Lightyear (2022): Star Wars Meets a Family Friendly Interstellar in This Beautifully Animated Pixar Spinoff

“Lightyear” is directed by Angus MacLane, a Pixar insider who has helmed multiple animated shorts and made his feature-length debut with 2016’s “Finding Dory.” That feature, by the way, is frankly better than its Nemo-centric predecessor. There is no changing my mind. “Lightyear” stars Chris Evans as the titular space ranger, providing for a fresh take on the iconic role once helmed by Tim Allen (Last Man Standing, Home Improvement). Joining Evans is a cast including Keke Palmer (Scream Queens, Hustlers), Peter Sohn (Ratatouille, Monsters University), James Brolin (Westworld, The Amityville Horror), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit), Dale Soules (Orange is the New Black, The Messenger), Mary McDonald-Lewis (G.I. Joe, Archer), Efren Ramirez (Crank, Napoleon Dynamite), and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Your Honor, The Wire) in a spinoff to the “Toy Story” universe… Sort of.

“Lightyear” is a film that Andy, a character known in “Toy Story” lore, loved as a child. It was his favorite movie, and therefore, we find out the reason why he has a Buzz Lightyear toy is because of this movie. Andy’s favorite movie, which is what we, the audience, are treated to, is about a young Buzz Lightyear trying to find a way to get his crew home after being stranded on a planet for an extended period. Turns out time is not the only enemy in Buzz’s path as he must survive against an army of robots commanded by Zurg.

Pixar is the pinnacle of animation today. I genuinely look forward to just about everything they do, even though most of their marketing campaigns do not sit well with me. But in the end, it is about the movie. Similar to the cliché saying that it is not about the outside, but the inside, Pixar proves that it is not all about the trailers for their films, which usually are unmemorable or do not prompt enough reason for me to watch them, but instead the films that were previously advertised, which are sometimes masterpieces. “Inside Out” to this day is one of the few movies that made my eyes water. “The Incredibles” is an action-packed, thrilling adventure that is secretly the best on-screen adaptation of “Fantastic Four.” “Cars” is fun, colorful, exciting, and has a wonderful soundtrack. The Pixar library is one of the best in film history, animated or not. This is why I was worried, years ago, when I found out we would be getting a “Toy Story 4.”

Despite my apprehension, “Toy Story 4” turned out to be an entertaining, joyful movie that not only presents itself as a surprisingly welcome addition to the franchise, but shows that Pixar can present some of the most realistic-looking animation ever put to screen. There is a scene with a cat from “Toy Story 4” that I continue to ponder over to this day…

Now we have “Lightyear,” which is not exactly a “Toy Story 5,” but a fictional universe within another fictional universe. I will admit, as desperate of an idea as it may sound, I like the concept. Because in our world, we have our beloved stories. In the science fiction genre, “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Back to the Future” are some of the first examples that come to mind. This movie begs the question, supposing that a movie such as “Star Wars” does not exist in the “Toy Story” universe, “What is Andy’s ‘Star Wars’?”

Like the opening text suggests, this is that movie.

But just because Andy likes this movie, does not mean I will. So, what did I think of “Lightyear?”

You know how I mentioned that Pixar often flubs its trailers or makes them less appealing than others? Here is a crazy coincidence, I thought the trailers for “Lightyear” are easily the best Pixar has ever done. I thought their goal with the movie was clear, the footage we got with SOX was charming, and the space scenes looked gritty and eye-popping. Unfortunately, for Pixar standards, this is towards the lower tier.

Now, this is not as bad as “Luca,” but I thought Pixar’s previous outing, “Turning Red,” was a bit better. I think part of it has to do with the unique, dynamic nature of the film that I have not seen in any other Pixar story before. “Lightyear” feels like it blends the vibes of “Wall-E” with “Star Wars” and “Interstellar.” Some of you reading this likely know who I am, and think I am going crazy. I adore “Wall-E,” I love “Star Wars,” and if I could legally marry a movie, “Interstellar” would probably be getting the ring.

