Entertainment

'Lightyear' Is a Safe Return to Pixar's Retro Era

To infinity, and no further than that.

Pixar
Pixar
Pixar

To find Lightyear session times near you, head to hoyts.com.au.

Pixar, the computer animation studio owned by Disney that revolutionized the way studios make movies for children, has gotten meta. They’ve always been meta; even their earliest story concepts-a bunch of sentient toys compete for the attentions of a young boy, closet monsters work in a factory that harvests human screams, superheroes have been outlawed and relocated to the suburbs on government benefits-have a flair of the metatextual about them, taking simple ideas and expanding them into whole worlds.

Nowadays, though, with movies anthropomorphizing the bodiless concepts of emotions, souls, and, in an upcoming instalment, classical elements, the studio weirdly seems like it’s running out of ideas (with Domee Shi’s utterly fantastic Turning Red being the exception). Maybe everyone’s just been in a more meditative, philosophical mood lately. Pixar’s newest film, the retro space opera Lightyear, feels like a return to telling the kind of story that made the studio great in the first place. In a way, it is, but it could have been so much more.

Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) is a Star Command officer, a member of an elite force of astronaut adventurers who protect people from extraterrestrial threats. When his colony ship crash-lands on a hostile planet, he and his fellow officers discover that the crystals they use for fuel to travel at warp speed have been corrupted. Buzz, feeling responsible for the ship’s misfortune, takes it upon himself to recreate the crystal that the ship’s engine needs. During his following test flights, his ship moves so fast that time slows down for him, and what takes mere minutes from his perspective lasts for years on the surface of the planet: Everyone around him gets older and lives entire lives, while he stays the same, obsessed with finishing his mission. When he returns from his final flight, though, something terrible has happened, and for the sake of not ruining a fun surprise, I’ll stop there.

If you’re reading this, you likely don’t need me to explain who Buzz Lightyear is, but for the sake of being thorough I’ll do it anyway. Buzz, then voiced by Tim Allen, first appeared in Pixar’s flagship feature Toy Story, frenemy of cowboy doll Woody and beloved toy of Andy, dressed in a plastic astronaut suit with little glider wings and a clear bubble helmet. He’s a character as iconic to Disney’s mythos as the Little Mermaid or Dory or Jafar, and now that Pixar is thinking especially meta these days, it makes sense that they would finally make a movie, as Evans himself so succinctly put it, about “the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on.”

The movie opens with a few lines explaining exactly this, just in case there’s any lingering confusion: Andy had a toy. The toy was from a movie. This is the movie.

Pixar
Pixar
Pixar

Lightyear is somewhat styled after the science fiction films of the ’70s and ’80s, but if you’re expecting a pulpy space opera akin to Star Wars or The Last Starfighter or Flash Gordon, this is not that. It’s much more of a traditional Pixar movie (because it is one), and doesn’t even quite reach those heights, grounded as it is in a pretty predictable pattern-character used to being good at everything must learn to work with a team-and, literally, on the surface of a desperately boring planet. This is Star Command! What do you mean they’re stuck in the same place for 90 minutes? It helps that, every time these thoughts start to worm their way into your brain, the movie’s requisite Cute Target Toy, a robotic cat named Sox (Peter Sohn), pops in to manipulate your emotions with how adorable it is.

There aren’t many surprises here, but the middle bit is especially effective, wherein Buzz is basically watching the lives of everyone he loves happen without him-there’s nothing Pixar does better than a really great montage. This is also where the same-sex elements come in, which Pixar refused to remove after complaints from the usual suspects (because of this, the film won’t be shown in 14 countries). Buzz’s best friend and fellow Star Command officer Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) is gay, and her romance with her girlfriend and eventual wife plays out in a few scenes of almost no dialogue. It’s a beautiful few scenes, illustrating the lives of these minor characters against Buzz’s sense of separation and inescapable duty, a mood reminiscent of a particularly sad Ray Bradbury short story. It’s also unfortunate that these movies continue to sideline their underrepresented characters to minor roles, though it’s become abundantly clear that the people doing the actual making of these movies have to fight hard to get even these passing mentions from being unceremoniously cut by overly concerned executives.

There’s plenty in Lightyear to enjoy, and it’s one of Pixar’s better efforts over the last 10 years, but it ultimately feels half-done. It feels like it ought to be the beginning of something, like its narrative is a prologue stretched into a feature awaiting the much more interesting second and third and fifth instalments down the road (there are currently no plans to make more Lightyears). If Pixar wants to make a cheesy, retro space opera from the weirdo age of sci-fi cinema, then they should just make one, no thorny meta-analysis required.

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.

Entertainment

Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.

Victoria

Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.

Queensland

BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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