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Who Is Emperor Zurg in ‘Lightyear’?

Zurg in the Lightyear trailer

Lightyear has surprisingly not left my mind since I saw it, and part of that is, yes, because Buzz Lightyear is hot (don’t judge me). But there are also so many aspects of this movie that tie into the lore of the Buzz we meet in Toy Story that it is a fascinating look at the character and what Andy saw in the toy he put as his number one over his previous all-time favorite toy.

There are also aspects of this movie that change a lot of what we know about Buzz, frankly, and the twists and turns had me shocked, and one of those is the truth behind his longtime foe, Emperor Zurg. What we knew of Buzz from the Toy Story franchise was simply that he was an officer from Star Command who was a brilliant astronaut and had to take on Zurg, but Lightyear gives us a little more context about their relationship.

So let’s get into spoilers and talk about Emperor Zurg and how Lightyear changes everything.

**Spoilers for Lightyear lie ahead.**

Buzz Lightyear looking determined in 'Lightyear'

One of the biggest foes for the Buzz Lightyear we knew before this movie, outside of coming to terms with being just a toy, was his battle with Zurg. Throughout the Toy Story franchise, we learned about Emperor Zurg, but it took Lightyear for us to really understand why he was such a hard villain for Buzz to take on. That’s because he was Buzz. In a move I truly did not see coming, what we learn about Zurg is that he actually is a different version of Buzz.

As he’s trying to reach hyperspace so he can get everyone home, one version of Buzz is met with an angry team ready to throw him in jail, and it results in him becoming Zurg and coming back to try to get the gems that our Buzz has discovered in order for him to go back in time and fix what he did wrong. The villain of Lightyear then becomes Buzz’s own failures. Instead of realizing that he might not succeed all the time and that’s okay, he’s thrown into this world where he has to fix his mistake by himself, and he gets to see, firsthand, what that isolation can do to someone.

James Brolin’s performance as Zurg counteracts Chris Evans’ take on Buzz beautifully, and watching as the two struggle with each other gives us a new look into the Zurg/Buzz relationship we thought we knew. That’s what’s so fascinating about the reveal that Zurg is just a different version of Buzz. Buzz being his own villain doesn’t make anything we knew from before less important; it just makes it more informed because Buzz therefore knows exactly who he is fighting, and fighting your own demons manifested as yourself? That’s deep.

As I have said before, Lightyear rules, and getting to see how Buzz takes on Zurg after the reveal gives us a perfect look into who exactly our Buzz is and why we love him so much.

(featured image: Pixar)

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She/Her. A writer who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.