REVIEW: Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo
The Rebuilds of Evangelion were going great until 3.0 happened….
For the last six years Hideaki Anno and Studio Khara have been working tirelessly to recreate Neon Genesis Evangelion. The Rebuild of Evangelion, as Anno puts it, would be his definitive version of Eva, freed from the financial and technological restrains that infamously plagued the end of the original series. The first film, 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, was mostly a remastering of the first six episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion. The second film, 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, teased audiences with the familiar, but took characters and the plot in interesting and new directions that propelled the series to new heights with its narrative and animation. It would seem The Rebuilds were delivering on Anno’s vision. Now Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo arrives on US shores for a limited theatrical run promising a brand new experience. A new experience it delivers, but throws out everything from the previous two films in the process.
Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo is the first in the Rebuild series that features mostly original narrative elements but utterly fails at doing anything with its material. Taking place fourteen years after the last film, the world, for the most part, has been destroyed by the third impact triggered by Shinji. As a result, he was thrown into space while trapped inside his EVA. Shinji is recovered by Asuka, another pilot, under the direction of Mistato, his former C.O. and caregiver. Once awakened, Shinji discovers the world is nothing like he once knew. From there everything else is irrelevant, as the film makes it abundantly clear, details are not import.
If 1.0 was to reintroduce audiences to Eva and 2.0 was to subvert expectations, with 3.0 it is clear Anno’s goal was to isolate audiences. Insuring they would share the same sense of confusion as Shinji. This he accomplishes, but at the expense of the entire film. Outside of the film’s premise, it refuses to tell audiences and Shinji anything for the majority of its running time. While still beautiful to watch, featuring some of the best blend of traditional hand-dawn and CGI animation around. The fights this time are less meaningful, smaller in scale and do not top what was done in the previous film.
Switching up the status quo in 3.0 could have been very interesting. Anno essentially creates a new world for Evangelion and does nothing with it. Any hope for world building or a compelling narrative is sacrificed in favor of a poor plot that requires the audience be kept in the dark to work. Not surprisingly, narrative cohesive begins to erode within the first three minutes of the film. Anno fails to explore or challenge any of his characters resulting in dramatic moments that fall flat. Not that the central conflict – which could be avoided with one sentence — is the film’s biggest issue. It highlights one of the many problems that make this film so frustrating. Not just a psychological action thriller with light elements of teen angst comedy, previous Evangelions were character focused. While there are plenty of returning faces, gone are subtleties. Gone are the beats were a character would wait an extra second before entering a room or linger too long on a stare only to turn away. Gone are the nuances that made Evangelion so compelling to watch. Replace with nothingness.
Often vagueness is confused for depth, complexion and mystery. That’s not true here, 3.0‘s hollowness is a deliberate gamble that fails to pay off in meaningful ways. Evangelion 3.0 is still a sight to behold, but the narrative failures ensure a frustrating experience, making the film hard to recommend.
Screening locations for Evangelion 3.0 can be found here.