The Toy Story Spinoff Boldly Goes Where Many Sci-Fi Movies Have Gone Before

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The cynical response is that “Lightyear” is for moviegoers who grew up on “Toy Story” and want to see their favorite childhood characters starring in their favorite sci-fi movies. The less cynical answer is that it’s an opportunity for an aspiring filmmaker (Angus MacLane, who is making his directorial debut after years as an animator at Pixar) to show off his talents by directing the epic. sci-fi film he has long aspired to make, nestled here in the cozy confines of an established franchise. The truth is, it’s probably something in between – an ambitious riff on sci-fi classics that falls a little easier in Pixar’s capable hands.

Chris Evans (making a jerky, staccato delivery straight out of a William Shatner performance that only solidifies the “Star Trek” parallels) stars as Buzz Lightyear, a legendary Space Ranger whose one critical mistake means that his team finds themselves stranded on a hostile alien planet 4.2 million light-years from Earth. With their only way to return home to Earth, an extremely dangerous hyper-speed crystal to engineer, destroyed, the crew of 1,000 decide to make the best of their situation and settle on the planet – all but buzz. Consumed with guilt over his failure, Buzz sets out on the task of testing a new super-fast crystal that can bring them all home. But the first test flight leads to time dilation: a four-minute test flight for Buzz is four years on the planet for everyone else.

This includes her friend and fellow Space Ranger Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), who remains her most passionate supporter even as she settles down with the rest of the colony – finding a wife, having a child, growing old and settling because Buzz remains the same, obsessed with testing the crystal and “finishing the mission”. Buzz is so caught up in this mission that before he knows it, decades have passed and Alisha and her former teammates are long dead. The planet he lands on is now overrun by killer alien robots, with a scrappy team of junior cadets led by Alisha’s spunky granddaughter Izzy (fun-loving Keke Palmer) and including the cowardly Mo (Taika Waititi, playing a very Waititi character) and the criminal Darby (Dale Soules, all gruff steel), his only hope of saving the colony.

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