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Lightyear

Year: 2022
Production Co: Pixar
Studio: Disney
Director: Angus MacLane
Writer: Angus MacLane/Matthew Aldrich/Jason Headley/Andrew Stanton/Lauren Gunderson
Cast: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, James Brolin, Uzo Aduba, Isiah Whitlock Jr

As the opening supertext reads, this is the movie Andy from Toy Story saw as a kid that made him want a Buzz Lightyear toy. The first thing I thought when it was over was; 'a mainstream Disney movie depicting a gay couple pre 1995 (which is when Andy would have seen it)? No, this is decidedly not that movie.'

But even though it's to be slightly expected, the right-baiting wokeness is one of the most interesting things about it. There was a lot of media comment about how poorly it did compared to other animated holiday season fare, but I found it a firmly middle of the road CGI kids' adventure that got exactly the box office it deserved.

Chris Evans is a much younger Buzz Lightyear than Tim Allen's iteration in the Toy Story universe, a soldier with an exploratory space force who lands on an uncharted planet before he, his commander and best friend Alisha (Uzo Aduba) and a comic relief new recruit learn that it's full of hostile life forms.

But their craft – carrying hundreds of colonists in cryostasis – is damaged in the escape attempt and they're stuck there. A year passes and the colonists have started a fledgling settlement, hunkering down and building lives for themselves. Buzz, still a test pilot, is lined up to test a new fuel intended to enable hyperspace flight so they can get off the planet and continue their mission.

The four minute flight not only isn't successful, Buzz has to use all his skills as a pilot just to get the ship and himself back safely. Worse still, because of the time dilation effect of relative speeds (thanks to Chris Nolan for introducing mainstream audiences to the idea in Interstellar), four years have passed since he left.

Determined to make it work and prepared to sacrifice his life in more ways than one (because the lives of his friends and the colony are moving forward without him) Buzz conducts test flight after test flight, letting 62 years slip past. He watches his friends age and die and the colony grow into people's homes, not realising that even though he's still driven by his mission to help everyone leave, many of them have lived there for decades and made it their homes.

But when his robot cat Sox helps him perfect the hyperspace fuel formula, Buzz does one more test flight which – although it finally works – propels him 22 years into the future, almost everything he knows gone or changed and with an alien force having invaded and enslaved the colony, led by the nemesis we know from the Lightyear mythology, Zurg.

What Zurg's doing there and who he really is is explained by a bit of clever (though not terribly original) plot mechanics and Buzz has to team up with a very marketing-approved band of misfits to win the day.

There are some appreciably exciting action sequences and the animation is as top notch as you expect from Pixar, but we live in an age when only the extraordinary stands out on movie screens, and Lightyear was just a bit too ordinary.

Disney probably figured diehard Toy Story fans turning up would be enough to make it a it, but with the fourth outing a bit of a damp squib and the target market that made Toy Story 3 such a smash now in their late teens and early 20s, maybe there just aren't enough of them left.

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