Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Lightyear” End Credits


To finity and no farther!

“In 1995 Andy got a new toy for his birthday. It was from his favorite movie. This is that movie.”

That’s paraphrasing (i.e., possibly misquoting from fading memory) the first lines from Lightyear — its high-concept, low-bar mission statement and its disclaimer to deflect any viewers who might’ve refused to relax without some form of canonical context, no matter how tenuous or superfluous. Critics’ memories of the exact verbiage differed from one site to the next. The erstwhile animation trailblazers at Pixar were hoping those same fuzzy memories might forgive/forget the shamelessly unnecessary Toy Story 4 and embrace this, their latest merchandise revival to be contrived from the greatest animated film trilogy ever.

That opening statement implies a shipload of ’90s nostalgia is imminent, as if Lightyear will be to millennials what Top Gun: Maverick is to my fellow Gen X-ers. Nostalgia isn’t a guaranteed Pavlovian bell-ringer for me (one of my many peculiarities), and even if it were, the film barely commits to it beyond the effortless “HEY, KIDS! IT’S BUZZ LIGHTYEAR!” branding that needs no real huckstering to attract the attention of kids and their easygoing parents who’ll at best half-watch this playdate with Uncle Buzz while scrolling Facebook behind their kids’ backs. Alternatively, one could argue it’s a ’90s throwback in the sense that it’s the sort of big-budget carnival ride you can enjoy in the moment if you clear your head while the trailers are rolling, but as soon as you leave the theater and think too hard about what just happened, things unravel and you have to fight harder to hold on to what seemed thrilling to you before the overthinking began. The ’90s was good for cranking out that kind of overspent blockbuster, like The Lost World or Emmerich’s Godzilla.

Lightyear might’ve been more fun in that regard if it included fake credits naming the fictional actors and filmmakers in Andy’s world. That level of meta was perhaps a bit too much to ask of a fake 1995 “classic”. Instead, we see how once upon a time in the future, Buzz Lightyear (ex-MCU-er Chris Evans) is part of a science expedition to a faraway planet, where, in the grand sci-fi tradition, no real reconnaissance was conducted beforehand and the indigenous lifeforms are hostile and everything goes awry. Due to some blustery miscalculation on Our Hero’s part, the ship breaks and its entire complement is stranded. Their only hope to go home, it seems, is for Buzz, apparently the only pilot on board, to recreate the ship’s special hyperspace fuel and use his one-man shuttle to conduct test flights with each iteration of the formula. One major drawback: because the tests require him to approach light-speed, for each minute of his test flight, one full year passes down on the planet. The more attempts it takes him, and the more he fails, the longer they’re all stranded.

The ensuing montage, the film’s most intriguing sequence, sees Buzz never giving up, never surrendering, as he tries again and again and again to concoct the right mix, because apparently his Star Command training included some chemical engineering courses (and some physics and calculus, which, to be fair, are fun to see demonstrated, complete with scribbled formulae). Meanwhile down below, life finds a way as the sizeable crew — again, composed almost entirely of scientists — have to make the best of a bad situation and consequently while away the next several decades reinventing civilization from scratch. As they grow old, have families, and settle in for the long haul, they collaborate to recreate/reinvent human buildings, roads, weapons, armor, ground vehicles, anti-wildlife security systems, laser grids, robots, military hierarchies, birthday party accessories, and construction equipment and factories for making all of the above. At no point do we get the sense that any of these otherwise capable scientists bothered to write down the hyperspace fuel formula somewhere. They also suffer the Gilligan’s Island Professor problem: none of them gives the slightest thought to contacting their homeworld(s) for help or, say, inventing new spaceships.

When it comes time later to hammer the Morals of the Story into their pegboard slots, Buzz’s ostensibly stubborn, wrongheaded belief that only he can fix everything is a flaw he has to admit when folks do finally step up to assist with his begrudging permission. When that help arrives, it isn’t from the science crew and it has nothing to do with their primary objective. Instead it’s self-defense when villainy arrives in the form of Zurg and his robot army. Toy Story fans of course recognize the purple armor and toothy grimace of Emperor Zurg, but here he’s no ruler per se. Now he’s voiced by the James Brolin (remember when he used to be more famous than his son?) and he has a backstory that’s either wildly freaky or forehead-slapping, depending on your level of pop-culture sci-fi consumption.

