Lightyear’s most tragic scene is even more heartbreaking than the montage Pixar carved out with Carl and Ellie in 2009’s Up.
The following contains spoilers for Lightyear, now playing in theaters.
When news broke that Lightyear would have an emotionally-charged montage on par with fellow Pixar film Up, many wondered if it’d match up. The latter, a 2009 Oscar-winning venture, did pack a gut punch as fans saw the start, and end, of Carl’s marriage to Ellie. It brought many to tears before the movie even got to the end of its first act. However, while it seemed an impossible task, Lightyear’s montage actually proved to be more heartbreaking.
Now, as soul-searing as Up’s montage was, it felt natural. Carl and Ellie meet young, fall in love, marry, go through the motions of being unable to have kids, and don’t follow through on their dream trip to Paradise Falls. It quickly turned a romance everyone aims for into a tragedy of time passing by.
With Lightyear, on the other hand, the montage was more heartbreaking because Buzz had the option of lessening the hurt of his tragedy, yet he chose to steep himself in pain. Due to space dilation, every trip he made to get to hyper-speed shaved years off life on the space colony he got a crew of Earthlings stuck on at the start of the film. Each journey was mere minutes for him, but decades passed as Buzz kept making the rounds to find a way to get them back home.
The sequence showed Buzz’s best friend and fellow Space Ranger, Alisha, aging, having a family with her wife, encouraging Buzz each time he got back, but bit by bit, she got closer to death. However, Buzz didn’t want to forgive himself, ignoring the lives and friendships on the colony, all because he needed to erase his mistake. It was part ego and part desperation, but it was mostly about restoring his reputation, despite Alisha eventually begging him to let it go.
Sadly, when Buzz returned after 62 years of tripping, he found her office empty and in darkness. It broke him as he realized that in perverting space and time, he lost out on something meaningful. Most of the people he landed with were gone, which became even more tear-jerking due to a holographic message Alisha left. She introduced him to her granddaughter, Izzy, who also wanted to be a Space Ranger, but this served as a stark reminder Buzz messed up by ignoring the valuable little time his friend had left.
And what made it even worse was that Alisha got replaced, proving how fleeting life is. Buzz didn’t even spend time with her family, realizing that, due to this obsession with the mission, he missed out on the true gift of life. At least Carl experienced a powerful bond and savored every moment, even when mourning and soaking the moments in. But ultimately, Buzz had a more dystopian, existential crisis as he chose to ignore the most important thing: love.
To see Buzz’s montage outdo Up’s, Lightyear is now playing in theaters.
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