Although I’m sure I’m waaaay outside of the target demographic, I simply adore Steven Universe. With its mixture of fanciful imagination, high adventure, and its themes of acceptance and love, it is a hard show to ignore. I’ll go on record and say that Steven Universe is probably one of the most important animated television series in a long time.
So, when the series apparently wrapped last winter with a very satisfying and profound finale, I though that was going to be it but nope, Cartoon Network not only announced that another season was on the way, but also a feature length movie… as a fan, it was the best possible news.
A little backstory: Steven Universe tells the story of Steven, a little boy who was born to a human and an alien called a Gem but, because of the unique properties of Gems, his mother had to give up her physical form to give birth to him and now, with his Gem powers, Steven must not only fight the forces of evil with the other Gems on Earth, but also seeks to understand who he is and his place in the world.
If you follow this show, you know that the plot of the series gets very complicated, but not to worry… Steven Universe: The Movie catches you up on all of the developments in a very clever classic Disney-like opening.
The Steven Universe Movie time jumps two years. Steven is now 16 and is enjoying the relative peace that has been brought to Earth, but when a strange new Gem comes to the planet to not only kill him, but the entire Earth as well, Steven and his friends must uncover the mystery of the dangerous new Gem and why she wants them all dead.
It’s also a musical, which is all kinds of awesome.
Musical numbers have always been a staple of Steven Universe in terms of character development and the progression of the plot and they have always been memorable and beautiful. The movie continues this tradition of not only having catchy songs, but using them not just for the sake of having musical numbers, but using them to keep the plot going, to keep you appraised of how a character is feeling or growing, and generally pushing the story forward. These musical interludes never feel like someone pumps the brakes on the story, each one is essential and important like any good musical should be.
The plot, which I will not be spoiling here, is both humorous, self-reflective, and tragic. It contains some wonderfully frenetic animation when there is action, but the action actually is not the focus of the movie just like it’s never been the focus of the television series. The focus is on love, acceptance, and a sense of self-worth.
As I said… this is important. This is why the show is important.
More than that, Steven Universe: The Movie also manages a little introspection of its own, looking back at its own characters and their growth over the last five years. The cast of this series is such a wonderful thing, a collection of personalities and flaws that I have genuinely learned to care for over the years. This is an emotional journey, especially for Steven who has fallen into a place in his life where he believes he’s found his happily ever after and then, suddenly, realizes that his actual happily ever after is not what he thought it was.
Considering that the show was supposed to have ended and all of its major narrative arcs were wrapped up, this movie and Steven’s dilemma is the perfect step forward. You never stagnate… you continue to grow, you continue to develop… you are an experience in progress.
This movie may not be what a lot of people expected. There’s not a lot of fan service, things that people are no doubt expecting to happen don’t happen (Sorry, no Lapidot!), rather it tells the tale that needed to be told at this point in the series linage.
The journey never ends.
This show is the best.