"You Can (Not) Redo"
(Spoiler-Free) Synopsis: The end of the world has begun! Shinji Ikari finds himself catapulted fourteen years from the last thing he remembers, triggering the Third Impact! Waking to a world that despises him, Shinji is torn in his loyalties, confused about his environment, and guilt-ridden by revelations. In the depths of despair, he meets a young man named Kaworu Nagisa, who may be his salvation, or just lead to more tragedy! Will Shinji ever pilot an Eva unit again? Should he? The next phase of Instrumentality is set in motion and our hero will find that practice may not make perfect!
Comments (CONTAINS SPOILERS, BUT DON'T WORRY, IT'S A SHIT MOVIE):
Put on your parkas. The first few rows will get splashed with blood.
The first two Rebuild of Evangelion movies saw the retelling of the first few episodes of the original TV series and the expansion and tweaking of elements from later episodes into a different story. By the end of the latter chapter, there had been a tidal wave of narrative and thematic momentum built up, and Evangelion fans waited with baited breath for the next well-crafted, fulfilling episode in this series. The expectations were colossal. Third Impact had been triggered, only contained last second, Tokyo-3 was heavily damaged, Asuka was presumed dead, and Misato was terrified at Unit 01's power as Shinji was willing to throw everything away to save Rei, but succeeding.
Whether it's a few years in our time or fourteen (!!!) in-universe, time has muted that momentum so thoroughly, that the remains of the tattered Earth in this movie is a perfect metaphor for the sad, barren remains of this once great anime franchise. After years of wait, and what I can only imagine is thousands of hours worth of work and millions of yen in budget, the product is a blood-boilingly frustrating waste that derails, defames, and destroys this series of movies by sheer intensity of self-importance.
But the biggest problem this movie has? Nothing of significance happens. Or, at least, nothing of significance that hasn't happened off-screen.
The first act of the movie, however, is desperately trying to make things happen by throwing all it can at you in the form of impenetrable technobabble and avant garde visuals that would make End of Evangelion blush in an attempt to hit the ground running with the lion's share of this entry's action. Asuka and Mari, who barely maintain a presence in this movie, rocket into Earth's orbit to retrieve Unit 01 from... uh... some sort of... box. And they're attacked by some kind of... thing that might be an Angel, but is never identified as such, and it's never explained why or how that's there or why Unit 01 was put inside of it. Whatever the case is, they extract Shinji from Unit 01 so they can use it as the power core for a giant airship (like you do) controlled by a new organization, Wille, which fights Nerv.
When Shinji comes to, he's just as confused as the viewers, because not only is nobody happy to see him again, he's given an explosive collar (ala Cyber City Oedo) which will separate him from his head and life should he step into an Eva Unit again (as long as the trigger is within frequency range, natch). Of course, Shinji is accustomed to nobody being fond of him, but his surrogate mother, the girl he thought died, and everybody else he knew from Nerv who wasn't his crappy father now see and treat him like a war criminal without actually explaining to him what happened, why they blame him, and what he can do to redeem himself to them. This lack of communication, which to the movie's credit, is the central theme of the franchise, is just mind bendingly pointless and causes a whole slew of completely preventable problems.
At first, there's no time for our nominal protagonist to react to the news he's been sleeping for more than a decade, because a troupe of shiny new characters are busy breathlessly vomiting bullshit jargon as the giant Eva-powered airship is bombarded in a battle that I defy the viewer to make heads or tails of, because they're attacked by... uh... somethings, then more somethings, then they do something to make the somethings explode for whatever reason and meanwhile Shinji and I are both being fitted with straight jackets. Apparently in the fourteen years since Shinji "rescued" Rei (spoiler: no he didn't), Misato, Ritsuko, the Nerv bridge crew, and some others (including Touji Suzuhara's now grown up sister) had a falling out with Shinji's father and now fight him and his mass-produced Eva-like weapons. Asuka and Mari are both working with them, and, if I haven't stressed this point enough, they have a fucking giant airship. How did they get it? Not explained. Why did they split from Nerv? Not explained. What are those things attacking them? Not explained.
