Evangelion 3.0 – You Can (Not) Redo  

Nothing happens in Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo.

Fans in denial would argue with that statement. Perhaps they’re giving the filmmakers way too much credit based on nostalgia. I’m a huge Evangelion fan and I have to admit that seeing familiar characters on the big screen with familiar tunes in bold surround sound was cool. Then again, perhaps fans are impressed by the gutsiness of a film that subverts the previous installment’s celebrated finale. Unfortunately, neither nostalgia nor gutsiness excuses the poor writing and lazy animation that’s prevalent in Evangelion 3.0 (or Evangelion 3.33, as it’s called on Blu-ray).

Here are some of the things that overly generous fans praise in Evangelion 3.0:

1. “There’s a shocking timeskip! 14 years have passed since Shinji initiated the third impact!”
– Yes, a fact that could have been established in the first ten minutes. And even though 14 years have passed, Shinji doesn’t look 14 years older. Neither does Asuka. Or Rei. Or Mari. Or Misato. OR ANYONE.

2. “Misato has created a new army to fight Gendo Ikari’s NERV!”
– Yes, a fact that is established in the first ten minutes. Too bad the film doesn’t capitalize on this potentially delicious twist.

3. “Asuka has an eyepatch now!”
– Yes, she does.

4. “Shinji almost destroys the world!”
– That happened at the end of the previous film. At the end of Evangelion 3.0, the world is in the same situation it was in at the beginning of the movie.

5. “Kaworu does stuff!”
– Ever since the end of the first rebuild film, the movies have been teasing an expanded role for Kaworu. The lavender-haired boy first appeared in the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series for a single memorable episode, and his bishounen demeanor lit the hearts of fangirls afire. He was promptly killed off, so there’s been a lot of speculation about his increased importance in the theatrical reboot.

In Evangelion 3.0, the stuff that Kaworu does leaves the world in the same situation it was in at the beginning of the movie. In that sense, I would argue that the film is actually worse because of Kaworu’s presence; without him, something meaningful might have actually happened. Kaworu clearly exists to appease fangirls, not to contribute to the film series’ overall plot.

This film is like a TV episode of Star Trek. No matter what happens during the episode, you know that the Enterprise and its main crew (i.e., the relevant characters) will be essentially unchanged at the end of the episode. The important question is: “was the episode fun?”

In the case of Evangelion 3.0, the answer is “no”. Instead of the action scenes and character attention that Star Trek often gave us, we get piano scenes and character disregard.

Consider how Mari is used in Evangelion 3.0. A friend watched the movie with me, and he hadn’t seen any of the rebuild movies yet. Here was his reaction to Mari Illustrious Makinami, a character who became very popular after her first appearance in the second film:
“That girl in pink — all she did was drink, fire off a couple shots, then drink some more.”

Mari was irrelevant in Evangelion 3.0 . . . so irrelevant that my friend didn’t even know her name (maybe they said it once, but I don’t remember hearing it). She played backup to Asuka throughout the whole movie, and her scenes consisted of drinking juice in the Eva’s cockpit and firing off a couple shots every now and then. Such a waste. Why would they introduce a new character into the film series if they’re not going to use her?

The thing that’s really frustrating is that the movie could have been about Asuka and Mari as part of Misato’s army, fighting against Rei and Kaworu as part of NERV’s army. Meanwhile, Shinji would have to choose which side to follow. In a misguided way, the movie is kind of about that, but without cool fights or any actual choice on Shinji’s part. The only reason he picks a side is because characters act stupid and don’t give Shinji the information that any reasonable person would immediately share.

Misato: “Hey Shinji, I know that I was rooting for you at the end of the last film, but now I hate you and I’m going to put an explosive collar around your neck that I can detonate at any moment. Don’t ask why we saved your life. We have a good reason, but I won’t tell you. I won’t tell you anything, even though an actual real person would fill you in on how the world has changed.”

Asuka: “Hey Shinji, I hate you too. Don’t ask why we saved your life. We have a good reason, but I won’t tell you. Check out my nifty eyepatch! Oh, and you suck.”

Mari: “Time for a drink!”

(giant Eva hand busts through side of Misato’s airship)

Rei: “Hey Shinji, I know you’re probably wondering why I’m wrecking your friend’s flying boat. Come with me and everything will be explained during a blatant exposition scene.”

Shinji: “Uh, yeah. Sorry Misato, but I’m going with Rei. Even though you’re waving a detonator around, I know you won’t really blow my head off right after you saved my life. That would just be too ridiculous.”

Misato: “Grrr. You’re right.”

The next half-hour shows Shinji playing piano duets with Kaworu. The camera occasionally provides a butt-view angle so that you can see how close they’re sitting to each other. Amidst a slew of homoerotic innuendo, the two boys bond through music and learn to fight in unison (shades of Shinji and Asuka from the TV show!). This elaborate setup is hilariously wasted when Shinji and Kaworu show up at the climactic battle, duet-piloting the massive Unit-13, and Kaworu does nothing. He sits in the cockpit, confused, covering his face with his hands, and Shinji has to fight alone. At the end of the film, Kaworu pulls a deus ex machina out of his butt so that the movie can pretend there was a reason for his existence. But otherwise, yeah — he just holds his head in his hands. It’s so absurd that it almost seems like Kaworu’s inclusion was meant to be a mean joke. If so, it’s too bad that it’s the movie’s only joke and cost me 1800 yen.

Okay, enough about the lame plot. Evangelion 3.0 is lazily animated, too. As you probably recall, the second film opened with Mari fighting an angel. During that fight, both Mari’s Unit-05 and the angel actually looked like things. Evangelion 3.0 opens with a battle between Asuka and some squiggly white lines. Yes, the animation is fluid and there’s a lot of fancy computer-generated rotation, but SQUIGGLY WHITE LINES. That’s weak. I know the TV show did stuff like that occasionally, but they had a lot less money to work with. This film had a huge budget.

Another sign of laziness: they rarely put more than two characters on the screen at once. There’s one scene where a mechanic is working on an aircraft in the background. But it’s just a still picture — the worker isn’t even moving! Compare that to the new movie for A Certain Magical Index, where there are crowd scenes with actual pedestrian movement. Yeah, that’s right, Evangelion 3.0 got out-animated by A Certain Magical Index.

As disappointing as this movie was, I still want to see the fourth and final Evangelion rebuild film. Hopefully it’ll contain everything that should have been in this one. Until then, don’t waste your time or money. Evangelion 3.0 is just boring filler.