“Steven Universe: The Movie” stars Zach Callison, Estelle, Michaela Dietz, Deedee Magno Hall, and Sarah Stiles. Released on September 2, 2019, the film has Steven and the Crystal Gems saving their home from a mysterious Gem.
The film is directed by Rebecca Sugar, Kat Morris, and Joe Johnston. It is based on the television series of the same name created by Sugar. Well, this is a surprising way for me to start off the new month. A television film based on one of my favorite recent shows on the Cartoon Network. This should be fun. In case you haven’t watched Cartoon Network for who knows how long, “Steven Universe” is an animated series that showcases a coming-of-age story about a young boy who lives in a fictional town of Beach City with a trio of magical beings known as the Crystal Gems. Together, they embark on many adventures as they protect their home from the other Gems. It may sound like a superhero action show on paper, but it’s actually an action show that’s more reliant on storytelling and heart. It’s a show about love, family, and friendship and how these things are helpful in overpowering the darkness rather than using only violence to solve problems. Since its debut in 2013, the series received acclaim from critics and audiences for its animation, characters, themes, and music. I was one of the people who really enjoyed the show for those reasons. Its success lead to the creation of a devoted fan base as well as the development of several merchandises such as books, toys, and video games. The film was announced at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con before the show concluded its fifth (and last) season, with many speculating on what it’s going to be like. A year later, we have our answer. Like everyone else, I waited quite a while for this, so let’s see if it can live up to my expectations.
Taking place two years after the show’s fifth season finale, the story centers on Steven (Callison), who is now living a peaceful life with the Crystal Gems and his friends after successfully bringing peace to the Gems. Their “retirement” is then interrupted by the arrival of a new Gem, who plans on stealing the life force of all organic life on Earth. With time running out, Steven and the Crystal Gems will have to band together in order to save the world once again. Like the show it’s based on, the film relied heavily on the visuals and the storytelling rather than mindless cartoon violence, and while there were certain things that they could’ve done to make it more cinematic and epic, I was OK with them keeping the same qualities that made the show what it is today. Besides, they might not have enough money to make it into a theatrical film. So, after finally experiencing it for myself, how did it turn out in my eyes? To be honest, I thought it turned out great. In fact, it’s possible that it might be not only one of the best things that Cartoon Network has ever produced, but also the best made-for-television film of the year. Obviously, the story in “Steven Universe: The Movie” is as simplistic as the show, but it’s not afraid to raise the stakes a little when it comes to the characters and the situation that they’re in. More importantly, it gives newcomers a chance to get to know these characters in a respectable amount of time without having to watch the entire show in a day or two. For fans of the show, the story served as both a reminder as to why the show was beloved in the first place and a highly entertaining tale about appreciating change and friendship. It might not win any major awards for its screenplay, but the story had enough heart and striking visuals to impress everyone who wanted something that’s more than just a series of cartoon slapstick and big-budget action. The main voice cast from the show reprised their respective roles in the film and, once again, they did an excellent job with their vocal performances, particularly Zach Callison as the title character. Callison has been delivering the heartwarming and confident side of Steven to us since the show began, and I’m glad to say that he still hasn’t lost that touch. As for the main antagonist, Spinel, I was pretty impressed with the character in terms of the design, the vocal performance by Stiles, and her development. All I can say about her, without spoilers, is that she’s very flexible…and a little bit creepy. The next thing I want to mention is the animation. Even though it’s not as groundbreaking as some of Disney’s 2D animated films from the 1990s, the animation in “Steven Universe: The Movie” is just as vibrant and beautiful as the show itself. Heck, I would even say that it worked extremely well for its storytelling and the musical numbers. Yes, the film is a musical that featured original songs written by Rebecca Sugar. The songs in the film weren’t exactly memorable, but they were really fun to listen to, especially the one that was performed by Estelle and Callison. The only minor issue I had with the musical numbers was that they appear way too often. I can appreciate musicals that have a few songs in them, but the ones that have a bunch of songs appearing every few seconds or so? That’s a different story. On the plus side, they didn’t come off as unnecessary filler.
Overall, “Steven Universe: The Movie” is a well-crafted and colorful love letter to the fans that have been on this journey for six years. It also works well as a heartfelt and visually appealing television film that’s acceptable for newcomers. Ranging from its characters to its glorious animation, the film adaptation of the Cartoon Network series is a highly respectable conclusion to one of the network’s most successful shows of the decade. I would definitely recommend this one to those who are fans of the show as well as some newcomers. Rebecca Sugar, if you’re reading this review, I just want to say thank you for creating such a brilliant show and for taking us on a journey that’s filled with growth and change. Keep up the fantastic work.