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To 3D Or Not To 3D: Buy The Right Lightyear Ticket

Buzz Lightyear's ship flying towards the camera, approaching hyperspace in Lightyear.
(Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

In 1995, Andy from the Toy Story saga saw what would become his favorite movie and ultimately asking for the toy from that high flying adventure. The film was Lightyear, and in the universe it exists in, it’s hard to believe that it would have been shown in the 3D format. But we’re not in that universe, are we? Nope, and that means the archives of To 3D or Not To 3D are about to get a little fuller. 

If you want to learn more about how the movie itself works as an experience, you can read our official review of Lightyear and get my take on that matter. Otherwise, it’s time to learn if it’s worth spending the extra 3D ticket money, or if you’re better off pre-ordering a talking Sox toy. All pre-flight checks are now complete, as it’s time to see how Disney/Pixar’s latest measures up in the third dimension!

FIT SCORE - 5/5

Historically, Disney/Pixar remained one of the more frequent purveyors of 3D thrills, though 2020’s Onward was the last Pixar 3D experience on the books. That’s probably due to Lightyear being the first wide theatrical release from the company since the pre-pandemic era. Adding in the fact that the Toy Story franchise has been offered in this format since the 3D release of 2010’s Toy Story 3, a more realistic approach to the action and whimsy of Buzz Lightyear is indeed a fit for proper 3D presentation. 

PLANNING & EFFORT - 5/5

Do you know what one of the best parts about computer animation is? If you want to craft a 3D version of a movie like Lightyear, you can do so straight from the source. Disney/Pixar tends to keep that process in-house, which hasn’t changed on this film, and it seems to make a difference when it comes to Planning and Effort. Thanks to a dedicated team that has intimate knowledge of the production in its 2D phases, Pixar’s P&E game is pretty top notch. Every inch of Lightyear proves that fact unequivocally, as save for a minor bump, everything else is pretty perfect.

BEFORE THE WINDOW - 5/5

In the best cases, the Before and Beyond the Window components of a 3D visual can go hand in hand. If the two align perfectly, it leads to a fully immersive third-dimensional enhancement that does a lot for a film’s presentation. Lightyear has the good fortune of being such a movie, and in the case of the Before the Window aspect, it’s absurdly impressive.

Everything from fog and sparks to laser guns and the beams they shoot jumps out at the audience. Also, if you loved Sox the robot cat before seeing Lightyear, his array of added features shine. Laser scanning, blow darts and even a flashlight all project out, as well as deepen the picture's depth. 

Better still, there are moments of action containing explosions, hands on grappling hooks, and robots punching through walls that are so good, I actually jumped. Having seen this movie in 2D prior to my 3D screening, the experience counts for something. But if there’s one thing I have to credit Lightyear with doing best, it’s the movie’s depiction of Hyperspace.

BEYOND THE WINDOW - 5/5

Hyperspace is one of two bridging aspects that sync up Lightyear’s Before and Beyond the Window aspects. Taking advantage of the “Before” side, Buzz’s ship pokes out even more in as space stretches in reference to his relative speed. Meanwhile, the “Beyond” side of things sees that space showcasing even greater depth to the picture at hand, enhancing the already dazzling colors.

That’s on top of the normal course of action being displayed perfect field of depth. Separating characters and objects from their environments is one thing, which Lightyear totally nails. Beyond that, there are corridors and settings of endless depth that really stand out. 

The distance between Buzz and other characters is the most impressive piece to this factor, as spaceships are detailed with the rows of seating standing out sharply. Plus, moments where people are separated by distance and height really pop, as you really feel the separation between our hero and a crew-member/military officer interacting with him from above or below.

BRIGHTNESS SCORE - 4/5

I wish I could have saved the Brightness score for last with Lightyear, because it’s the only fault seen in the movie’s 3D presentation. Your mileage will obviously vary, depending on how well your theater of choice maintains their projectors between 2D and 3D showings in an auditorium. Once again, it's important to choose a theater you trust to do right by their picture quality.

With the 3D showing I attended at a local cineplex, not even the slight dimness or the buffering quality for long stretches of the movie could totally ruin Lightyear’s charms. It was plenty bright once I took my glasses off, but the slight dimming behind the glasses robs this experience of a perfect score. Other than that slight nitpick, darkened nighttime scenes and the vastness of space still look pretty good. 

GLASSES OFF SCORE - 5/5

In those moments where one is tempted to remove their glasses, you should see the classic blur of the 3D image that’s joined together once you put your glasses back on. That’s supposed to be a sign of how manipulated the 3D picture is, and what’s truly being shown in that enhanced format. Lightyear possesses that blur rather strongly, with the audience seeing double almost immediately. 

Heavy blur saturates the picture at all times during the film proper, with certain visual anchors looking more 2D in comparison. The border between blurry and solid figures is pretty subtle, but always present. Judging by the Before and Beyond the Window factors that are supposed to be linked to this component, the perfection isn’t hard to justify.

Though there is one minor nitpick I need to throw in here, as it fittingly pops up during the point most people have their glasses off: the end credits. Lightyear’s Main-on-End credits start things off in 3D, as does the mid-credits scene. However, once the rest of the end credits role, the film goes back to 2D. This includes a post-credits gag and a post-logo stinger that are also included in the final moments of the film. While points aren’t taken off at this point, it’s something that will have to be considered in the future. 

AUDIENCE HEALTH - 5/5

A lot of action is packed into Lightyear’s brisk and fulfilling runtime. Fast-paced conflicts with alien creatures are woven in-between heartfelt moments of emotion, which could cause people’s eyes to get a bit confused when moving back and forth from such scenes. That doesn’t even happen in this film, as we’re all treated to some pretty smooth 3D adventure throughout the entirety of Lightyear.

Motion sickness and eye strain won’t be a problem, even with the potential slight dimming of the picture. Again, even with moments that buffered and stuttered in this unique showing of mine, Lightyear didn’t feel any more awkward than a typical 3D movie. Besides, of course, the fact that dialogue and visuals were choppy for extended stretches. Even through that unfortunate circumstance, it didn’t hurt to watch this adventure in 3D.

FINAL VERDICT: 34/35

Lightyear is a huge step up from the franchise’s previous 3D presentation of Toy Story 4. I’m a huge fan of this medium, and truly believe in its capabilities to actually enhance a movie over its 2D counterpart. It’s rare that I get to say this, but in this case the 3D definitely improves the movie on display, as it showcases a result that does draw you deeper into the movie. 

It’s just a shame the brightness for my showing was off, and that no one’s offering an IMAX 3D variant. The second point is felt more sharply, as Lightyear has a specially designed IMAX camera system. Just as I’d found with my IMAX 3D viewing of Jurassic Park Dominion, the large format’s third-dimensional prowess is still superior to conventional 3D.

Don’t let that stop you from seeing Lightyear in 3D, as the end result is something that lives up to Buzz Lightyear’s iconic catchphrase. As for what to expect as the next To 3D or Not To 3D review, it looks like things are about to get a lot more yellow around here. Can the colorful world of Minions: The Rise of Gru rise above the grey barrier of 3D glasses? We’ll find out in time for the upcoming movie’s July 1st release date.

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.