Throughout their years, Pixar has made some very unique animated films. Every time you go into one, you're expected to see something special that will leave an impact on its audience. I'm always excited to watch these films every time they come out because there's always something in store when it comes to Pixar. They've certainly made some interesting animated films throughout their years so it's really saying a lot when I say that "Lightyear" is probably the strangest film that Pixar has ever made in the decades since they first launched onto the scene with "Toy Story" back in 1995. I remember being quite puzzled when the film was announced in 2020 as the idea of Pixar making a film about Buzz Lightyear as an actual space ranger seemed quite bizarre. However, this film definitely delivers at being quite a fun animated film to watch. It certainly doesn't rank among their very best and it also certainly doesn't break any new ground for the studio, but for entertaining animated popcorn movies, I think you can't go wrong with this.
After being marooned on a strange planet, the space ranger Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) is determined to get him and his crew including best friend Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) off the planet. When they discover a way to make a crystal fusion fuel, Buzz uses it in an attempt to get to hyperspeed in space but seems to fail every time which in turn causes him to skip forward in time four years. After numerous attempts, enough time has passed that the people on the planet have all aged including Alisha to the point where she starts a family and eventually passes away. Buzz seems undetermined to finally get off the planet and with the help of a robot companion cat named Sox (Peter Sohn) and eventually cracks the code and gets to hyperspeed, but when he finally returns to the planet, he discovers it under invasion by a robot army led by Zurg (James Brolin) and with the help of a small amateurish team including Alisha's granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer), a naive recruit named Mo (Taika Waititi), and a convict named Darby (Dale Soules), Buzz tries to figure out how to defeat Zurg so he can get the crystal fusion to the people cornered by the robots and get them off the planet.
Like I initially stated, I was very skeptical of this film when it was first announced back in 2020 as I didn't feel that the "Toy Story" universe needed expanding and felt like it seemed quite bizarre to make a film based on Buzz Lightyear since he was mostly a parody of other sci-fi films like "Star Wars". However, I quickly warmed up to the film once I saw the trailers and I came out of this film having enjoyed it a lot. Again, I don't think this film is a game-changer or an award-winning film by any means and it certainly isn't one of Pixar's best films though it does succeed at being a very fun popcorn film that has a lot of fun moments that make the experience enjoyable to watch. I will say that the story itself is rather one that is very basic and doesn't do anything unique. I do think that the first act sequence with Buzz constantly trying to get to hyperspeed and repeatedly failing is the best moment in the film and the one scene that really strives for that emotional moment that Pixar goes for. It's easily the best scene of the film and while the rest of the story doesn't come even close to it and does come across as being rather predictable, it still was a lot of fun to watch. There are a lot of funny moments as we see Buzz trying his best with this rookie group of space rangers while taking down a giant robot army and going from place to place on the planet. One of my favorite scenes in the film is a chase in the spacecraft as the crew is trying to install a device in their spacecraft while being chased by Zurg's robot army. It was a lot of fun to watch. The film also does have a twist in it that I know some people are gonna be quite puzzled by, but for some strange reason it worked for me and I wasn't bothered by it as I thought I would be. I can easily say that the animation in the film is without a doubt the best part of the entire film. This is such a gorgeous film to watch and you could tell that Angus MacLane and his crew really wanted to make a film that looked like a larger-than-life sci-fi film blockbuster like "Star Wars" or "Independence Day" and you could see them strive to make a film on that scale.
The spaceships have this plastic look to them that makes them seem like the model ships you would find back before the days of CGI and even the look of the planet and the ship's interiors did somewhat remind me of the matte paintings of a film like "The Empire Strikes Back". Though what made the animation really stand out is just the size of it. Some of the action pieces are so spectacular that Pixar decided to shoot some of the scenes with a digital IMAX camera and I could really appreciate the scale of the film just watching it in that format. It really is a gorgeous-looking film which is to be expected from Pixar. As far as the characters go, I did enjoy watching them even if they weren't as emotionally riveting as you would think. Buzz is mostly a stoic hero who is determined to do things the right way and the rest of the crew like Izzy, Mo, and Darby are the kind of crew members you would expect to see follow him. The promising rookie who wants to live up to the standards set by a family member, the nervous newcomer who's scared to take on new things, and the snarky character who's not afraid to get their hands dirty. It's character tropes we've seen again and again, but what makes them work is their performances which are top-notch and help make them likable rather than annoying. The one character who did easily steal the show though was Sox. He was such a hilarious character and a great example of how to do comic relief right as he had so many incredibly funny moments. One of the favorite jokes involving him involves his use of a blow dart. I won't say more, but stuff like that really just made me laugh hard.
In all, "Lightyear" was an enjoyable sci-fi blockbuster. The story may have been formulaic but is mostly fun, the animation is gorgeous and has amazing scale, and the characters are fun to watch due to their charming voice performances. This may not be one of Pixar's best films, but it's still a fun one to watch that I do recommend. It's probably not gonna go to infinity and beyond like the "Toy Story" films, but it does reach some fun exciting heights.