Danny B’s review published on Letterboxd:
(Cinema) (Odeon Guildford)
This was a really tough one to get behind. The Toy Story Trilogy is about as perfect as animated films get and gave the series an impactful and emotional send-off, Pixar pushed their luck by releasing an unnecessary, but weirdly successful fourth film. Rather than move onto new and interesting things, they instead chose to dig up the corpse of the Toy Story IP for this safe, bland and absurdly cynical origin story for the franchise's Space Ranger.
"While spending years attempting to return home, marooned Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear encounters an army of ruthless robots commanded by Zurg who are attempting to steal his fuel source."
What's most sad about this whole thing is that Disney have been ruthlessly dumping Pixar's original films the past two years on Disney+, the studio that has delivered some of the best animated films of all-time just reduced to streaming content. This only feels like it was released in cinemas due to its brand IP more than anything else. The biggest irony is that this feels like a big-budget pilot for some creatively bankrupt Disney+ series about Buzz Lightyear more than anything.
At the very least I was hoping this would be a fun, but forgettable space adventure that was being pushed as Pixar's "first action film", but I didn't even get that. While one solid twist towards the end actually caught me off guard, this is all such unimaginative, generic and unambitious storytelling that goes beat for beat exactly how you would expect. It lacks any sort of surprise, sincerity or charm.
An early attempt at pushing at your heart is instantly overshadowed when you remember Interstellar did this exact same concept a hundred times better. A big issue is just how much iconography from other sci-fi films this steals(?)/pays homage to. We get paralleled shots from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and several other sci-fi films that just made me wish I was watching them instead.
For what should have been a fast paced adventure, it all feels so lifeless and lacks any sort of real urgency. Things are constantly stuck in first gear and when the action hits it's rarely anything more than a static feeling shootout with robots that all look the same and explode. For a studio that can be so visually dynamic with its set-pieces, it's just sad to see them execute the action in such a sterile and joyless manner when they have this wide sandbox of sci-fi nonsense to play with.
What Lightyear does do incredibly well however is its gorgeous and detailed animation. Pixar constantly manage to impress with the amount of detail they can pack into one frame and top themselves. Things really come to life when Buzz is actually in Space and we get some vibrant and colourful scenes that are incredible to look at. Sadly, most the film is reduced to being on a murky coloured planet that's as barren as it is boring, but it does make it feel refreshing whenever we leave this dull location for anything else.
I don't care too much about the whole Tim Allen not voicing Buzz Lightyear thing, although no-one makes fun of Tim Allen on my watch. Chris Evans does bring enthusiasm and charm to the role, it's just a shame they do little of interest with the character. As an avid hater of the unbearable Taika Waititi, I was surprised how little he bothered me in his comedy heavy role. Sure, he's annoying and unfunny, but he feels scarcely used throughout to bother me too much. Keke Palmer is also a likeable presence, as is Peter Sohn as the hit-and-miss cat robot that tags along for the ride.
Lightyear is shamelessly unremarkable in every way. Cynical, pointless and fails to do anything of note with a Buzz Lightyear origin story, instead just choosing to be the safest, most forgettable sci-fi adventure you'll see this year. I even had to read the Wikipedia plot just to remember details of this, even though I had only watched it a few hours ago. I'm very worried for Pixar if they think this is the way forward, I hope to god their creatively bankrupt thinking doesn't lead us to a Woody western prequel next. Soulless and depressive stuff, mildly saved by some impressive animation and a few decent moments briefly spread throughout.