Lightyear follows a realistic Buzz Lightyear before the events of Toy Story where he must save his own life and the lives of others as he struggles with friendship and the value of a team. The film is visually satisfying, however, is lacking in the story department and its uneven delivery. Still, the 4K presentation with HDR looks amazing, but the Dolby Atmos track sounds a bit soft. The bonus features are very good. Worth A Look!
Pixar has come a long way since its debut feature film Toy Story all those years ago. Pixar changed the animated game with their unique CGI animation and conjured up a universal love with their characters, particularly with Woody and Buzz Lightyear. A few decades later, Pixar has brought their beloved character Buzz to the big screen yet again with his own film titled Lightyear which tells Buzz's personal story of how he became the hero of the galaxy. As each Pixar movie releases, it's easy to see just how technology has made each new flick more beautiful than the last, and Lightyear is no different as this is the best-looking Pixar film thus far. With some emotional beats and some funny adventures, Lightyear impresses despite its bland story that's been told before.
Usually, Pixar is a good bet at the box office. They often make hundreds of millions of dollars with each release, but with Lightyear, it was a box office failure. There were many reasons for this, including the lack of other favorite Toy Story characters, not having Tim Allen reprise his voice role as the titular character, and even having a dense science-fiction narrative that might not grab the masses. But the end result is something a little different for Pixar, which is commendable even if the film feels surprisingly flat most of the time.
It's quickly mentioned that this film is an actual movie that Andy went to see as a kid in Toy Story that inspired his love for the Buzz Lightyear character, which serves as the main bridge between both films. But it's instantly aware that Lightyear is a very different film than mere plastic toys trying to get back to their human counterpart. Buzz Lightyear (Captain America himself - Chris Evans) is on a Star Trek type of mission to boldly go and discover new planets and systems. Buzz and his partner Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba from Orange is the New Black) take their spaceship to a new planet to look for signs of life.
Due to a mishap, the entire crew is stranded on the planet where Buzz tries different experiments to get the vessel into light speed in order to get back home. As these attempts fail, that similar formula of relative time from movies like Interstellar where it might seem like four minutes to one person is actually four years to everyone else falls into place. With so much time passing to everyone else but Buzz, evil robots show up including the iconic Zurg as everyone tries to survive and finally get off the planet.
Lightyear's underlying message, which comes full circle with the Toy Story films is that friendship and help from others can help any issue. Nobody is a one-person island and that's the conflict within Buzz who wants to do everything himself with no help. As the film plays on, he slowly has to realize that help from friends is the key to survival. It's just too bad that a certain Beatles or Joe Cocker song wasn't consistently playing subliminally in the background. Those emotional sequences of Buzz having to cross paths with aging amongst his crew and alone seem a little on the nose with its delivery, but it's well intended. The true spotlight is on its visuals here. The foreign planets, space, and action beats are phenomenal.
Chris Evans as Buzz is wonderful and he brings that MCU Captain America confidence and conviction perfectly here. Perhaps the most memorable character is the new robotic cat named Sox who acts as Buzz's therapist and companion throughout the film. In fact, a spinoff film of Sox should be in the cards somewhere, because this little feline was a hit every time it graced the screen. There's a lot of charm here, but with its rote narrative, it can be a forgettable film in the Pixar mythology, even though there are some great things going for it.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Lightyear buzzes its way to 4K via Disney with a 4K + Blu-ray + Digital Copy package. The discs are housed inside a hard, black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve. There are inserts for Disney promos and their digital copy. The artwork features a great image of Lightyear looking out into space.
Lightyear comes with an impressive 2160p UHD 4K image with HDR enhancement that is a great upgrade from its already solid 1080p HD version.
The HDR gives an uptick in those nuanced colors of space and in darker corridors. The green and purple in the suits in different lighting look distinguishable and amazing. The many elements of greys and silvers in the background are fantastic and the orange fur on Sox and with blasts, explosions, and other lights look amazing. The blue futuristic screens also give way to a great color palette. With the HDR enabled, each color is richer and bolder depending on the lighting conditions which makes for a better and more fluid image. The skin tones look fantastic in this unique Pixar world and the black levels are incredibly inky with no murky shadows or bleeding.
The detail with this animation continues to get better with each released film. The textures on the space suits and the intimate details in the foreign terrain are exquisite and project the right amount of dirt and marks that would come with being in action, fighting foes, and running away from danger. Wider shots of the spaceship and of the robots look amazing in the background as well, never having a hindered or soft look to them. This 4K image with HDR is certainly the best way to view the film and it comes with zero issues of banding, aliasing, or noise.
This release comes with a Dolby Atmos track that like most, not all, but most Disney releases - lacks that extra action-packed punch that one might expect. It's still not clear why there is a less-than-stellar low-end or robust sound, but one day, Disney will take notice and raise the volume. The sound effects are nuanced and well-balanced with good directionality, but the volume is just not as loud as it should be. The bigger the action, the more low-end bass comes through, but it's never pushing its limit nor is it really demanding.
The surround and height speakers do deliver some great moments that transfer fluidly through each speaker to the next, although the volume will have to be adjusted to really get their full effect. The score always adds to the suspense and adventure of the whole film and the dialogue is clean, clear, and easy to follow. There are no audio issues other than just sounding softer than normal, but that's the usual case with these Disney films.
In addition to an audio commentary, there are about 61 minutes of bonus material that includes cast and crew talking about making the film, inspiration for design, voice work, and almost a half hour of deleted scenes.
Lightyear looks visually stunning and has some great themes going for it, however, its story and tone keep it from being memorable and coming across as rote. The 4K with HDR picture looks mighty impressive, but the Dolby Atmos track sounds lackluster. The bonus features are all worth watching. Worth A Look!