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Lightyear: Movie Not Distance

Box Office

Lightyear is an animated movie based on the Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear. It has an MPAA rating of PG in the United States (U.S.) and the United Kingdom (UK) for action/peril. It opened in the U.S. on June 17, 2022. It had a production budget of $200 million dollars. It earned over $50 million in the U.S. and Canada in its opening week.[i] This earned it the number 2 spot behind Jurassic World: Dominion, which earned $58.7 million.[ii]

[i] International Movie Database, Lightyear (2022) - IMDb, last accessed 6/22/22.

[ii] Seattle Times, ‘Lightyear’ stays earthbound, ‘Jurassic World’ holds the No. 1 at the box office, ‘Lightyear’ stays earthbound, ‘Jurassic World’ holds No. 1 at the box office | The Seattle Times, last accessed 6/21/22.

The Story

The screen opens with a scroll explaining Toy Story was about a boy named Andy who wanted a Buzz Lightyear action figure and this is the movie that made Andy want to get a Buzz Lightyear. Spoiler, there aren’t any three eyed aliens. These were cute toys in a theme restaurant in Toy Story. Toy Story was released in 1995, to be faithful to the scroll Lightyear had to be made in 1995, or earlier. Lightyear was made for a 2022 audience. The Buzz Lightyear action figure in Toy Story was a popular toy based on a heroic fictional character.[i] Would the Buzz Lightyear in Lightyear inspire such enthusiasm? Merchandizing sales may provide an answer. It's probably best to judge the Lightyear as a standalone film and not compare the character to the Toy Story action figure’s persona. The Lightyear in Lightyear has more depth than the action figure.

The setting is 4.3 million lightyears from Earth. It starts like Alien. The ship picks up signs of life and wakes the Space Rangers from suspended animation, “hypersleep”. The protocol is for the Rangers to check out the planet and see if it’s worth waking the science team. Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans), Commander Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), and Featheringhamstan (Bill Hader) exit the ship. The ship looks like the lunar lander in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The environment turns hostile and they make an emergency takeoff. In the haste Lightyear damages the ship and it crash lands on the planet. The ship is repairable but without fuel for the “hyperdrive”, faster than light speed, they are stranded on the planet. Buzz, who takes responsibility for their situation, is determined to synthesize the right fuel to get the hyperdrive working.

There is enough materials and technical knowhow for the crew to build a colony on the planet. Lightyear tests new fuels and the rest of the crew goes about making a life for themselves on the planet.

Zurg (James Brolin), an action figure for the nemesis in Buzz Lightyear’s universe in Toy Story 2, is the nemesis in this movie. Lightyear finds himself facing Zurg and his robot army. Lightyear meets Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer), Taika Waititi (Mo Morrison), and Darby Steel (Dale Soules). This band has rudimentary training and Izzy is their self-appointed leader. Darby Steel is in the training program as part of a parole agreement. Taika Waititi is clumsy and clueless. Buzz and the others make mistakes and learn as they take on Zurg’s forces.

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[i] Buzz Lightyear action figures were popular in real life. Many stores sold out of them. In December 1995 purchasing one was difficult to impossible.

What It Has

Besides Alien and 2001, Lightyear has plot points and imagery from the Star Wars franchise, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Lost in Space (1998), The Black Hole (1979), and the 1960’s TV series Thunderbirds.[i] There is also “the eyes” look from Puss in Boots in the Shrek franchise. Viewers may get some extra fun out of spotting these “hat tips”.

A significant character is in a same sex marriage. The character’s grandchild is a major character. The characters are diverse.

There is time travel. Time dilation comes into play. After one such mission the new colony leader, Commander Burnside (Isaiah Whitlock Jr.), informs Lightyear there is no longer a need to explore outer space.

Buzz Lightyear has a robot (Peter Sohn). This robot, Sox, is a helper and a warm fuzzy companion. Star Command issued Sox to him to ease his “emotional transition” after his time travel. There is also a talking onboard computer I.V.A.N. (Mary McDonald-Lewis). I.V.A.N. is an Internal Voice Activated Navigator.

Lightyear has all the elements for a modern science fiction movie. How it all comes together is a matter opinion.

[i] International Movie Database, Lightyear (2022) - Trivia - IMDb, last accessed 6/22/22.

Robots on Board

RobotInteractive Talking Computer


2001: A Space Odyssey

Forbidden World

Battle Beyond the Stars

Red Planet

Alien (Franchise)

Lost in Space


First Spaceship on Venus

Space Movies That Involve Time Travel

Star Trek (Franchise)


Lost in Space

Planet of the Apes (Franchise)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Robert Sacchi

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