I will say the same thing about “Lightyear” that I said in regard to “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” a movie that heavily relies on inserting crossovers and references to the Warner Bros. library. One difference between “A New Legacy” and “Lightyear” is that “Lightyear” is a completely watchable, entertaining film. Imagine that! But one thing I will note about “Lightyear,” even though it is nowhere near as obvious, is that it seemingly pays tribute to other stories, most notably “Star Wars.” The relationship between Buzz Lightyear and Zurg in this film is almost reminiscent of Luke and Vader in “Star Wars” at times. Although that does make sense because if you watch “Toy Story 2,” there is a scene in that film with the toy versions of the characters that is almost done in the same style as a key scene from “The Empire Strikes Back.” With that in mind, I would rather watch Luke and Vader duke it out in “Empire” than watch any of the scenes between Buzz and Zurg in “Lightyear.”

Let’s talk about Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear. I have mad respect for Evans as an actor, because in one moment he can carry a blockbuster in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in the other, he can come off as the most delightfully charming of morons in “Knives Out.” Evans has unbelievable range as an actor, so I was excited to see what he could do as the Buzz Lightyear character. Yes, I know that this technically means that Tim Allen is not voicing Buzz Lightyear, but let me remind you that this is not the Buzz Lightyear toy and instead, a man that inspired the toy. Evans’s raspy voice fits the character and is proper enough to make him come off as this universe’s Han Solo. Again, this is basically “Star Wars.” This movie pictures Buzz as a determined, manly, roguish individual who will not stop until he “finishes the mission.”

As suggested in the title, “Lightyear” is essentially a family friendlier take on Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.” While not as complex, the science fiction angle tends to border between realistic and fantastical. It’s believable, but it also makes us wonder what undiscovered portions of our own universe could look like. Plus, the concept of “Interstellar” involves one man trying to find a new home for humanity. The reverse is happening in “Lightyear” where one man tries to get people back to where they personally call home. And much like “Interstellar,” this movie has a somewhat mixed cast of sidekicks, including robots.

Once we get into the meat of the film, we meet a set of sidekicks who may talk a good game but when it comes to action, that is lackluster in comparison. I like this concept, partially because it is relatable, but I also dislike it. I will start with the dislikes first, because they are not as in depth.

The sidekick characters of “Lightyear” are at times, some of the most annoying, disposable characters ever created in Pixar history. As much as I like Taika Waititi, the writing for his character of Mo Morrison (top left) ranges from stupid to cringeworthy. Sometimes both. I have nothing against Waititi himself, he took the words written on the page and portrayed them as accurately as he could, but his character was written in such a way that could have made him a lovable idiot, but given the context of certain things, I do not think “lovable” would be the right adjective to use here. The movie “Lightyear” convinced Andy in the “Toy Story” universe to own a Buzz Lightyear toy. I can see why he probably begged his mom to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy instead of Mo Morrison or one of the other supporting characters. I have heard worse dialogue in my life, but here, it either feels cheap or annoying. Sometimes it works, but the times it did not work stuck out to me like a sore thumb.

With the negatives out of the way, I do want to talk about this idea that the movie goes for. “Lightyear” is a fun film, like many Pixar movies. But also like some Pixar movies, it could occasionally tug the heartstrings. There is a well-executed montage in this film that some would compare to the famous few minutes in “Up” where we witness the life of Carl and Ellie. It is some of the best editing I have seen all year. That is this film’s earliest example of showcasing the inevitability of failure. Many of us, including myself, have been through a portion of our lives where we question whether what we are doing is worth it. Whether we are good enough. Sometimes we do not have access to an opportunity, and in others, we do not even know where to start. I have taken one or two classes during my college years where these thoughts have come up.

Despite their slightly offish writing at times, I like the concept behind the characters of Izzy Hawthrone (bottom left), Mo Morrison, and Darby Steel (top right). They are flawed, but that is also what makes them work. Hawthorne spends much of the movie worrying about her legacy. How is she going to live up to her grandmother’s expectations? Mo Morrison never spills the beans on this, but he almost felt like this movie’s representation of the phrase “fake it until you make it.” You may not know something, you may not be good at something, but you might as well do that something until you know you can call yourself a master. Darby Steel’s main goal of the movie is to shave some time off of her sentence, and to do so, she needs to go on the mission with the rest of the crew. I like the idea of having these significantly unconfident, arguably incompetent, characters play major roles like the ones they do in the film. I just wish they were written or portrayed in a slightly less annoying manner. Although there was one recurring gag involving Mo Morrison with a pen that had its moments.

