Steven Universe: The Film evaluation: Spinel confronts the present’s idealism
After spending 5 seasons studying the way to management his powers, handle the gem and human sides of his life, and cleansing up after his mom’s errors, he — and the remainder of the Crystal Gems — frankly deserve a break. And it appears that evidently they obtained one: after the climactic occasions of “Change Your Thoughts,” a brand new interval of detente has unfold throughout the universe with the gradual dissolution of the Gem Empire. Steven is lastly getting alongside along with his considerably adoptive second household of the Diamonds regardless of their obsessive clinginess, however he’s desperate to proceed residing out his life along with his family and friends on Earth.
Additionally, he’s two years older and has a neck!
Steven Universe: The Film picks up with Steven extra confident and comfortable than we’ve ever seen him. However as so typically is the case in Rebecca Sugar’s fantasy world, the excessive doesn’t final: a brand new risk to Earth sparks a microcosmic occasion that dredges up all of Steven’s earlier conflicts, forcing him to confront mainly each metaphorical demon he’s confronted all through his adolescence. In true Steven Universe type, the film is a spectacle of animation eye-candy and heart-wrenching songs sung by the sequence’ comfortably acquainted voice forged. Whereas Steven Universe: The Film doesn’t mark the top of the sequence, it’s a poignant cap on the characters that we’ve come to like over the previous six years.
[Ed. note: major spoilers ahead for Steven Universe: The Movie.]
The start of the film hits a number of the highest highs we’ve seen to date — an early sequence, “Fortunately Ever After,” runs by the Crystal Gems’ previous escapades, recapping the sequence in a means that’s extra calmly nostalgic than dragging for longtime viewers of the sequence. There’s some apparent adjustments, too: everybody has new garments and there are just a few recent musical cues tied to acquainted characters, however it’s an unmistakable homecoming.
Life comes crashing down with the arrival of Spinel, a hyperactive gem animated in elastic rubber-hose type of early 20th century animation. Her character design is completely suited to her type of off-the-wall villany: from the get-go, it’s clear that Spinel has come to Earth not solely to actual her vengeance but additionally to have one hell of a time doing so. Watching her twist, leap, and maneuver across the Crystal Gems is extremely entertaining, significantly as she gleefully sings by “Different Buddies,” a ragtime-flavored track that enhances her animation type.
This primary struggle in opposition to Spinel’s alien weapon poofs the gems again to their “manufacturing unit settings:” Pearl is able to serve, Ruby dutifully protects her noble Sapphire, and Amethyst doesn’t know any higher than to imitate these round her. Steven himself is ready again to his personal type of default state: with no practical management over his gem powers, he has to determine the way to cope with each a overbearingly pleasant Spinel (additionally poofed and reset) and the enormous drill she left to pump poison into the Earth.
As a way to cease it, Steven should basically recreate all of his mates’ character improvement arcs on a time crunch. In a means, it makes Steven Universe: The Film virtually really feel like a recap movie as each Steven and the gems expertise acquainted moments like Garnet realizing her love for herself or Pearl’s burgeoning rebellious streak. As Steven tries to recreate the situations that made the Crystal Gems into who they’re as we speak, it’s obvious how far the group has come over the course of the previous 5 seasons.
Punctuating the nostalgia are some glorious goofs in addition to moments of pure fan gratification. Pearl’s unnerving servitude is lower by the truth that she addresses Greg, who she believes to be her grasp, as “Um Greg Universe” after he hesitates when giving his title. Connie straight-up slices a automotive in half along with her sword. Most standout is the out-of-nowhere fusion of Steven and Greg (henceforth known as “Steg”) together with the return of Opal (Aimee Mann). With fusions like Garnet framed as romantic relationships, it’s simple to overlook that any relationship rooted in belief and love may be the idea for a fusion. Actually, Steg has been a very long time coming. The fusion is an emotional cap punctuated with Steg’s killer abs and vocals, and he’s voiced by Ted Leo, a frequent Aimee Mann collaborator.
All of that fades away, nonetheless, in the case of Spinel herself. As Steven places the items of his mates’ recollections again collectively, he constantly forgets and ignores Spinel, within the course of inadvertently bringing again her recollections of abandonment on the hand of Pink Diamond. With a tragic backstory solely actually rivaled by that of Lapis Lazuli, Spinel pursues vengeance and lashes out on the closest factor she will get to Pink: Steven.
Steven being left behind to scrub up his mom’s messes is a well-recognized theme. What’s completely different this time is that the largest struggle is already over: in principle, placating the Diamonds ought to have been the ultimate battle. Spinel’s arrival and justified damage hammer dwelling the truth that Steven could by no means get his fortunately ever after, no matter how a lot he ostensibly deserves it. It doesn’t matter what he does and irrespective of how many individuals he loves into peace, there’ll all the time be another person whose coronary heart he has to fix. Whereas contending with lack of management over his personal powers and having to recreate his mates’ improvement arcs is nice narrative, it’s additionally symbolic. Every problem Steven faces can be simply as tough as his very first.
That doesn’t imply that issues are all grim — that is Steven Universe! With the help of his mates, Steven ultimately does handle to overwhelm Spinel with love, saving Seashore Metropolis within the course of. There’s a specific sequence the place Steven climbs up Spinel’s drill as Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl evacuate the town. Even in mortal peril and battle, the dulcet, slow-jam tones of “True Kinda Love” play within the background like a “lo-fi hip-hop beats for surviving the apocalypse” playlist. Even on the apex of hazard, issues are nonetheless fairly chill. By now, we all know to imagine in Steven.
Steven Universe: The Film is the right end result of a narrative that already feels full. Whereas this isn’t the final we’ll see of the Crystal Gems, it’s laborious to think about any higher closure. The truth that issues won’t ever relax for Steven is a part of the ethos of the sequence itself. Most central, nonetheless, is a philosophy that Steven sings in the direction of the top of the movie: “Hey you, present me that solvable downside, we are able to get by this, I’ll do the toughest half with you.”
Palmer Haasch is a New York Metropolis-based leisure & tradition author. A former Polygon intern, she makes a speciality of TV, anime, fandom, and web tradition. Discover extra of her work at palmerhaasch.com.