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Lightyear's Rotten Tomatoes Reviews Prove That Pixar Has Done It Again

It's been three years since "Toy Story 4" wowed audiences with another adventure from Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), but Pixar's latest offering widens the "Toy Story" franchise in a surprising new way. "Lightyear" looks at the story behind the toy, with Marvel alumnus Chris Evans voicing the iconic astronaut, who gets stranded in the future after his test flight goes wrong. Obviously, this is the character that the toy in the movies is based on.

"Lightyear" director Angus MacLane told io9 that the movie is a huge hit in the "Toy Story" universe, saying, "I've always wondered, 'What movie was Buzz from? Why couldn't we just make that movie?'" He added, "So that's what we did. 'Lightyear' [is] the movie that Andy saw that changed his life. Andy's 'Star Wars.' A sci-fi epic designed to inspire a new generation." It's a fascinating way of expanding the "Toy Story" world without churning out another sequel based on the iconic toys — there's only so much emotional heartache that audiences can endure!

"Lightyear" also introduces the in-universe version of Emperor Zurg (James Brolin), Buzz's robotic archenemy who has devious plans for the rest of the universe. Thankfully, the hero of Star Command has a ragtag team of unlikely sidekicks on his side to help him stop Zurg and get back to his own time. Taika Waititi voices Mo Morrison alongside Dale Soules as Darby Steel, two survivors in the future, while Keke Palmer voices Izzy Hawthorne, the granddaughter of Buzz's best friend, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba).

But does "Lightyear" go to infinity and beyond? Or does it fail to launch? Well, most reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes think Pixar has another hit on its hands.

Critics call Lightyear a fun spin-off

The first "Lightyear" reviews have arrived online ahead of the film's release on June 17, and it looks like fans are in for a fun ride across the universe. It currently has an 82% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a positive sign that the spin-off has been worth the wait. Linda Marric of The Jewish Chronicle gave the film a glowing review, writing, "With some clever nods to some classic space sagas from 'Alien' to 'Interstellar,' MacLane and co-writer Jason Headley have delivered a love letter to the genre all the while bringing that unmistakable fuzzy feeling we've come to expect from Pixar's ever[-]expanding stable."

Obviously, some audiences will be wondering whether "Lightyear" will tie into the "Toy Story" movies in smaller ways — but Mashable's Kristy Puchko says the real focus here is its own story: "This spin[-]off pays tribute to the Buzz that's come before, with callbacks to his lines, look, gadgets, attitude, and more. And even though it walks in the shadow of the giant that is 'Toy Story,' 'Lightyear' manages to set its own course for fresh adventure." Developing an origin story within a franchise like "Toy Story" is a difficult task, but it seems that director Angus MacLane has found the perfect balance.

The film has made headlines for being banned in several countries due to a same-sex kiss, but IGN's Amelia Emberwing thinks the film handles it well, saying, "'Lightyear' features striking visuals, strong performances, and a love-out-loud lesbian relationship that we're thrilled to see on[-]screen. All of those things deserved a stronger story, though."

However, not everyone was won over by Buzz's adventures.

Some reviews brand Lightyear for its soulless story

Although many reviews embraced "Lightyear" for its fun trip across the cosmos, other critics blasted the spin-off for feeling like an easy cash grab for Disney to profit off of the "Toy Story" franchise. Keith Watson tore into the animated movie for Slant, saying, "The film is a slick, soulless spectacle whose jokey banter and space-opera action drowns out the story's emotional beats," which sounds as if the film might try too hard to be like other iconic sci-fi movies rather than a classic in its own right alongside so many other well-known Pixar movies.

The Telegraph's Robbie Collin was also unimpressed with the spin-off, noting, "The problem with Pixar's latest feature isn't just that it's the animation house's dullest, dreariest, most spiritually empty to date. It's that it fails even on its own painstakingly contrived open-goal terms." Ouch. It seems the real problem is that Pixar has already set the bar too high for what animated movies should do, which is why so many critics aren't impressed with "Lightyear." It'd be interesting to see how it would fare if it were produced by any other animation studio.

Finally, the BBC's Nicholas Barber thinks it's missing the childlike sense of fun and wonder, saying, "Whatever escapades young Andy imagined in 1995 when he was playing with his Space Ranger toy, they were bound to be more fun than this one." Maybe Pixar should've depicted a game Andy played as a child rather than the movie he was obsessed with.

"Lightyear" arrives in theaters on Friday, June 17.