Steven Universe: The Movie – Pride Goeth Before Nothing

September 4th, 2019

 

It's me, your best friend Flowey Spinel.

Since I have little else to do during the midweek doldrums, and I did mention the show back when I was talking about various western cartoons a year or two back but never got around to it, I might as well say something here. Steven Universe writ large for me occupies a similar kind of mindspace as Adventure Time, but Adventure Time was definitely more manic and focused on its… ugh… world building, SU was more focused on building and developing its characters. I don't want to do a review of the whole series here, but I do think it was mostly successful at that, even while it made very obvious and very awkward rewrites to the direction the setting was going in, especially the all-consuming borg gems who are now more like eccent aunts. I'd be lying if I also said almost any of the episodes focused on the random townspeople were anything but tedious.

But as for the movie itself which aired on Labor Day, first off, it's self-indulgent to the maximum, or to use another word, fanservicey, and yeah, that always rubs me the wrong way, but the repetition is what really grated. Not only did it begin with a recap of every major piece of character development/reveal for every major character, but then after everybody's been reset, it goes through their origin stories a second time. Nobody was elevated by this or had a good moment. It was just glorified rehash. The 'epiphany' moments were mostly pretty weak too. Garnet's especially is some Riddler-esque convoluted nonsense. "Someone said 'true' in passing. Wait, I've always been true to myself! That's it!" The Steve-Greg fusion was sufficiently surreal, so we'll call Pearl's the least terrible.

It was the only sort of new character who really stole the show. Spinel, done in the old-school over-animated style also recently used by Cuphead, really helps sell manic, frustrated, and crazy all in one, and the style's not yet been abused enough in that vein for me to be sick of it. I was a bit disappointed by her arc though. Her introduction and song was great, easily the highlight of the movie, and not just because I've always loved the villain song ever since Little Mermaid and The Lion King. There's a lot packed into Other Friends, and it's pretty disappointing that it ends up just being the painfully obvious, yet another incident of Pink's thoughtlessness hurting people and Steven fixing it all through his Jesus-like apologies. It's doubly disappointing because the first thing Steven says to her is that she must be mistaken about him doing anything wrong. He's the hero who saved the world. If that's not a red flag of massive arrogance, I don't know what is.

It gets even more frustrating because even after the whole song and dance about how Spinel's been forgotten and abandoned, it takes another half hour before they come to that, followed quickly by them pointing out that it's yet another one of Pink's messes, Pink now being reduced to the whipping boy for the show to be honest, that he, Steven Jesus Universe has to clean up. Seems like the moment when it would be revealed that it's his mess, and it almost seems like they were teasing that when he starts to just ditch her after using her to turn off the drill, but at all points, it's just "Pink was a horse's ass," and "You're being hysterical." She had a right to be upset, damn it. She was an antagonist with a worthy beef, and they were kind of asses to her, exacerbating it, but it all just kind of goes by without acknowledging it. The whole ending in general kind of fell apart to be honest. Spinel declares that this isn't the kind of thing to be fixed with a stupid song, but not five seconds later, it's fixed by the song. Don't point out how cliche you're being and then do it anyway! And then the crazy aunts show up out of nowhere to drag her back into the unhealthy relationship they were just trying to extricate everyone from and we just go "Welp, back to the status quo! Yay! Now lick some dirt."

It's absolutely worth watching if you've kept up even casually with the series though, and I always enjoy a decent musical, but it's largely fanservice more intent on reliving its greatest hits than doing anything new, and the last ten or so minutes are a big ol' sloppy mess. Symphogear could take some notes from how it uses songs for exposition and development, rather than just to sell CDs. It knew that in the first season at least, but has definitely lost its way. *ahem* Anyway, Spinel stole the show as far as I'm concerned, and it's a shame that the other characters weren't able to match her.

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