With Angus MacLane (BURN-E, Toy Story of Terror!, Toy Story Toons: Small Fry) at the helm and Chris Evans (Knives Out, Snowpiercer, Avengers: Endgame) starring as the titular space ranger, this expansion was all set to be an out of this world experience for fans and newcomers alike. While this is initially the case, a retcon appears towards the film’s third act which prevents the story from reaching hyperspace.
The story as a whole is well written, with the exception being the aforementioned franchise retcon which has been a major turn off for some fans. In addition, the bizarre choice is made to have the, in universe, merchandising for the film be based off the suits and star ship from the closing minutes of the film.
The bulk of the film centres around Buzz Lightyear attempting to reach hyper speed in order to get the crew of the ship he was aboard, back home to earth. This comes as a result of him refusing help, which leads to the crew’s stranding on the planet to begin with. The narrative ultimately follows him as he lives with this guilt, attempting to make things right. This makes for a lead with a more complex emotional state than some, ironically giving the character a realistic and human feel despite their animated position.
Story aside, an impressive feature of this movie is the quality of the animation included. The articulation and interaction of objects is life-like, with elements such as reflections creating a very realistic environment while remaining in the realms of the animated world. This allows the universe and it’s inhabitants to shine, while enabling the atmosphere and tone to be well conveyed. The character design manages to be both familiar and nostalgic, as well as innovative and fresh, showing the progression to the star ship and ranger suits we know and love. The innovation and progression offers a welcome change and gives the film it’s own style.
Comedy is another well done aspect of the film. This comes as a result of some smart writing choices combined with the talented voice acting talent on display. Unsurprisingly, Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Free Guy, Thor: Ragnarok) gives another funny performance in his role of supporting character of Mo Morrison, who would’ve otherwise been a forgettable and lacklustre secondary addition to Buzz’s team. The standout performance for providing comedic relief however, is Sox played by Peter Sohn (The Good Dinosaur, Ratatouille, Luca), the robotic cat companion provided for Buzz by Alisha Hawthorne, played by Uzo Aduba (In Treatment, Orange is the New Black, Mrs. America). Sox manages to instantly connect with audiences, impressively getting a laugh almost everytime he opens his mouth.
Memorable and great performances are also given by Keke Palmer (Alice, Hustlers, Nope) and Dale Soules (AWOL, Aardvark, Orange is the New Black) who play Izzy Hawthorne and Darby Steel respectively. Buzz and Izzy have an interesting dynamic as the latter tries to live up to the image of her grandmother in the eyes of Buzz while he attempts to blindly rectify his mistake.
Something seen in abundance throughout the runtime is references. Whether it be Toy Story related or call backs to other cinematic franchises, namely Star Wars and even The Matrix in a way, the film manages to accommodate fans of all ages in its reference department and makes the viewing experience that bit better. A key similarity to the galaxy far, far away is Zurg’s menacing presence being a clear trait of Darth Vader, a reference previously seen predominantly in Toy Story 2.
The resemblance to Star Wars has always been an interesting and clear aspect of the Toy Story lore, especially in regards to Buzz’s character. Strangely, this film manages to connect this universe more deeply to the Star Wars franchise, while also threatening to eradicate a key component of it’s bond.
The sad thing is, that this could have been easily avoided had the writers not tried to shock fans with a new, and frankly unnecessary, reveal. For most fans at least, this alteration doesn’t leave too much of a bad taste. That being said it may still leave a desire for a better solo film for the now iconic character. This is why, no matter how good the other aspects of the film are, it can never reach beyond infinity.
Despite some mistakes and a few somewhat questionable narrative choices, this entry has an abundance to offer; whether it be an emotional journey through the stars, a comedic relief filled adventure, or just a relaxing night out to forget the strain of reality. The film even holds subtle but very important representation of the LGBTQ+ community while also managing to provide an ethnically diverse range of characters, which is still a relatively rare achievement in film, regardless of whether the project is animated and live-action. Both, old fans and a new generation will find something to love about this film, and it would come as no surprise if a sequel was announced during this film’s theatrical run.