Category: film and animation

Evangelion 2.0 – My Impression

A theatre about an hour’s drive away from me was showing the first two Evangelion Rebuild films, so after some deliberation I decided to go.

I had modest expectations, going as much to support the industry and encourage studios to release more animated films in theatres as I did to see these particular works. The original series has always struck me as decent, but highly overrated, Death and Rebirth is one of the worst films I’ve seen, and End of Evangelion, though gorgeous to look at, still seems like a disjointed mess. The rebuild, though, blew me away.

The first film I’ve seen already on DVD. It’s mostly just a touched-up version of the first few episodes of the original TV show, albeit with a few new scenes and a more coherent plot. The action scenes did benefit greatly from the big theatre screen.

The second, though, is one of the most spectacular films I’ve ever seen in a theatre. I’d heard that the film is beautiful, and the praise is richly deserved. The animation is fluid, the backgrounds detailed, and the music is excellent. For the first time, I felt I had a real sense of the scale of everything – the Evas, the Angels, Tokyo-3. The visuals in this film by themselves justified the long drive and price of admission.

The characters also come across as more likable and well-developed than in the original series. Shinji actually has a bit of a spine in this version, where in the TV and End of Eva versions I detested him as much as I detest any fictional character for being such a wuss. Rei, rather too flat in the original, now shows some modest attempts at sociability, and comes across as much more sympathetic as a result. Even Gendo is less of a prick now, going so far as to give Shinji some praise – only once, briefly, but like Rei he seems far more human and sympathetic now.

The plot still seems muddy, but we’re only halfway through the series, so I’ll wait to criticise that. The new Eva pilot irritated me, just because she doesn’t seem to have any purpose. Again, though, there are still two films to go so I’ll hold back my criticism there, too.

Talking to a few fans between the films was fun, too. My main complaint is that the theatre literally just played the films via a PlayStation 3 (we saw the PS3 menu prior to each film beginning). Blu-Rei Blu-ray resolution with a good projector did, of course, give a much greater experience than what I could get with my TV at home, but it just felt a little bush league to me.

While I’ve always appreciated what Evangelion has done well, and its historical impact, with Eva 2.0 I find myself becoming, for the first time, an Evangelion fan.…

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Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth

I just finished watching Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, and have never felt so pissed off at a film. Yeah, I’d been warned by people I trust to just avoid this one, but like a cat curiosity got the better of me. After all, the main series was okay, and End of Evangelion may have hacked me off by trying too hard to integrate every philosophy it could think of, but at least it had high production values.

Part 1, “Death,” just recaps the TV series for an hour or so. Those who’ve already seen the series don’t need that much recapping, but it also doesn’t do anything to introduce any characters or plot points to ease newcomers into the film. Even worse, our beloved studio Gainax made this recap by simply re-editing scenes from the show while adding almost no new animation.

Then, we get a credit sequence in the middle of the film, as though this were two TV episodes spliced together, and an intermission. The film’s only 115 minutes long, though, so I’m not sure why any intermission is needed, especially in addition to the immediately preceding credit sequence. Maybe Japanese studios are just especially courteous to moviegoers who buy large drinks at the concession stand?

Anyway, we then proceed to Part 2, “Rebirth.” Here’s the highlight of the film, where we the plot finally gets moving again. End of Evangelion recycled almost all of this footage, but since that came a couple years later I’ll give Death and Rebirth a pass on that. What I won’t give it a pass on, though, is that whereas many films begin in media res, this one decides to end in media res. Literally, the end credits (the real end credits this time) start rolling right before what’s obviously going to be a fight scene, with next to nothing resolved. A couple years later Gainax recycles “Rebirth” and actually finally gives Neon Genesis Evangelion something resembling a proper ending. That one has problems of its own, but at least it begins and ends somewhere, and if you just cut out Death and Rebirth makes the series feel mostly whole.

What boggles my mind, though, is how many attempts Gainax has made at creating a decent ending for their flagship franchise. Apparently, they couldn’t do it right when the show originally aired because they ran out of time or money. Still a lame excuse, perhaps, but whatever. So they make a second attempt with Death and Rebirth, but that fails miserably, so they make a third attempt and finally get it somewhat right with End of Eva. Even that apparently wasn’t enough, though, since now Gainax has redone the whole series as a film tetralogy, their second attempt at the story as a whole and their fourth attempt at an ending. At this point, I feel I must conclude that no one at Gainax ever did know how Eva ought to end; we’ve yet to see whether or not they still don’t.…

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On the Flipside

You know something that should really be banned? Dual-sided DVDs.

Seriously, I can never tell which side is which. There’s usualy a label on one side saying something like “Widescreen” or “Side A.” What really makes these things so bush league is that there’s usually no way of telling whether the widescreen version is the side with the label, or the reverse, since that’s the side that’ll be read by the DVD player. Even worse, I encountered one disc today that had the label “Fullscreen” followed, on the same label, with “Widescreen (flipside).”

“Hey, thanks,” I thought when I saw that. So, I put the “flipside” face-down, and found that the label lied to me.

Actually, this problem could be mostly solved if we could get a ban of fullscreen edition movies. Why would anyone prefer that to widescreen? Do there exist people who like to have the edges of the screen lopped off to fit standard television screen ratio? Get it together, people.…

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Sweeney Todd

Warning: This review contains spoilers, so don’t read it if you haven’t seen Sweeney Todd and don’t want to know major plot points in advance.

I went to see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, director Tim Burton‘s new film, Saturday morning. It was definitely the first horror musical I’ve ever seen, and unfortunately one of the few musicals of any sort made since 1960 or so. (Note, though, that I have not seen the original stage musical the film is based on, so I can’t comment on it).

Pretty much all musicals are stylish – that’s what makes them so great – and Sweeney was no exception. The settings, songs, costumes, and performances all contributed to the film’s dark atmosphere. The only exception was the subplot with Antony and Joanna.

Now, Joanna’s story does a lot to characterize Judge Turpin as the film’s villain, though Antony is the only major character who might be considered a hero. However, Joanna’s subplot with Antony also supplies the only part of the film that could leave the viewer with a feeling of satisfaction.

I say “could” because the outcome of the rest of the story is basically “everyone dies, the kid’s an orphan again, life sucks.” Joanna and Antony are still alive, though, and would seeem to have a decent chance for a happier ending, but Burton doesn’t show us what happens to them. Instead, the film ends with Toby killing Sweeney. Cutting from there to Antony taking his love interest in his arms and running away to a (possibly) happier life would have given the film a much more uplifting feeling at the end, and I’m guessing that’s why Burton left it out.

Whether this is the best ending is up for debate. Some people I’ve talked to about the film would have preferred more of a conclusion for Antony and Joanna. It certainly would have given the audience a greater sense of satisfaction, especially since the film does give a little hope for a happy ending for the main characters – not much, but a little. Such an ending, however, would have clashed with the atmosphere of the rest of the film. Antony’s sole purpose, I believe, is as a plot device. He’s the one who inadvertently chases Turpin out of Sweeney’s barber shop, allowing Sweeney to provide the meat for Mrs. Lovett’s delicious meat-pies from his other customers. His youthful optimism also provides a foil for Sweeney, and heightens the tragedy of the film’s main characters.

Showing Antony and Joanna rolling away to live happily ever after would have both to focus on an ultimately irrelevant sub-plot, and to demolish the film’s atmosphere just when it was at its strongest.

On a side note, one more thing the film made me realize is that I’ve never had a meat-pie. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a meat-pie. More of an English thing, I guess.…

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