Story: A crew was dispatched to the planet T’Kani Prime, but before they could complete their mission, they had a run-in with hostile wildlife that derailed the entire plan. The squad’s spacecraft was damaged in the process of that run-in, with the problems being extensive enough that getting off world will rely on a rescue team to arrive. One crew member is unable to accept the setback however, so Buzz Lightyear refuses to just set up base on the planet, working tirelessly to figure out a fuel source that would allow them to leave. While he finds some success with his experimental efforts, his trips off world, while minutes long to him, are years long on T’Kani Prime and after the first return, Buzz comes back to a colony, set up in the four years since he left. Faced with years of time dilation that change everything whenever he leaves, can Buzz crack the fuel crisis or is it too late to ever return home?
Entertainment Value: As a prequel story from the Toy Story franchise, Lightyear had big shoes to fill and of course, that is a difficult standard to live up to. The narrative here might not resonate as deeply as some of Pixar’s best movies, Lightyear was a solid, fun, and interesting sci/fi adventure, even if it wasn’t up to the Toy Story standard, so to speak. I appreciated that time dilation was a central element of the plot and how it was woven in, especially in the final act, when Lightyear throws in a nice twist to help close the narrative out. I can see how those who came here for Toy Story nostalgia might be let down, as this proves to be its own standalone experience in most ways, but with little touches here and there that pay tribute to the franchise that inspired this installment. The pace is good and the story moves smoothly, with some expected sci/fi style action and adventure segments, all of which are brought to life in kinetic, often gorgeous fashion.
As I talked about above, the concept of time dilation fascinates me and as a core part of Lightyear, that meant the plot had my attention from the jump. I love space related narratives in general, but one that centers on time dilation really stands out, especially when presented with such dynamic, beautiful visuals as this picture boasts. Lightyear is a visual masterpiece at times, with stunning animation and a visual depth that you’d expect from Pixar, but taken up a few notches. The sci/fi elements are perfect for this animation approach, as the colors, depth, and level of detail really shine with the otherworldly visuals, just gorgeous sights on showcase. So while the story dips a little from Pixar’s usual watermark, the creative energies are on point in general, as Lightyear has creative bold visuals and animation that is so good, it boggles the mind in some scenes. Even the faster paced, more kinetic action driven scenes look excellent, with such depth and detail visible. The voice cast includes Chris Evans, Efren Ramirez, Keke Palmer, Bill Hader, and James Brolin.