New ‘Lightyear’ Trailer Teases ‘Captain America’ By Way Of ‘Austin Powers’

Walt Disney dropped a third theatrical trailer for Pixar’s Lightyear this morning, one timed to play with DreamWorks Animation’s (pretty damn enjoyable) The Bad Guys this weekend. We may or may not see another tease timed for Top Gun: Maverick on May 27 (seems too good to resist), but otherwise, this works as a “final trailer.” After two teases that mostly coasted on the generic outer-space adventure and IP nostalgia, this one dives headfirst into the plot, including a major twist that makes the timing of its theatrical release a bit ironic.

The trailer opens with Lightyear’s (professional/platonic) relationship with Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) before he sets off on a mission that accidentally (?) sends him 65 years into the future. Now he’s a man out of time, yearning for the life he left behind and working alongside the granddaughter of his old colleague (Keke Palmer) and dealing with the arrival of Zurg (Josh Brolin) and his robot army.

Sure, there’s some Captain America to this (I’m assuming Lightyear isn’t going to hook up with young Izzy Hawthorne), but the core set-up is also quite reminiscent of a film that’s about to celebrate its 25th anniversary, namely Mike Myers’ Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. That modern comedy classic launched a blockbuster franchise and gave false hope to decades of would-be franchise-starters everywhere. Important fact: Austin Powers 1 was a theatrical hit before it became a VHS smash and before The Spy Who Shagged Me became a prototypical breakout sequel. It turns 25 on May 2.

That film, along with being a loving spoof of James Bond movies (and 007 knockoffs of the In Like Flynt variety), was a surprisingly potent look at the perils of nostalgia and the refusal to acknowledge how society has progressed past your reference point. That was an ahead-of-its-time commentary in 1997, although I certainly imagine it’s harder to look at 2022 and not feel nostalgic for 1997 than it might have been to look at 1997 and not feel nostalgic for 1967, the film was more than just its marquee characters and catchphrases.

Will Lightyear be a film, not unlike The LEGO Movie, Scream, Jurassic World and Matrix Resurrections, that is a giant meta-commentary on its own existence? I doubt that Lightyear is going to go into full “judgmental self-loathing” mode, but this plot, involving the false hope of nostalgia and a reluctance to embrace the future and the unknown, well, it would certainly be something that makes Lightyear more than just a cash-grab.

However cynical the mere idea of making a Buzz Lightyear movie, one that is its own thing and not directly related to the Toy Story continuity, might be, it’s also likely an excuse for director Angus MacLane, producer Galyn Susman and company to craft an “original” 1970’s/1980’s sci-fi outer-space adventure film under the protective cover of IP. I will have nostalgia for when Pixar of all studios didn’t need the brand awareness to commercially justify such a thing, but if they make a movie that artistically works on its own accord, all the better.

Lightyear opens June 17, six weeks after the 25th anniversary of the first Austin Powers and also over/under the 40th anniversary of Tron, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and Blade Runner. Between you and me, I’m hoping for sci-fi weirdness closer to The Black Hole. It’ll “premiere” at next month’s Cannes film festival. Unless it’s shorter than Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins, I don’t think Disney is squeezing it in at Cinemacon next week, so we’ll have to wait a month for the first critical… buzz. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses, and I’ll be here all week.

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