If I had to be honest, the best sidekick in the entire film is SOX (right), a robotic feline whose goal is to assist Lightyear with his various needs. This assertion should not come as much of a surprise. My favorite Pixar supporting character that comes to mind is also a common household pet, specifically Dug, the comic relief dog from “Up.” While SOX is no Dug, he does have his moments to shine in the spotlight. His writing feels logical for a typical robot character, but in robot speak, he somewhat reminded me of TARS from, again, “Interstellar.” While SOX in this case does not come with “humor settings,” he has some occasional lines that are not necessarily jokes that got a laugh out of me. It is nice when robots know what makes humans tick. He is wonderfully voiced by Peter Sohn, a talented voiceover artist who previously lent his utterances to Emile in “Ratatouille.”

This almost seems unfair, because “Lightyear” from start to finish, between the concept, execution, and everything in between, is practically a different movie than any of the “Toy Story” installments we have gotten. While “Lightyear” is by no means a bad film, it is no “Toy Story.” If I had to be real, I think even “Toy Story 4,” a film that like this one, I probably never asked for, is a better movie. I think the adventures of Buzz Lightyear, the toy, are more entertaining and joy-filled than “Lightyear.” It pains me to say that because this film reminded me of a couple great science fiction stories here and there, it had a couple halfway decent characters, the animation is some of the most stunning I have EVER seen. I think the best thing about this movie is that if you have young children and you want to give them a proper gateway into science fiction, “Lightyear” is a solid option before showing them movies like “Interstellar” or “Gravity.” But much like what I said with “The Empire Strikes Back,” I think I would rather watch the “Toy Story” films again on a Friday night before “Lightyear.”

I did see the film twice in the theater, but it was partially because I wanted to see how they handled the supersized 1.43:1 IMAX aspect ratio, which I can confirm made the film pop like few others. I liked the film enough to see it a second time for that, but maybe not a third time.

In the end, “Lightyear” is a decent science fiction movie, but for the standards of Pixar, I would put this with “Onward,” which is not a bad film. But for the standards of a studio as incredible as Pixar, that is not the best comparison to make. To shoot for “Onward” is not enough for them. Pixar genuinely makes some of the best animated movies, but this is not enough to join the greats. Although I will remind you, there are many studios out there, many filmmakers out there, that would kill to make a movie as good as a lower tier Pixar film. I still have yet to see a flat out awful movie from the studio. Hopefully that day never comes. I have faith. “Lightyear” is definitely worth seeing in the theater, especially in IMAX. The spectacle is insane. There are some truly colorful, vivid, detailed scenes that will definitely drop jaws. Although I left the film thinking to myself that I should probably rewatch a couple other films instead of this one. I am going to give “Lightyear” a 7/10.

“Lightyear” is now playing in theatres everywhere, and do yourself a favor, if there is a true IMAX theater near you, buy a ticket for “Lightyear” and go watch it in that theater. Major shoutout to the Jordan’s Furniture in Reading, Massachusetts and their amazing laser projection system for providing me with an epic movie experience. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, check out some of my other ones! This month I did reviews for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Hustle.” If you want to stick with the “Lightyear” theme, check out my thoughts for “Toy Story 4.” My thoughts have admittedly changed on the film a little since my review, but if you want to check out my first impression, here you go! If you are interested in long-form content, check out a recent five-thousand word post I did on why I cannot stop watching “Belle,” the new anime directed by Mamoru Hosoda. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Lightyear?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite science fiction movie of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Movie Theaters, Stop Overplaying Movie Trailers… Sincerely, A Lover of Movie Theatres and Trailers

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Compared to say 2017, when I did not have as much access to a cinema in my freetime, I am not doing as many of these “non-review” posts nowadays. Sure, I’ve done stuff like the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards, but Scene Before has primarily been review-centric as of late. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for a nearly impromptu piece based on my recent experience at the movies. I just saw “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and I have done so in a cinema I should probably refer to as “the multiplex of madness.”

