Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo

Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo ★★★★½

If Evangelion 1.0 was the filmmakers playing it safe, and Evangelion 2.0 was the filmmakers starting to move away from the source material, then Evangelion 3.0 represents a complete departure from the original. The story presented here barely resembles what was seen in the original show, and yet, it feels like it completely embodies its core ideas and themes. Whereas the previous Rebuild films felt different, yet familiar, 3.0 takes the series and changes so much about what we’ve grown accustomed to. There’s been a 14 year timeskip, the world is in even worse shape than before, and all of Shinji’s friends have now become strangers to him. On paper, this sounds like bad fan fiction. But seeing it all play out under Anno’s unique vision, it becomes clear that this is just what the Rebuild films needed to truly give them their own unique identity. 

Of all the Evangelion episodes and films, 3.0 might actually do one of the best jobs at putting us in Shinji Ikari’s shoes, and I feel this is best exemplified by the opening. It entails a jaw dropping action scene that’s bursting with life. While it's easy to be caught up in the visual spectacle of it all, the film uses this opening scene to confidently portray how this is not the same world we saw in Evangelion 2.0. And right there alongside us, taking in the revelations and sights as we do, is Shinji, the boy thrust into a dark future that he in fact is the cause of. And while it’s hard to really pin the blame on Shinji, seeing all he wanted was to save Rei, everyone that he once knew in his previous life understandably resents him. Asuka, Misato, Ritsuko, and everyone else now look at him with disgust, and it's an undeniably heartbreaking situation. Now, more than ever, Shinji needs his friends; he needs one iota of security, and all his friends do is push him away.

Enter Kaworu. In the original show, he really only appeared in one of the later episodes, but in a very similar circumstance. Both in the show and this film, we see Shinji at his lowest point thus far, with no one he can truly rely on for help or comfort. Then comes in Kaworu, who just … appears. His origin is later explained in both versions, but for now, it isn’t really important to either us or Shinji where this mysterious kid came from. All that matters is that Shinji finally has someone to relate to, someone who is there for him. Both Shinji and the audience are allowed to take solace in the fact there is someone looking out for this character who has gone through so much, and can actually understand his troubles. Where the show and this film deviate, however, is that Kaworu is given a lot more time to develop his relationship. There are really only two large scale action sequences that bookend both ends of the film, and so much time in between that is spent developing the relationship between the two boys. It’s a beautiful relationship that unfortunately cannot last for long, but with all the conflict and war that consumes most of this series, I can’t help but crack a smile when I see these two interact peacefully amongst all the chaos.

The new setting Anno envelops the audience in is simply astounding. It takes the foundation of what was laid out before and flips it on its head, delivering new takes on classic characters and evolutions of previous ideas. This new world to explore would be impressive enough with its celestial visuals alone. But the film knows how to best utilize its unique scenario. Everywhere he goes, everything he sees, Shinji will always be reminded of that one choice he made, and how much pain it caused everyone else. He’ll always look at the endless red oceans and dilapidated cities with a sense of soul-crushing guilt, and it's these circumstances which drives him to make such rash decisions later in the finale. While Shinji has always been the main character, this film feels like strictly his story. And while that does mean that the side characters take a bit of a backseat, it's hard not to look at the emotional final product and not see that as the right choice for the story.

Evangelion 3.0 once again justifies this reboot's entire existence, a feat that’s rarely accomplished by its contemporaries. It no doubt takes great strides in improving the visual style for the modern age, but it also serves as an entirely new take on the story we all know and love; one that challenges our preconceived notions on what this plot can deliver. It undeniably changes the most out of every Rebuild film, and while I can understand why people are upset with this film series, I can’t help but admire its unwavering dedication to its craft. I can’t wait to see how Anno chooses to conclude this series with Evangelion 3.0+1.0 (why the hell couldn’t it have just been called 4.0?). This film has set the course of the story so far off the path of the original that I’m interested to see how it all pans out. It has a lot to live up to, and while I doubt the Rebuild films will ever truly escape the shadow of its masterful predecessor, these films are completely worth seeing in their own right, as their own existential experience.

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