WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Steven Universe: The Movie, which premiered Sept. 2 on Cartoon Network.
The highly anticipated Steven Universe movie is simply excellent all around. It beautifully recaptures the emotional strengths of the series while going above and beyond in terms of animation and music.
Working just as well as a standalone story accessible to newcomers and as a continuation of the series, Steven Universe: The Movie serves as a natural evolution of the series even as it serves in some ways as a "greatest hits" recap of the original five season story arc. To quote one of creator, Rebecca Sugar's best songs from Adventure Time, "Everything stays, but it still changes."
As a generally self-contained follow-up to the show's original run, Steven Universe: The Movie doesn't tell us too much about whatever possible incarnation the series is taking next. It honestly could work as an epilogue with "Change Your Mind" serving as a series finale, but as Sugar appears to have confirmed, there's going to be more Steven Universe content in the future (possibly rebranded as a new sequel series).
What do the developments of the movie mean for the show's future? Let's go through all the big new changes the movie brings to Beach City and across the universe.
STEVEN'S GROWN UP
The one thing we knew for certain going into this movie was that time had passed since the end of the series. Steven is now 16-years old. While his physical age is linked more to his psychological state and thus his body barely grew as time passed in the original, his experiences on Homeworld have changed him enough that Steven now actually looks and sounds his age (which must be a relief to 21-year old voice actor, Zach Callison).
Steven Universe: The Movie acknowledges that growing up isn't a linear process of maturity. The main drama of the film involves the new gem Spinel resetting the Crystal Gems to their original states, and while the half-human Steven can't truly be reset (he's the only one who retains his memories), his new dilemma finds him dealing with the same feelings of helplessness that defined his character at the beginning of the series.
He just wants to have his unchanging happy ending, but as he learns, part of growing up is accepting there's no such thing as permanent happy ending.
THE NEW FUSION
We need to talk about Steg for a moment.
How awesome was that? We've known Steven could fuse with other humans ever since Season 1, but in all that time we've only seen him fuse with Connie. Given that fusion requires closeness to work, Greg seemed like the only other human likely to be able to fuse with Steven.
One of the big tensions in Greg's relationship with Rose was that they couldn't fuse, so Greg experiencing fusion was certain to be a big deal.
In the movie, Steven and Greg finally form "Steg" in order to return Pearl's memories. Pearl had been reset to her, for lack of a better phrase, factory settings and was treating Greg as her new master.
In order to revive her old memories, they needed to separate her from her "master," and so the newly-formed being Steg sings her a song about how to be "Independent Together."
Steg's manages to be the most hypermasculine character in the show while remaining the positive portrayal of healthy, non-toxic masculinity as Steven and Greg are separately. He's voiced by Ted Leo, a bandmate of Opal's voice actress Aimee Mann, which explains their amazing vocal chemistry.
SPINEL AND THE CHANGING DIAMOND FAMILY
Aside from Kevin (that jerk...), Steven hasn't met a bad guy he can't redeem and befriend. Spinel sort of fits but also defies this pattern as another antagonist who is ultimately saved through talking rather than beaten through violence.
Her Toy Story-esque backstory (she was created for the purpose of being Pink Diamond's friend, only to be forever abandoned once Pink got her own colony) is more sympathetic than some of the series' former villains. She can become better. What she can't do, however, is hold anything resembling a healthy friendship with Pink's son.
Enter the other Diamonds. White, Yellow and Blue are no longer dictators caught in a cycle of familial abuse but have instead evolved into sort of doting, overbearing aunts for Steven. They're trying to be better even if they still occasionally slip up and call others "lesser beings."
They're also desperate for Steven to take his mother's throne, which Steven has no interest in doing. Spinel, however, fits the role of a replacement Pink Diamond perfectly, her eager-to-entertain attitude filling the sort of jester-daughter role Pink played in the original Diamond family dynamic.
A GLOBAL CRISIS?
While Spinel's plan to destroy all life on Earth fails, she still leaves a ton of toxic pollution and destruction around in her wake.
When she leaves with the Diamonds, Beach City is partially destroyed, with most of the citizens living in shelters in the New Homeworld gem town. Steven's healing spit gives an easy out to curing the pollution, and in a quick montage at the very end of the movie, Beach City appears to be totally rebuilt and back to normal.
But is the whole Earth back to normal? If future seasons of the show wish to continue off any threads left open in the movie, the attempted destruction of the planet is the one with the most potential for an ongoing story.
A road trip with Steven and the Crystal Gems to fix a planetary crisis would be a natural way to expand the show's world-building and offer something new. We may well be going beyond Steven's universe in Season 6.