Steven Universe: The Movie is a joy. There is so much love in every frame, every note, that it's hard to not spoil it for everyone right here and now. It is a reprise of sorts that reminds viewers why they fell in love with the show in the first place while also hammering home, again and again, that change is essential to growth, and life without change isn't any life at all.
In a world filled with so much hatred on every channel, so much horror, it is a wondrous thing to watch these fictional characters overcome seemingly insurmountable problems through compassion. Steven Universe, be it this movie or the series, inevitably features some amount of fighting, but it is never the goal nor the desired outcome. If Steven could talk or hug his way out of every single problem in life, he would.
And this outlook on life, this constant cheerful resilience to anything thrown his way, is never looked down upon. The film practically puts Steven back to square one during the course of its 90-minute runtime, but it only ever makes him more resolved to keep pushing forward despite it. Yes, there's moments of despair and doubt, but those brief interludes are always in service to some greater realization or epiphany.
The movie does include at least one unusual departure for the franchise, as it skips forward in time without really exploring anything that's happened since the conclusion of the war with Homeworld at the end of the series' fifth season. If the core of Steven Universe is embracing, accepting, and celebrating change, obviously there had to be a time skip. It picks up two years after, and much has changed for Steven, the Gems, and Beach City, and all of it seemingly for the better.
But even if we are all capable of grand and drastic change -- in Steven Universe's case, all the way from the lowest Gem in the hierarchy to White Diamond -- it's not always easy. It takes work, and that itself takes time. The movie reinforces this in a number of ways I won't spoil here, but viewers will recognize them instantly for what they are.
It is worth noting that there will be some nuance lost on viewers that haven't watched the television show, but Steven Universe: The Movie still feels shockingly approachable for new folks. Because it broadly revisits a number of important details from the previous five seasons, there's only a few scenes where their impact would be entirely muted for viewers just now tuning in. They are important, sometimes heartbreaking, moments, but the crux of the film will still come across just fine.
There's more Steven of some sort coming as Cartoon Network has confirmed as much previously, but what exactly that looks like remains to be seen. The film, however, sets a new status quo, which began at the end of the show's fifth season, by recommitting to its core tenets: love is powerful, compassion is a show of strength, and change is often to be celebrated. Whatever comes next, it's with these three things in mind.
Steven Universe: The Movie is an incredible work of art that combines eclectic, amazing musical numbers with striking illustrations and breathtaking animation to outdo anything the franchise has attempted before. There's nothing quite like it out there, and the film happily plays to its unique strengths to leave you vibrating on an existential level.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Steven Universe: The Movie is scheduled to premiere on Cartoon Network on September 2nd.