«Lightyear» film review: to infinity and beyond

Martin Rupf
Zurich, on 15.06.2022
Translation: Katherine Martin

It’s finally here: Toy Story spin-off, «Lightyear». In this one, Buzz Lightyear travels to distant galaxies, defying evil forces with a ragtag team. Here’s what you can expect from the latest Pixar film – and what you can’t.

Please note: there are no spoilers in this review. I won’t be mentioning anything that hasn’t already been revealed in the trailers.


The year is 1995. Pixar Animation Studios releases the first ever fully computer-animated, feature-length film in cinemas. The plot can be summarised in a few sentences. In Andy’s childhood bedroom, his favourite toy, Woody, the cowboy sheriff, rules the roost. However, a couple of days before the family moves house, Andy gets a Buzz Lightyear space ranger for his birthday. The toys in Andy’s room love him. After all, he’s kitted out with all the mod cons a toy could possibly have. Woody, suddenly no longer Andy’s undisputed favourite toy, is less than enthusiastic. This results in arguments, attacks of jealousy and lots of drama before Woody and Buzz become best friends.

The fact that Buzz was able to quickly win Andy’s favour some 30 years ago is no coincidence. After all, Buzz was the main character in «Lightyear» – Andy’s favourite film in the «Toy Story» movie. That’s why «Toy Story» hasn’t just been given three sequels in the last 27 years. In fact, it now has «Lightyear», a sort of prequel, which has been playing in Swiss cinemas since 16 June.

I got the opportunity to see the film, rated as suitable for ages 6 and up, two days in advance of its official release. I was looking forward to it. Would I really recommend the movie to parents with children the same age as mine (seven and nine)?

Buzz, the perfect hero. He’s brave, but no show-off

Young space ranger Buzz Lightyear blasts off into space on his shuttle. But is the rookie astronaut, sent on an exciting mission by Star Command, really ready for all the dangers and missions that await him in outer space? Buzz (voiced in the German version by «Game of Thrones» star Tom Wlaschiha) actually ends up stranded with his crew on a hostile planet 4.2 million light years away from Earth. In an attempt to find a way back home through space and time, Buzz is assisted by a group of ambitious recruits and his robot cat Sox, who’s as charming as he is funny.

Sox the cat is Buzz’s loyal companion in the science-fiction adventure.
Sox the cat is Buzz’s loyal companion in the science-fiction adventure.

After just a few minutes, it becomes clear that winning Andy’s favour in 1995 was child’s play for Buzz. He’s smart, courageous and sensitive all at once. Anything but a show-off, he’s a doer who’s full of drive.

Why does the sound in movie theatres always have to be so loud?!

Very soon, though, Buzz also becomes lonely and isolated – and not only because he’s millions of light years away from Earth. No, he keeps setting out on dangerous missions, only to fail and end up on the same hostile planet and again and again.

Time and again, Buzz tries to make it back to Earth.
Time and again, Buzz tries to make it back to Earth.
Disney Pixar

The plot is, in fact, straightforward. So straightforward that I reckon a six-year-old child could handle it. But not – as is so often the case – certain scenes. I’m thinking of when wild creatures foaming with rage attack Buzz and his team, which at that point had grown to four people and a cat. It’s not so much the action-packed scenes that are likely to overwhelm six-year-olds here and there. It’s the noise. Not for the first time, I get awfully worked up about the totally unnecessary level of noise in the screening room. If the noise level is practically unbearable for adults, surely it must be tortuous for kids?

Sadly, the silence of outer space is far too short-lived

You might be wondering whether you need to have seen all four «Toy Story» films in order to understand «Lightyear». As I haven’t watched any of them, I can answer this question with a definitive «no». On the other hand, plenty original «Toy Story» fans now in the prime of their lives will probably like this reincarnation of the great hero Buzz.

[[image:64686850"Buzz initially sets off with his friend and mentor, Commander Alisha Hawthorne." "Disney Pixar"]]

The film does, however, primarily appeal to kids who like rockets, technology and action. There’s certainly plenty of the latter. Rather importantly, however, there’s not too much of it. Personally, I liked the quiet, peaceful moments the best. There should’ve been a lot more of them. One of the most beautiful moments for me was when Izzi, who suffers from «astrophobia» – a kind of fear of heights – floats along, weightless, while millions of stars glint in the blackness of space. With all the capabilities of today’s animation art, more could’ve – no, should’ve – been made of that, in my opinion. For a brief moment, I actually forgot I was in a cinema, feeling instead like I was in the infinite expanse of space.

However, I got a little impatient towards the end of the 104-minute film because I felt like the plot was being artificially dragged out. At what felt like a good ending point, there was (yet another very loud) and dramatic twist of events. And not for the first time, either. Given how modestly Buzz actually behaves, I think a little too much «American» hero status is imposed on him. Okay, granted, there’s certainly something heroic about the way Buzz blames himself for the whole mess he and his crew end up in. It weighs heavily on his shoulders. Still, Buzz’s team isn’t made up of superheroes at all. In fact, they’re loveable amateurs. That alone can be a lovely message for children. You don’t have to be perfect and superhuman to make great things happen. The heroes of the science-fiction adventure have flaws and fears, which I guess kids can empathise with perfectly.
Buzz’s team consists of amateurs, not superheroes.
Buzz’s team consists of amateurs, not superheroes.

At the end, the film does take a dramatic turn

With «Lightyear», Annie Award-winning animator and Pixar veteran Angus MacLane (co-director of «Finding Dory») has directed a visually imaginative and action-packed science fiction adventure that will delight fans of animated films and space adventures alike. To answer the initial question: yes, I’d go and see this film with my kids, but only if it were true cinema weather.


I won’t reveal here whether Buzz’s mission was blessed with success in the end. I’ll only say this much. The film, which plods along nicely for long stretches, does experience a dramatic turn in the final part. One you wouldn’t necessarily expect after the previously quite predictable sequence of events. I left the cinema after about 90 minutes with a good feeling. After all, with its phenomenal animated images, «Lightyear» briefly transported me into the vastness of outer space. Or as they always say in the film: «to infinity – and beyond.»

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Half-Danish dad of two and third child of the family, mushroom picker, angler, dedicated public viewer and world champion of putting my foot in it.


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