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Steven Universe: The Movie

Entry updated 7 March 2022. Tagged: Film.

US animated tv film (2019). Cartoon Network Studios. Director and Executive Producer: Rebecca Sugar. Produced by Jackie Buscarino. Writers include Hilary Florido, Joe Johnston, Kat Morris and Rebecca Sugar. Voice cast includes Zach Callison, Michaela Dietz, Susan Egan, Estelle, Deedee Magno Hall, Grace Rolek, Tom Scharpling and Sarah Stiles. 83 minutes. Colour.

The film is set two years after the events that closed Season 5 of the Steven Universe (2013-2020) television series, Steven (Callison) having spent the time dismantling the Diamonds' Galactic Empire. He now returns to Earth to rejoin those he loves: his father Greg (Scharpling); best friend Connie (Rolek) and the Crystal Gems: Pearl (Hall), Garnet (Estelle) and Amethyst (Dietz). Their work done, Steven sings they can now enjoy their "happily ever after" ...

At which point Spinel (Stiles) arrives and proceeds to poison the Earth. Spinel, a gem with a grudge ("I'm the loser of the game you didn't know you were playing"), wields a scythe which reduces Pearl, Garnet and Amethyst to their gems and reverts Steven's powers to before he could control them. Steven manages to turn the scythe on Spinel, but this is clearly what she wished. Expecting the Crystal Gems to regenerate without difficulty, Steven is shocked when they reappear as their first iterations, with no memory of him. The same happens with Spinel: no longer an alarming and fearsome opponent, she is now cute, loving and knowing nothing of what has happened.

Steven works to restore both the Crystal Gems' and Spinel's Memories, the latter so she can turn off the machine poisoning the world. He learns of her past: the abandoned playmate (see Leisure) of his mother, Pink Diamond (Egan) – who, bored with her, instructed Spinel to wait, so she waited six thousand years: "I can't believe mom did that to you ... actually, I can totally believe it". Steven succeeds, including winning over Spinel – though not without difficulty, Spinel pointing out "You can't just make everything better by singing some stupid song". Then the Diamonds arrive, having decided to live with Steven despite their sniffy attitude towards Earth. Fortunately they meet Spinel, who reminds them of their beloved Pink Diamond and who is willing to entertain them: they return to Homeworld with her, much to Steven's relief.

The plot deals with the fear of abandonment and its consequences, such as the loss of trust (see Psychology), while concluding that life is a work in progress and there is always room for more growth. The film is a musical (see SF Music), with many memorable songs written or co-written by Sugar. Another pleasure is the "rubber hose" animation style used for Spinel, recalling the early days of animation. Quibbles would be that the Diamonds have been reduced from planet-destroying Monsters to comedic needy grandparents, and that their leaving with Spinel might be too glib a resolution: nonetheless, this is an excellent film, very funny, visually impressive and emotionally satisfying. [SP]


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