Evangelion 3.0 – Initial Impressions

I went to see Evangelion 3.0 at the Plano Angelika theatre yesterday, and though it was less fun than it could’ve been since the person I’d planned to see it with had to be out-of-state, I still enjoyed the experience and thought I’d share a few brief thoughts about it.

The highlights: driving down Dallas North Tollway with hardly any traffic was pretty fun; the one cosplayer did a fine job as Gendo; the Angelika is probably the nicest theatre I’ve been in.

You’ll notice that none of those highlights come from the actual movie. I guess I enjoyed it, but Evangelion 2.0 is a favourite film of mine so it had a lot of goodwill from me going in, and the mostly poor early reviews had my expectations a bit low. Most of my enjoyment just came from the still novel experience of seeing Eva, or really any anime, on the big screen, and the film did do a few things right. I liked the music, and the animation is still good, though they used too much CG. I hated the English dub, but that may be because I’m so used to the Japanese cast for Eva and because I’m hostile to English dubs in general. Ultimately, though, I’m afraid that Evangelion 3.0 just isn’t a very good movie.

One common reaction I’ve seen is that the plot’s too difficult to follow, and I suppose that’s true but that’s also par for the course for Evangelion. Another criticism is that action scenes aren’t as good as in the past, and that’s also true.

Evangelion‘s biggest strength in the past, the thing that made me care about the plot and action, was the characters, and Eva 3.0‘s biggest weakness is that the characters lack any depth. In most cases, there’s not much time for development – the newly introduced Wille crew isn’t much more than a collection of names and faces, for example – whereas Eva 2.0 had several scenes of relatively quiet moments that don’t advance the plot much but allow us to get to know these characters; Rei and Asuka learning to cook, for example, or Asuka and Misato’s conversation as Asuka prepares to test a new Evangelion unit. Here, most characters can be summed up in just a few words; Asuka is angry, Misato is bitter, Rei is emotionless, Gendo is cool and mysterious, Mari is Asuka but more annoying.

That’s bad enough, but the film also throws away some of 2.0‘s development. Rei is back to her old expressionless self, for example, and Shinji is back into full-on depression by the end. In both cases there is a good reason for this, but Shinji’s case is especially demoralising. I understand what director Anno Hideaki was trying to do with Shinji in the original series, but that’s part of why I appreciate the original more than I enjoy it. Seeing this character finally do something heroic at the end of 2.0, after a full two-season TV series and three feature-length movies, was one of the most moving scenes I’ve seen in a movie, and while I obviously didn’t expect Shinji to turn into John Rambo for Eva 3.0, I was hoping we could at least get to see a moderately self-confident incarnation of this character.

I suppose I have to give Anno credit for one thing: he’s not afraid not to give the fans what they want in his movies. I just wish he’d give us a break once in a while.

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