From the moment Steven Universe: The Movieâ€™s sumptuously-produced opening credits begin rolling, you can see how Rebecca Sugar really, really wasnâ€™t being subtle earlier this year. She explained how the Crewniverse had been secretly preparing for the Crystal Gemsâ€™ latest adventure with a number of the seriesâ€™ earlier musical episodes and, interestingly, the illustrated storybooks based on the show that reimagine important moments as fairytales.
Steven Universe: The Movie brings many of the things fans have come to love about the series â€” the music, the deeply-moving character development, and clever homages to animated classics â€” together, much like the Diamondsâ€™ quartet of limb ships, to tell a story that takes Steven (Zach Callison), Garnet (Estelle), Amethyst (Michaela Dietz) and Pearl (Dee Dee Magno Hall) back to their roots by pushing them into a bold new future.
Set after two years after the events of â€œChange Your Mind,â€ The Movie â€” which debuts on Cartoon Network on Monday, September 2 in the U.S. â€” finds Steven and the Gems adjusting to life in a world where Earth and Homeworld have become friendly allies with a diplomatic relationship thatâ€™s growing stronger every day.
Stevenâ€™s grown up in more ways than one. Now that heâ€™s 16, heâ€™s finally caught up to the other Crystal Gems and gained a new form that reflects both his physical and emotional growth, and the new Homeworld-related responsibilities heâ€™s taken on as Pink Diamondâ€™s rightful successor.
Steven Universe: The Movie very carefully toes the line between being a straight-on continuation of the show and a â€œspecial adventureâ€ kind of story often featured in anime movies that are distinctly set just outside the main continuity.
You donâ€™t need to be fully familiar with everything Steven and the Gems have done up until this point, because The Movie spends a few glorious moments recapping all of the basics through a series of inspired songs that speak to how Steven Universeâ€™s creative team has continued to grow into their respective talents over the years.
Steven Universe has always been a musical show, but The Movie truly is a big, brassy Old Hollywood musical epic in the sense that youâ€™re never waiting for more than a few minutes before someone bursts out into an elaborately-crafted song about their inner feelings that drives the narrative forward.
The consistent catchiness of the movieâ€™s tracks is a feat even by Steven Universeâ€™s standards. Nearly every member of the movieâ€™s sprawling cast of established characters is featured in a musical performance that highlights important, less obvious elements of their characters in classic Steven Universe style. And the songs from Sugar, series composers Aivi & Surasshu, Estelle, Aimee Mann, Chance the Rapper and James Fauntleroy all feel like a concentrated effort to elevate Steven Universeâ€™s presence as an explicitly musical endeavour.
The sheer size of Steven Universe: The Movieâ€™s roster of musical talent and the way the movie gives most every cast member a moment to shine ends up working both for and against the movie, at times. Zach Callisonâ€™s teen Steven takes some getting used to because of how much of Steven Universeâ€™s classic sound has been built around his younger voice.
But by that same token, The Movieâ€™s shift provides characters like Magno Hallâ€™s Pearl and the trio of Diamonds voiced by Patti LuPone, Lisa Hannigan and Christine Ebersole the chance to showcase their musical talents in larger, cinematic ways the seriesâ€™ episodes donâ€™t always have space for.
Some of the big musical numbers feature lyrical and melodic callbacks to established bits of Steven Universe lore that add to the movieâ€™s overall atmosphere, but many of the more intimate songs â€” like â€œLet Us Adore You,â€ a throwback close harmony number, and â€œsystem/BOOT.pearl_final(3).Info,â€ â€” explore new things about Steven and the Gemsâ€™ lives in exciting ways.
This is especially true of The Movieâ€™s central villain, who suddenly shows up on Earth out of nowhere with the singular goal of murdering Steven. The new Gemâ€™s arrival is one of the Steven Universeâ€™s slickest action set pieces to date and cause for obvious alarm, but sheâ€™s also the heart of the movie in the sense that sheâ€™s what really sets everything in motion. But, in typical Steven Universe fashion, the true story at hand isnâ€™t quite as itâ€™s been presented in The Movieâ€™s first act and learning the truth pushes each of the Gems to their breaking points in different, fascinating ways.
Steven Universe: The Movie is, well, a very Steven Universe movie, meaning that the twists and turns it takes you on feel both surprising and pleasantly familiar. The clues about whatâ€™s happening have been right in front of you all along, but you were too busy enjoying the adventure to bother trying to get ahead of the story.
As always, everyoneâ€™s feelings are a core part of Stevenâ€™s journey, and the movie does an excellent job of putting the titular character in a position to demonstrate how much heâ€™s grown as a leader for his people. The Movieâ€™s scale and ambition also point to how Stevenâ€™s story has become so much more dynamic, and you can see by the movieâ€™s end that the Crewniverse could very well have more than a few more ideas about what the future holds for the Crystal Gems.