I love the movies. The cinema experience made me want to make movies of my own one day, and I am taking whatever steps I can to achieve that dream. In fact, one thing I often look forward to when I am at the movies is when I sit down, I’m on time. Maybe I finish up watching some of the advertising from a source like Front & Center or Noovie or something. After all the ads, we start the preshow, and we see some trailers. In fact, in today’s Internet culture where everything is at your fingertips, we live in a time where sometimes I watch a trailer online, and get excited to potentially see it on the big screen.

My cinema of choice is AMC Theatres, which I went to last Thursday, specifically their Assembly Row 12 location in Somerville, Massachusetts, to go see “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” I shelled out some extra money for the IMAX 3D experience. Not for me, my ticket was free (Thanks, A-List!), but my dad’s ended up costing $21.69. This is a premium experience that offers the biggest screen in the venue, arguably the loudest sound in the venue, and of course, 3D, which is not as much of a craze as it was a few years ago.

So, the trailers start… We get a ton of titles. These are not in any specific order by the way, “Nope,” “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” “Lightyear,” “Bullet Train,” “Jurassic World: Dominion,” “Thor: Love and Thunder,” an extended look at “Top Gun: Maverick,” and the teaser for “Avatar: The Way of Water.” That’s right! THE “AVATAR” SEQUELS DO EXIST! That’s eight movies. And I’ll remind you… Not all of them are going to be in IMAX. “Bob’s Burgers” has no evident deal with the IMAX brand at this point to release the film in said format.

It takes a lot for me to lose my patience. Part of me snapped once I realized how long I’ve sitting in my seat just watching ADVERTISEMENTS, not even including all the Noovie stuff! I didn’t snap, because I was frankly excited to finally get to the film. Plus, the last trailer was for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which I was happy to see. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is two hours and six minutes long. The preshow, which included the trailers, the AMC advertising, the IMAX countdown, was probably around half an hour. I’d say so because when I checked my phone at the end of the movie (including credits), whose preshow started at 9:30, it was 12:07, so those ads must have run for around half an hour.

I will also add this… Something happened that night that I have never witnessed before. The trailer for “Bullet Train…” PLAYED TWICE IN THE SAME REEL. It’s a great trailer, but what happened?

This is getting ridiculous. We’re here to watch THE MOVIE.

I mentioned that AMC Theatres is my movie theater of choice, but that’s mainly because it is the biggest bang for my buck. Why? Because I have A-List, which allows me to see three free movies a week in any format. I have gone to experiences where they played six, seven, and eight trailers, and not once have they been as long or tedious as what I just went through.

Sometimes having a lot of trailers is not the worst thing in the world. It gives more time for you to show up to your movie if you are late, if you want to go out and quickly grab food, go to the bathroom, and come back, you can do that and not miss much depending on where and when you see the movie. But when I’m paying a premium price, probably the most I have paid for an individual movie ticket in my life, I am not paying for the trailers! In fact, you could make an argument that for the price I paid, I should be paying for NO TRAILERS! Have you seen streaming models lately? Look at Hulu! You can pay $5.99 per month and get ads, or you can pay $11.99 per month and get no ads. It’s a premium price for a premium experience. I am paying monthly for YouTube Premium right now so I am not getting ads on the site! I never thought I’d say this! And even if it were not a premium price like $21, 9 trailers, including an extended preview and one that plays a second time, is obscene, especially when you consider how much of your time that it takes up. In fact, I would argue that there are theatres that try to take advantage of fewer trailers, but justify the price for it.

Some of you may remember the ArcLight chain, which primarily had cinemas around southern California. They opened a theater in Boston shortly before all their locations closed. A standard 2D show at the ArcLight in Boston right near the TD Garden was $15. Not the lowest price, but when you consider what you are getting, including a maximum of three trailers, a selling point of the ArcLight, it makes the price reasonable.

I get it. Movie trailers are supposed to sell movies. In addition to popcorn, movie theatres are in the business of selling movies, so I get why trailers exist. They are a decent business model for the venue and the studio. I am not saying that movie theatres need to get rid of trailers, but they need to make me feel like I paid to watch a MOVIE, not a barrage of marketing.

