The story of the Space Ranger who inspired the toy is told in Lightyear. Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) is a Space Ranger of Star Command who travels to the planet of T'Kani Prime with his commanding officer and friend Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), discovering relatively quickly that the planet is quite hostile. However, the exploration vessel is damaged as Buzz attempts to leave, forcing the crew to establish a settlement to help develop the new warp crystal needed to get off the planet. Buzz makes multiple attempts to test the new warp crystals, with each test taking four years due to time dilation.
With the help of his robot feline companion Sox (Peter Sohn), Buzz finally comes up with the right formula, with him and Sox ending up decades in the future after a successful flight. However, Buzz returns to the planet to see that it has been invaded by an army of robots controlled by the towering Zurg (James Brolin). Buzz reluctantly teams with Hawthorne's now-grown granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer), along with naive recruit Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi) and elderly convict Darby Steele (Dale Soules), to defeat Zurg and save the colony.
Lightyear is the latest film from Disney and Pixar, which sees the character of Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story spun off into his adventure. It is established through titles at the start of the film that Lightyear is the favourite film of Toy Story's child protagonist of Andy, hence his excitement at getting a Buzz Lightyear action figure in that 1995 film. Lightyear further differentiates itself from Toy Story by casting Chris Evans to voice the character instead of Tim Allen.
Lightyear is the first Pixar-produced film to get a theatrical release since Onward in early 2020, with the studio's subsequent films of Soul, Luca, and Turning Red all going straight to the Disney+ streaming service. Since Soul and Turning Red, in particular, were both critically acclaimed films that celebrated diversity, it does result in Lightyear being opened up to more criticism, as it got to have a theatrical release, while those films did not.
For what it is, Lightyear is a decent space adventure that doesn't require any previous knowledge of the character from the Toy Story films, even circumventing viewer expectations around the villain Zurg, first seen in Toy Story 2. However, the plot of Lightyear does come off a bit on the generic side. The film also spends most of its first half showing Buzz Lightyear's determination to succeed at the expense of losing decades, depicted in a montage where Buzz watches his friend Alisha Hawthorne start a family and grow older. This ultimately ends up being a plot device so Buzz, who has only aged about a month, can team up with Alisha's granddaughter Izzy and her misfit team of aspiring Space Rangers.
Overall, while Lightyear is ultimately a decent space adventure, it is not on par with the Pixar films that had to go straight to streaming.