Naturally they fight and fight and fight, but Buzz first has to accept assistance from a likely crew of unlikely heroes. Best among the bunch is Keke Palmer (also starring in Jordan Peele’s upcoming Nope) as Izzy, granddaughter of Buzz’s best friend/coworker, who’s got the mettle to follow in the family space-faring biz but lacks training and opportunity, and has to deal with a fatal flaw that might be a deal-breaker on any space resumé. As she leaves her comfort zone to venture into the realm of big action heroism, her learning curve is far more interesting than Buzz’s own, which eventually boils down to “Teamwork makes the dream work.” From the two of them, kids will also learn the critical life lesson that even big action heroes can make mistakes, but how we recover from those mistakes defines who we are, unless we’re a large corporation churning out derivative products.

I’ve skipped the online debates about the recasting of Buzz with American heartthrob Chris Evans, to the apparent dismay of OG Buzz Tim Allen, whose in-the-works Disney+ project The Clauses ensures he’s still gainfully, corporately employed by the House of Mouse. Recasting isn’t a stretch if you consider Buzz the 1995 Movie Hero (same year as Batman Forever and the second Ace Ventura) is arguably a different character from Buzz the Toy, a fair choice for an era when toys with voice-boxes rarely sounded like the real TV/movie actors they vaguely resembled. While Evans has been trying to avoid goody-two-shoes typecasting since Captain America’s retirement (cf. Knives Out, Netflix’s upcoming The Gray Man), but I didn’t mind him relenting slightly in this case, if only because his human Buzz isn’t the macho dude that Allen’s toy was designed to spoof. Between Evans’ performance and the animators’ nuances, at times it’s genuinely a little moving when he has to face his regrets and turn his bravado down a few notches for the sake of saving lives.

None of this really adds up to innovation in the once-classic Pixar tradition, though. Despite the clever portrayal of time dilation that’s more entertaining and far less confusing than Interstellar‘s take on the concept, Lightyear otherwise amounts to a ’90s popcorn flick for modern kids who’d love to have more sci-fi in their streaming diets with all of the explosions and none of the thoughtful plot mechanics of the better ones it vaguely apes here and there. Light comedic touches help it zip along, particularly Buzz’s sidekick Sox (voiced by The Good Dinosaur director Peter Sohn), a robot therapy cat stuffed with more deus ex machina gadgetry than a drawer full of Swiss army knives, because sometimes being funny is more fun than making sense. It’s pretty cool when films juggle both, but this isn’t trying for that kind of cool.

This meta-prequel wasn’t made to lure back finicky older fans — it’s just another inessential kiddo-pleaser from the Andy’s Room Toy-Commercial Universe that, despite its slight box-office letdown, likely won’t be the last Toy Story spinoff to pin its hopes and its marketing plan on the audience’s fading memories and diminishing goodwill.

Meanwhile in the customary MCC film breakdowns:

Hey, look, it’s that one actor!: Before the crash, Buzz’s teammates include Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) as his superior/BFF and Izzy’s grandma; Bill Hader (Inside Out, HBO’s Barry) as an ensign who by all rights should’ve died within seconds of landing; and Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite‘s pal Pedro) as another crew member/chum. The post-crash space bureaucracy includes Isiah Whitlock, Jr., f/k/a Senator Clay Davis from The Wire.

Buzz’s ragtag crew includes Dale Soules (another New Black vet) as a rambunctious, elderly ex-con; and Taika Waititi repeating himself as yet another well-meaning fool sauntering around the line between klutzy self-awareness and congenial un-self-awareness.

How about those end credits? To answer the burning question that MCC is always happy to verify: yes, there are indeed scenes during and after the Lightyear end credits, neither of which will make sense to anyone who hasn’t actually watched the film. For those who tuned out prematurely and really want to know, and didn’t already click elsewhere…

[…insert space for courtesy spoiler alert in case anyone needs to abandon ship, even though neither of these is a big deal…]

…shortly after the initial roll call, we’re escorted briefly into the office of Space Senator Clay Davis, where his picture window gives him a front-row view of his beloved “Laserdome” project flash-frying space bugs. Your space tax dollars at work, folks.

Then after the end credits comes a scene I predicted: forgotten robot sidekick D.E.R.I.C. (voiced by Angus Maclane, Lightyear‘s own director/co-writer) remains at the space whiteboard, still trying and retrying to suss out street directions to where Our Heroes needed to go. If only all those scientists had bothered to invent Space Mapquest.

What do you, The Viewers at Home, think?

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