The Lightyear Movie and Resilient Organizations
2022 June 27

“Lightyear” was a very fun movie. It’s not a timeless classic, but I enjoyed it. There were some serious issues with it, and the overall organizational structures. I expect better from Pixar on their research, after all they made one of my all-time favorite movies “Wall-E”. They got in an actual doctor of fishes in to explain how fishes move for “Finding Nemo.” As always there will be unmarked spoilers.

Buzz Lightyear is a space ranger, they are like the survey team in this exploration craft. It’s an exploration craft with a crew of 1200. They end up landing on a really hostile planet with very lively vines. Their ship, the giant space turnip, starts getting sucked down by the plant vines. This requires Buzz and Company to return to the ship. Buzz really does not like inexperienced teams, he’s shown in most incarnations to be very by the book and focused on the job. So Buzz tries to pilot the ship out of there, but can’t get the ship to go straight up. The ship ends up grazing against a cliff and they crash.

This results in Buzz beating himself up, and attempting to court marshal himself (that’s not the action of a stable person). There’s a lot of talk of finishing the mission. They end up building up to a futuristic level of technology with the capability of launching an FTL ship. In a years time they are able to test their crystalline fusion FTL drive, but it’s a failure. Buzz ends up missing for 4 years because time dilation. Buzz is given a cat named socks, a robotic cat that is very intelligence, and is apparently used to help deal with PTSD in this timeline. I really like this cat. This goes on for many years with increasingly long times between the attempts.

Everyone around Buzz starts to age, and put down roots. The rest of crew settle down on this incredibly hostile planet. However, Buzz never settles down or becomes a part of his community. Eventually his commander passes away while he is on a test flight. The new commander shutters the entire plan to replace it with an Iron Dome or laser shield. As they just have to make a life for themselves on this planet.

Buzz is of course traumatized by this decision, and his cat solved the crystal making problem. (It’s a mixture of the various goos). He steals the test plane because he finally has the solution. There’s an attempt to stop him, but it fails. He succeeds, but ends up 22 years in the future. However, not all is well with the colony.

There is an enemy ship in orbit, it’s hostile to the colony, and is attempting to breach the laser shield with lots of robots. The ship is apparently really advanced. Buzz is saved after losing his ship by a rookie. A robot teleports away with his ship, but he saves the crystal fuel cell. He doesn’t know it’s a rookie at the beginning, but eventually he’s introduced to the rest of the rookies. They are a rag tag team which is completely untrained. Buzz wants nothing to do with them.

There’s then a series of character building arcs, until we meet the main villain of the movie. A Buzz who never met the rookies, and learned what was actually up. He’s called Zerg, since the robots can’t buzz. It turns out that the commander tried to punish buzz for the first time around, and then he finds this cool ship, and travels back in time, but needs another fuel cell to travel back and stop the accident. Our Buzz realizes it’s a very bad deal for the people who set down roots in this timeline. So they fight, and they lose the cell. Eventually Buzz and his new team sets down and Buzz is offered to build a new division of star command.

Review and Issues with Star Command

  1. Star Command’s internal structures are unclear. Most organizations have a bureaucracy, and star command’s feels really weird. I would expect them to have a better plan for an emergency landing. A way of contacting ships that went missing or crashed.
  2. I would expect that star command would have a way of introducing the new commanders, and proper chain of command. This would reduce the surprise of a new hard line commander being placed in charge.
  3. I would expect that Buzz would have a proper debrief procedure to update him after returning from each test flight. He’s taken by surprise for each of the developments, as they get closer and closer.
  4. Star command tries to take Socks away without a proper resignation process for Buzz. Any good bureaucracy knows to inform them of the terms of their dismissal, and at the same time seize their stuff.
  5. Buzz himself seems fairly unstable. He’s very by the book, and isn’t prepared to make adjustments to the book as needed. A good organization is all about training the juniors and making sure they are ready for the next level.

What Star Command seems to do well is equipping their people with the tools and knowledge needed to survive, as they built a prototype space craft in a year, and built the infrastructure required to launch. Star Command would need to put a lot of work to build an effective staffing pipeline.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie a fair amount, and would recommend going to see it. It’s a solid summer movie, but there’s a lot of questions raised. I really enjoyed the animated series growing up, and it was nice to see a big budget production made. Hopefully, there’ll be another animated series, but I would be much happier to see some more traditionally animated stuff rather than CGI. Overall I give this movie a three and half out of five.

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Written by Henry J Schmale on 2022 June 27
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