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‘Steven Universe: The Movie’ spreads a message of love like the show has always aimed to do. (Image via Cartoon Network on YouTube)

Film Review: ‘Steven Universe: The Movie’ is radiant, uplifting and unapologetically queer

Following the explosive climax of Steven Universe’s last episode, fans were left with a big question: Where in the world do things go from here? The answer: back home, two years in the future.

The series’ titular character, Steven Universe (Zach Callison) has done some growing since we last saw him challenge the Diamond Authority. The 16-year-old has a deeper voice and new outfit, but the same boundless energy and enthusiasm that has carried him and the Crystal Gems to victory since his adventures began.

As it turns out, the Crystal Gems end up needing those qualities, as their “happily ever after” is interrupted by the arrival of Spinel (Sarah Stiles), a new clown-like gem with a hatred for Steven and the planet he lives on. In a few swipes, she “poofs” (incapacitates) Garnet (Estelle), Amethyst (Michaela Dietz) and Pearl (Deedee Magno), and she injures Steven so he can’t use his powers, before being poofed herself.

When they reform, each Gem has regressed to how they were when they first came out of the ground, with no memories aside from their intended purpose. As such, it’s up to Steven to go on a musical journey with each of his friends to remind them of who they are, stop Spinel from ending the world and regain his powers along the way.

That setup allows the film to do a lot of interesting things, but one of the most genius is that it revisits each of the show’s major plot points, celebrating its history for fans and expositing pertinent information for newcomers or those who left the show midway. It will of course be most rewarding for those who have been with Steven from the beginning, but everyone will find plenty to enjoy about it.

Music has always been a core part of Steven Universe’s identity, but for the movie, creator Rebecca Sugar and crew pulled all the stops. The established songwriters and voice cast go all-out in composing and performing new songs for nearly every major character, and new talent such as Chance the Rapper and Ted Leo lending their compositions and voices to the film, respectively.

The vibrant and animated soundtrack accompanies some of the most beautiful animation to come from Cartoon Network studios. Whether Steven and company are dancing, fighting or taking in their environments, everything is visually stunning. The only moments when things look blurry are when your inevitable tears block the screen.

What Steven Universe: The Movie is about closely mirrors what Steven Universe has always been about: love. The film’s premise conveniently allows Steven to remind his friends and foes alike of why, how and who they love, who in turn remind him to love himself, as well. Steven Universe has always been excellent at embracing the different forms love takes, platonic and romantic, normative and queer. These relationships are the heart of everything in Steven Universe, and continue to be in this film.

In The Post’s review of Steven Universe’s previous episode, “Change Your Mind,” we stated Steven Universe could “never go back to before.” Steven Universe: The Movie further proves that. As Steven and his friends refrain through the film, “here we are in the future.” This weird, funny and fearlessly passionate show has evolved time and time again since the chubby 12-year-old sang about an ice cream sandwich, but it has remained a story about the endless power of love.

Steven Universe’s future still remains unclear, but wherever they take Steven and his friends next, one thing is certain: They’ll continue to celebrate the true kind of love — which of course, is every kind.

Rating: 5/5


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