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Lightyear ending explained: What is the Emperor Zurg twist?

The new Toy Story spin-off includes one massive surprise revelation.

Lightyear
Disney/Pixar
Published: Friday, 17th June 2022 at 2:00 pm
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The last three films released by Pixar – Soul, Luca, and Turning Red – have all gone straight to Disney Plus, but with the release of Lightyear in cinemas this weekend fans finally have the chance to see one of the studio's features on the big screen again.

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The film is a spin-off from the Toy Story series – introduced as the very movie Andy fell in love with in 1995 – and sees Buzz Lightyear join forces with a ragtag bunch of misfits and an adorable robot cat as he looks to complete a vital mission after crash landing on a faraway planet.

Chris Evans takes over from Tim Allen as the voice of the titular space ranger and is joined in the cast by the likes of Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi and James Brolin, the latter of whom takes on the role of Buzz's great nemesis, Emperor Zurg.

The film contains a fair few twists and turns across its runtime – the biggest of which involves the aforementioned Zurg – so if you've already watched it and need some help unpacking those closing scenes, we have everything you need below.

Read on to have the Lightyear ending explained.

Lightyear ending explained

In order to explain all the developments towards the end of the film, it's probably best to first provide a little context – as there is a fair amount of set-up before we get to the big reveal later down the line.

The first major event occurs very early on, when Buzz and his commanding officer Alisha Hawthorne crash land on a distant planet named Tikana Prime and damage their ship in the process.

The pair have no means of escaping their fate without first building replacement parts for the broken ship – and in particular, finding the hyperspace fuel that is essential for their return to Earth.

At regular intervals, Buzz volunteers to test the new hyperspace fuel, but not only does he consistently find that the fuel is not yet fit for purpose, he also discovers that after each journey four years have passed as a result of time dilation.

And so during a montage, we see his friends – including Hawthorne – get gradually older while he stays the same age, before eventually, 62 years have passed.

At this stage, his robotic cat assistant Sox – who was previously gifted to him by the now-dead Hawthorne – reveals that he has finally completed a task Buzz assigned him some 62 years earlier: he's managed to work out the formula to improve the hyperspace fuel to the correct levels to make space travel possible again.

And so Buzz takes Sox with him for one final test flight – against the orders of his new superior Commander Burnside – only to then discover on his return that even more time has passed, 22 years to be precise.

Alas, Tikana Prime is now home to an evil force of robots who have taken the rest of the planet's inhabitants hostage. They are led, of course, by one Emperor Zurg.

Emperor Zurg twist explained: who is the villain?

Lightyear
Disney

To anyone who is a fan of the original Toy Story movies, Emperor Zurg will be familiar as Buzz's sworn enemy – but in Lightyear, we find out far more about him, including one massive twist.

Buzz – who has now teamed up with Hawthorne's granddaughter Izzy and two other misfits with little space ranger experience named Mo and Darby – is taken captive by Zurg while trying to attack his ship, and the villain reveals his true identity: he's an alternate version of Buzz Lightyear himself.

You see, this version of Buzz had traveled far into the future after a successful hyperspace test and thanks to some advanced technology has developed the ability to travel backwards in time as well as forward.

His goal is now to travel back far enough in time to prevent the original crash landing from ever happening, but in order to do so he needs to obtain the hyperspace fuel from the original version of Buzz – who he now tries to convince to help him achieve his plan.

Buzz, however, is resistant to the idea – in part because of the ethical issues with creating a temporal paradox, but also because he knows if he goes through with the plan his new friends like Izzy will cease to exist.

Unhappy with this decision, Buzz is attacked by Zurg, but thankfully his friends – including Izzy and Sox – come to the rescue, and together they manage to destroy Zurg's ship.

Zurg is not done yet and continues to attack Buzz to obtain the fuel, but our hero is eventually successful in defeating his alternate self by shooting at the fuel and destroying it – meaning neither of them is able to use it anymore.

Is Buzz trapped on Tikana Prime?

With the hyperspace fuel now destroyed, Buzz is back to square one in his attempts to escape the planet – but he now realises that there's no need to do so, he can instead build a new home and start a new life on Tikana Prime with the friends he's made on his adventures.

Indebted to Buzz for defeating Zurg and his robot accomplices, Burnside allows Buzz to recreate the now-defunct Galactic Ranger corps by choosing any of the finest space rangers on the planet, hand-picked by Burnside himself.

But Buzz isn't interested in choosing any of the experts suggested by the Commander – and he instead picks a squad that consists of Izzy, Mo, Darby and Sox, who have each proven themselves more than capable of living the space ranger life on their adventures.

Does Zurg survive?

Although Buzz and his accomplices are successful in seeing off the threat of Zurg for now, it is revealed during a brief post-credits scene that the villain has survived the ordeal – and will no doubt be back for more.

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The stage is therefore very much set for Lightyear 2...

Lightyear is released in UK cinemas on Friday 17th June 2022. Watch the original Toy Story movies on Disney Plus, available for £79.90 for a year or £7.99 a month.

Check out what else is on with our TV Guide, or visit our Movies hub for more news and features.

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