REVIEW: ‘Lightyear’ is More Than Just Science Fiction

‘Lightyear’ is a completely worthy addition to Disney’s ever-growing vault, and an unexpected gem from the Toy Story treasure chest.

In the words of director Angus MacLane, science fiction is a mustard. This is simply to say that, when applied to the sandwich of storytelling, genre is just the condiment you spread on top of a meatier center to spice things up. Lightyear, the latest creation from Pixar’s acclaimed kitchen, is absolutely coated in mustard. It’s an unabashed love letter to every space-faring, reality-warping, robot-fueled adventure that came before it. Science fiction is seeping from every corner, a preparation which only serves to enhance the spread’s flavor. However, a movie cannot survive on aesthetic alone. The dish needs something else to make it really worth consuming. Luckily, Lightyear is a fully nutritional meal.

Let’s run through the recipe. First, as with any good sandwich, you must select a satisfying bread. This is important because the bread functions as the face of the whole platter. It’s the first thing people see when they look at the art, and when they take a bite, it’s the initial majority of what they’ll taste. In film, this would be the production value. It’s the look and feel of the movie, not just in genre, but in cinematography and score as well. As it turns out, the team behind Pixar’s first major Toy Story spin-off can bake one heck of a bread. MacLane and his crew of animators have designed what might be one of Pixar’s most gorgeous projects yet. Massive set pieces give the film a surprisingly large scope, and colorful designs give life to beautiful environments. There are moments where animation gives way to a visual perception of reality, and Michael Giacchino delivers with yet another awe-inspiring score. Truly, a gift to the senses.

Next comes the meat. The main event. It’s what fills people up and leaves them wanting more. It’s where teeth sink in and don’t want to let go. As previously stated, a common mistake is to believe that science fiction would be the element that fills this area. It is not. With Lightyear, that honor belongs instead to its encompassing theme – love, or more specifically, family. There is no part of this movie that isn’t about family. Of course, Pixar has a long history of playing with humanity’s heartstrings, but something about the way it’s handled in this project feels different. It’s not showy, or too blunt. Here, it’s earnest, kind, and raw. It takes a movie about a man who prefers solitude, in the cold recesses of space, and injects it with a warmth that must be experienced to be believed. This is what makes Lightyear such a triumph. For all the amazing sequences and pulse-pounding action, all eleven herbs and spices, it’s the tear-inducing moments of tenderness that really bring the whole meal home.

Obviously, none of that magic could be accomplished without an incredibly talented cast. These fine folks act as the cheese that binds meat and bread together. They add to the warmth of the dish, diversify it’s texture, and make the sandwich believable as a cohesive unit. It’s their performances, and understanding of the project and their characters, that allow for everything around them to fall deliciously into place. First and foremost, Chris Evans is the perfect Buzz Lightyear. All the gravitas of a galactic Space Ranger, with delivery set to match his grandiose surroundings, and every bit of the hidden emotion needed to bring him back down to Earth. Uzo Aduba and Keke Palmer are similarly impressive, playing original characters who are arguably as likable and central to the plot as Lightyear is himself.

Taika Waititi and his fellow supporting cast, Dale Soules and Peter Sohn, are included in the cheese analogy, but also factor into this next bit as well. On top of the cheese, and the last thing before the aforementioned condiment, are the vegetables. On a sandwich, the lettuce and tomatoes are there to add some crunch and some health to your lunch. So, where do they fall in terms of film? Well, it’s been said for decades that laughter is the best medicine, and therefore, it must also be the healthiest part of Lightyear. What this means is the movie is seriously funny, and Waititi, Soules, and Sohn are a big part of why. In fact, Sohn‘s Sox, a robot cat companion who accompanies Buzz throughout the film, may very well become the next sidekick sensation. If laughter is good for you, then Sox is likely a cure-all.

With that, the sandwich is complete. A specialty meal, available for the whole family where tickets are sold, on June 17th. Lightyear is a worthy addition to Disney’s ever-growing vault, and an unexpected gem from the Toy Story treasure chest. It’s hard to imagine audiences not loving this upon release, and with any luck, it may even spawn an entirely new franchise for Pixar, and Chef MacLane, to continue playing with.

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