If anything, I think six trailers or more is where you start to push things, because trailers are often 2 to 3 minutes each unless it is a teaser. This gives an approximate 10 to 20 minute preshow, and that may or may not include whatever else the theatre tries to sell you. I am not telling theatres to get rid of their ads that partner with Coca-Cola, because if they did, I think that would lessen the chance of Coca-Cola being sold at that theater in the future. But if they made the trailers a reasonable length that did not make me feel like I watched a quarter of the film already, then I would feel like my purchase was justified. We live in a culture where we could look up any trailer we want on YouTube. I do not need AMC reciprocating my search history.

And you know what? It looks like studios are starting to catch on, at least to an extent. Because last week, CinemaCon was held in Las Vegas. During the Paramount presentation where they showed the entirety of “Top Gun: Maverick” to the audience, the domestic distribution chief, Chris Aronson got onstage and suggested that movie theaters should play fewer trailers before the film starts, as stated in this article from Box Office Pro.

“We’re not completely back yet and now is not the time for complacency, It’s not the time for ‘If we just have movies, everything is going to be okay,’ exhibition has to ensure that every facet of the guest experience is the absolute best that it can be. And [studios] have to ensure that we’re delivering content that moviegoers want to see in your theaters. We must work together in every way possible, the way partnerships are supposed to work—sharing data, not selling it—to help us market our movies to your patrons. Playing the right number of trailers and not numbing the audience to the point that the recall rate drops to nil. Ensuring that the price-value ratio is fair and proper. We need to look at our business from different perspectives and experiment in finding ways to increase attendance and revenue.” -Chris Aronson

When a higher-up from a major studio is chiming in on an issue like this suggesting that LESS marketing, potentially from their own movies, needs to be played, that is a sign that the cinemas need to fix this.

But at the same time, Paramount is also the studio behind “Top Gun: Maverick,” and they literally played a 5 or so minute preview of the film on top of all the other trailers I witnessed that same night!

I was talking to someone recently as part of a school project and they said during an interview that one thing they miss because of the pandemic is the movies. Should they ever go back, I can only imagine how’d they react to sit through as many trailers as I did. Not missing it so much now, right?

I’m writing this post as an American, likely for an American audience. Here’s an analogy my American friends can understand. Movie preshows are like baseball games. You can watch a number of innings, experience a thrilling game, perhaps feel satisfied in the end. Trailers, like baseball, can be fun. But if trailers go on for too long, they become the most insufferable, brain-melting, tiring thing on the face of the planet!

So AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Showcase, all the other venues that are probably playing trailer upon trailer right now, please take into consideration that the audience wants to watch the movie they paid to see. And if you are concerned that they are not going to know about “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” of all things, then that’s why standees and posters exist to be displayed around the theater! I should not be watching eight or nine trailers when you need extra time to play the IMAX countdown and a pointless, counterproductive ad where Nicole Kidman reminds everyone that heartbreak feels good in AMC Theatres. No, seriously. That ad makes no sense. Why is an ad reminding you to go to AMC Theatres attached to the end of the preshow when I already entered the theatre?

As they say in the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” “if they don’t win, it’s a shame.” Nobody wins with eight or nine trailers. They’re cluttered, long, and for all I know, the audience probably won’t remember all of them. I remember every one I saw because I was angered by all this in the end, but all it did is lessen my chances of returning to AMC. They’re lucky I am not cancelling my A-List because I go to watch and review movies. But if I were not doing Scene Before, I would probably cancel my A-List, maybe choose another theater to commit to. Movie theatres, this is simply put, a shame. Therefore I beg, stop self-indulging, stop overselling, and start playing what I came to see!

I want to ask everyone a couple questions. First off, do you like movie trailers? Second, do you think the movies are playing enough trailers? Too little? If you had to put a number on it, how many trailers would you PREFER to see before a movie? Do you even watch trailers at the theater? Also, how long would you say is the longest preshow you witnessed before going to see a movie? Let me know down below!

Thanks for reading this post! If you are new around here, feel free to check out some of my reviews for movies like “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” “CODA,” and “Morbius.” I have more reviews coming soon. And speaking of Nicole Kidman, I will be reviewing “The Northman” this week! Be sure to check that out when it drops! Evidently, given all that I have talked about, expect a review of “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” sometime in the near future. If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!