which you have to sit through all of the credits for.
It was surprising that Pixar decided to go in so deep with some of the key themes in this film. Firstly the obvious ones being family and that connection that we see between Alicia Hawthorne her wife and then her grandchild Izzy.
The fact that Pixar also includes that lesbian relationship but doesn't look to make it a big deal or centres a story around it hopefully shows that we are on our way to normalising these relationships in films.
Unfortunately, that's not true all around the world, 14 countries have either banned or censored the film due to the Lesbian relationship. I'm glad that Pixar didn't cave to these countries and kept these scenes which in reality are key for the storytelling.
The big revelation for Buzz comes towards the end of the film when he realises that just because everyone that was stuck wasn't on their home planet doesn't mean they weren't home. Buzz is willing to put his own ambitions for home aside to allow everyone to live on the new planet with their new families.
The biggest surprise for me though was the tackling of PTSD by Pixar. It wasn't massively focused on but we clearly saw Buzz wrestling with the mistakes he had made.
This wrestling came in the form of flashbacks as well as him not being able to sleep or waking up with what were essentially night terrors. The words PTSD are never spoken but those who know what to look for can clearly see it. With Lightyear essentially being a soldier albeit one in space it was a really interesting way to bring this idea into the film.
Let's talk about Sox baby
Buzz Lightyear is a great character, and Izzy and Alica bring all the emotion but the best character in this film by far is a robotic cat. Sox was given to Buzz by Alica and remains his connection to the initial commander.
Sox is essentially the R2D2 of this film although he can talk and has some of the best lines throughout the film. Sox is also extremely useful in saving the day on more than one occasion.
Credit has to go to Peter Sohn for his epic voice acting work to give what is essentially a robot a human amount of emotion. If a sequel for this film is to come and it certainly looks that way then Sox is one character we need to see.
Also, just a quick sidenote on Taika Waititi and his character Mo Morrison Essentially Waititi is playing himself and it's simply hilarious, he's lovable but clearly not the greatest space ranger going around. I'm sure many of us can't wait to try out a meat sandwich (let's be honest two pieces of bread is too much).
Lightyear is one of the best-looking films in cinema history, the space scenes as well as those on the ground are incredibly stunning. It's thrilling to see LGBT representation in a Disney film and hopefully, this is just the start of a change in how Disney makes films.
The story is slightly too long and convoluted, this film was always going to be on the backfoot making a movie about a toy that's in another movie so making it slightly more simple would have been helpful.
Overall though this film is extremely fun, one of the best-looking films that allow us to really dive into the Toy Story lore. While you're watching make sure to look out for plenty of easter eggs from Toy Story and the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command TV series.