As I recently watched Lightyear, something became clear. It doesn’t have a very original story. Ironically, Lightyear tried to distance itself from the Toy Story franchise while, at the same time, basing its story on a movie that’s all about toys: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. It’s also funny because the first Lego Movie could be seen in the same vein as Toy Story. But it managed to differentiate itself enough to feel fresh and unique.
Lightyear, on the other hand, feels unfocused and derivative. Not only does it follow basically the same plot as The Lego Movie 2, but it also charts a similar course as another solid sequel: Aliens. Let’s talk about how it compares to those two movies.
Diverted to a Mysterious Planet
At the start of the movie, the spaceship Buzz Lightyear is traveling aboard gets diverted to an uncharted planet. He and a couple of fellow Space Rangers investigate the planet. Then they get attacked by vines and bug-like creatures that sneak up on them.
That’s similar to the start of Alien, in which the Nostromo gets diverted to an uncharted planet on their way to Earth. Three crewmembers investigate a ship on the planet’s surface. Then one of them gets attacked by an alien, which sneaks aboard their ship. And that leads into the plot of Aliens.
Hero Remains Young
Buzz spends decades trying to figure out the correct fuel mixture to allow his downed spaceship to reenter hyperspace and get to its destination. Because of time dilation, he only ages a couple of days while the only person he used to care about grows old and dies.
Reminds me of a certain character named Ripley. She accidentally spends 57 years in her escape pod that she took to escape from the Nostromo after the alien killed the rest of her crew. By the time she gets rescued, her only daughter is old and dead, even though Ripley has hardly aged at all.
Communication Cut Off
Shortly after Buzz returns from his final test mission, he discovers that all communication with Star Command has been cut off. It turns out to be because they are under attack by robots.
Shortly after Ripley returns to Earth from her alien encounter, she learns that all communication with a colony on the alien planet has been cut off. It turns out to be because they are under attack by aliens.
Entering a Bug Nest
Buzz enters a storage area that has been turned into a nest of eggs by the bug-like creatures. They start to hatch, putting Buzz in a lot of danger. A few other soldiers join him, and he tries to get them to leave the same way they came. They use cloaking devices to avoid detection, but it eventually wears off, forcing them to run for their lives. The bugs cut off the soldiers’ escape route, so they turn around to get onto Buzz’s ship.
A group of colonial marines enter an atmosphere processing plant, which has been turned into a nest of eggs by the aliens. An alien pops out of a cocooned colonist’s chest, forcing them to use a flamethrower on it. Aliens surround them, blending into the walls and avoiding infrared detection. The aliens cut off the marines’ escape route, so Ripley races in to rescue them with an armored personnel carrier.
That’s all of the Aliens similarities. From here on, it’s The Lego Movie 2.
Building in a Wasteland
Within a year of being stranded on the barren planet, the engineers’ aboard Buzz’s ship are able to construct a colony. The vines and bug-like creatures keep trying to attack them, but they find ways to fight them off.
Five years after their first contact with the planet Duplo, Emmett’s master-builder friends have been forced to retreat into a hidden base. Each time they tried to construct buildings like they had before, the Duplos would demolish them.
Hero Unaffected by Changing Times
Buzz is different than everyone around him. He has an old mentality, and he’s focused on getting off the planet. But everyone around him eventually accepts their fate as being stuck on the planet with no hope of rescue. For many of them, all they’ve ever known is life on that planet, so Buzz is basically forced to change with the times.
Emmett is different than everyone around him. He has retained his cheerful demeanor, despite all of the chaos he experiences. But everyone around him has toughened up to deal with the rough reality they experience every day. For many of them, their old happy life is a distant memory, and Emmett has to choose whether or not to change with the times.
Spoiler time. The villain of Lightyear is identical to the one in The Lego Movie 2. The leader of the robots following Buzz, and attacking the colony that the crew of his spaceship established, turns out to be none other than Buzz. An older, angrier version of the hero. In his timeline, he came back after his final successful test mission, and he was about to be arrested for disobeying orders. So he left and traveled through the stars for centuries until he found a spaceship full of robots ready to do his bidding. Then he traveled back in time to just before the younger Buzz got back from his final test mission. He’s angry at being mistreated and wants to travel even further back to prevent himself from getting stranded on that planet in the first place.
For most of The Lego Movie 2, we think that Rex Dangervest is a good guy. He saves Emmett from crashing into an asteroid while Emmett is on his way to save his friends. But Rex turns out to be an older, angrier version of the hero. In his timeline, he crashed into the asteroid and got stranded under a dryer for years. He became bitter at his friends for forgetting him. So he developed the ability to move in the real world, and he changed his appearance to look tougher, and then he built a time machine. He populated it with velociraptors who would do his bidding. After that, he traveled back to the moment Emmett was about to hit the asteroid and saved him. He wants to make everyone miserable like he was.
The Difference Between Zurg and Rex
Both of the villains changed their names. Buzz became Zurg because all of the robots add “urg” to the end everything they say. Thus, when they called him “Buzz,” they would pronounce it “Buzz-urg.” Rex Dangervest likes dinosaurs, danger, and vests, so that’s likely where his name came from. The real difference between Zurg and Rex is that we get to spend a lot of time with Rex learning about his feelings and motivations. It’s an actual surprise when he reveals himself as the villain because he seemed to be helping Emmett the whole time. But he was really only helping himself… by pretending to help his younger self. Boy, time travel is confusing sometimes.
On the other hand, Zurg is a total mystery for most of the movie. He’s just a generic bad guy until he finally reveals himself to Buzz. We, the audience, have no idea what he’s trying to do, so his reveal as being the villain at the end inspires a shoulder shrug more than anything. He’s just not interesting enough to warrant anything else.
Back to the Futuring
Zurg tempts Buzz to travel back in time to undo the damage done to their ship in the first place. That way, they can rescue all of their friends. But Buzz resists and chooses to remain stranded because he doesn’t want some of his new friends to cease to exist by creating a new timeline.
Rex inspires Emmett to disrupt the wedding of Batman and Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi. That way, they can rescue all their friends. But it turns out to be a trick. Emmett and his friends resist and get out of their stranded situations. By doing so, they make Rex cease to exist by eliminating his old timeline.
To Infinity and Be- *Yawned*
As you can see, there’s really nothing new in Lightyear. It covers the same ground that other films have covered perfectly well in the past. I’m sure people could argue that I’ve missed lots of key points where the films don’t compare well. After all, I barely even mentioned important characters, like Sox the cat or Izzy. In fact, I could have made a lot more comparisons of those. Sox is quite similar to Ash/Bishop. Izzy is basically a stand-in for Newt. The panicky rookie reminds me of Hudson. The old convict is rather reminiscent of Vasquez. They even put Vasquez’s catchphrase on a robot: “El riesgo siempre vive.”
Lightyear is bad for a number of reasons. It’s unfocused, lacks a compelling villain, fails to land most of its jokes, has no clear stakes, and is ultimately a dull retelling of superior films. It certainly doesn’t live up to the Toy Story films. Ironically, I can’t imagine Lightyear inspiring Andy, or any other kid, to buy a Buzz Lightyear toy.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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