Steven Universe the Movie
Steven Universe the Movie 2019
I’ve actually been a relatively big Steven Universe fan ever since I first saw a couple clips of the show at work and it was so weird that I had to watch the show to figure out what the heck was going on. As a show, the storytelling of it is that it gives you just a small bit of the show’s overall mythology in each episode so that you have to watch a lot to really understand what’s going on. But once you do watch it as a whole, there’s an extreme depth to the world of this show and a unique take for the entire concept of a hero. The movie extends that concept and creates this excuse to actually age Steven by a couple years, from a young teen to an older teen. It also takes music, which has been a staple of the show, and expands it into a full blown musical movie with many different songs in a relatively short run time. While none of the songs really connected with me, the spirit of the show definitely came through in the movie.
The movie takes place after the end of the main series, everything is peaceful and quiet on Earth and Steven has grown up a couple years or so. He’s still voiced by Zach Callison but he now has a much deeper voice rather than the high pitched kid voice used previously. While Steven is offered a place to stay with the other three Diamond leaders, he prefers to remain on Earth with the rest of the gems that he has befriended. But of course, instead of getting a happily ever after (in song form no less), another threat comes in the form of Spinel who basically reboots the Crystal Gems as well as Steven to a certain extent while also bringing a giant ship to inject a poison to destroy all biological life on Earth.
It’s actually quite interesting how the movie uses this concept of rebooting the Crystal Gems as a way to help explain the universe to some extent to audiences who might not be familiar with the show as a whole. When Spinel defeats the Gems the first time around, they are poofed into their gems, but when they rematerialize into their humanoid form they return as their original selves without any of their memories or personality from their time on Earth with Steven. It’s also a unique spin that Spinel herself also gets rebooted and spends most of the movie as an ally to Steven rather than an antagonist as she loses her villainous memories and reverts to a 20’s era happy and hyper cartoon character.
One thing that really sums up the entire concept of Steven Universe happens towards the climax of the movie after Spinel regains her memories and redoubles her attack on the Earth. Steven is exhausted and nearly powerless but still goes to confront Spinel. One of the Gems tells him “You can’t fight her” referring to his weakened state. But he replies “But I can still talk to her”. That is and has always been the essence of Steven Universe. The ultimate goal is to defeat their enemies, but it’s not through death and destruction, instead its through friendship and understanding. Steven is ultimately a half-human half-gem alien hybrid superhero with super powers but it’s his understanding that ultimately saves the world more often than not. And that understanding is usually centered around issues that are allegories for mental health issues.
This specific mental health issue revolves around Spinel’s abandonment and revenge. Steven Universe’s fantasy setting allows for a surprising amount of complexity and yet it rarely manages to feel overly dense. It’s difficult to explain clearly without knowledge that’s spread throughout the various seasons of the show, but Spinel was basically a court jester for one of the Gem homeworld leaders Pink Diamond. She was abandoned when Pink Diamond went to Earth with a promise to return. Thousands of years passed, Pink Diamond became Steven Universe who eventually returned to the Gem Homeworld where Spinel finally realized that she had been abandoned forever. Steven is able to help her work through those issues of abandonment, insecurity, and anger while also dealing with his own subtle guilt due to the fact that he was indirectly responsible as a part of him is still Pink Diamond.
Steven Universe is a complex and fascinating show that deals with not just mental health issues, but also gender identity issues in a very forward and open way even though the movie itself doesn’t have much of that present. The movie continues with the spirit of the show while still bringing something new to the table. It’s not exactly something one could jump right into without any background information just because the concepts are so far out there that it’s hard to grasp without a lot of explanation. The songs are also a bit of a letdown, especially as they come one right after another but it was a great moment as a fan of the show to see Steven finally fuse with his father to become this bizarre rock god with huge hair and abs for some reason. It was really great to watch and makes me want to go back and catch up with the show’s conclusion as well as the pseudo spin off Steven Universe Future. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.