Shinji eventually finds himself back with Nerv, however, preferring the more familiar disdain of his negligent bastard father to the newer discomfort of the unexplained hatred of the people who had been rooting for him. The Rei Ayanami before him has no memory of any of the events of the previous movies, and while fourteen years seemed to have passed, few people seemed to have aged at all, nobody can explain why Shinji is hated, and instead of nonstop and meaningless explosions we have thirty or so minutes of listless meandering. In essence, now the viewer is also in the place of Shinji, alienated and perplexed. Except we already went through this in the first movie, so there's no reason to painfully drag out the repeat performance.
Shinji finds comfort in learning to play the piano from Kaworu, a kind grey-haired boy honest about his feelings, and wanting to connect to Shinji. The two have been paired to pilot a new Evangelion, a unit with two entry plugs, which necessitates a synching up. Shinji begins to open up gradually through the shared experience of piano playing, to the point it becomes his sole oasis in an ocean of uncertainty and pain. Fourteen years after the life he lived, he doesn't know what happened to his school friends or why Misato despises him so. All he's told is that his decision at the end of the last movie triggered Third Impact (even though we saw it didn't, because Kaworu stopped it), allowing Nerv to begin... I don't know, collect human souls in some giant moon-like orb? It's not made clear. And now Shinji feels bad for something he could not have known would happen and honestly didn't even seem to happen at the end of the last movie. I mean, did they even go back and watch the ending? Yeah, there was an explosion, but Misato, Ritsuko, Kaji, Gendo, and others were all there where it happened and they were fine. So, again, there's a movie missing here.
About an hour into the movie, the barebones plot begins to trickle in again, as Gendo's second in command (and one of the few people still at Nerv HQ) Fuyutski, once Shinji's mother Yui's teacher reveals that Yui was the test pilot of the first Eva prototype, got absorbed into it, and a series of copies of her were made, making Rei Ayanami. What's more, Gendo is planning on remake the world through the Instrumentality Project and Shinji and Kaworu will retrieve two spears plunged into the Angel called Lilith in Nerv's skull-filled basement to help jump-start this process with the new Eva Unit.
This leaves a litany of questions. Like, for one, what are the spears? Why are they needed for Instrumentality (the joining of all human souls into one being)? Why haven't they retrieved them until now? Why aren't they closer by? Why did they put Shinji into orbit if they needed him to retrieve the spears? They could have done this fourteen years ago after the Near Third Impact (that seemed to have affected only non-central cast)! What is the point of the timeskip? They could have said this all took place a few months after the end of the last movie and literally nothing except Touji's sister's age would change.
At first, of course, Shinji wants nothing to do with this plan. He's already being blamed for whatever happened fourteen years earlier during the movie we must've missed (I'm sure it was a helluva show, but too bad, we get this). Misato put an explosive collar around him to kill him if he pilots an Eva again (completely unnecessary if she just told him what happened, or just politely requested he not pilot again), who knows what would happen now? Why should he put his life at risk again to basically do what made everybody hate him to begin with? But Kaworu posits that if they retrieve the spears themselves, they could reshape the world and make it the one they want to see, undoing all the damage he caused. Shinji decides it can't get any worse, so why not? And away they go. With about twenty minutes left in the movie.
So now we've gone from too much happening (and none of it meaning anything), to nothing happening (and none of it meaning anything, because after forty or so minutes of Kaworu, we know as much about him as we did from the TV series), to the finale of the movie where they just rapid fire jargon and symbolic imagery at us during limp action scenes you can barely make heads or tails of.
Wille attacks Nerv HQ, with Asuka and Mari finally reappearing (at this point they've had maybe a dozen short lines in between them) to stop Shinji and Kaworu from taking the spears from the corpse of Lilith, the big white angel Nerv had in storage. A battle ensues on the mountain of skulls (and only skulls) that populate the basement until finally Shinji pulls out the spears and then... stuff. Just... stuff.
Apparently the space-adapted Eva Unit from the end of the last movie envelops the new Eva Unit and with the spears opens the path to full Instrumentality in a bunch of really random nonsense and panicking characters screaming pointless nonsense. Where did the space Eva come from when it hadn't been featured throughout the movie? Nobody knows. It just came out of nowhere. But Kaworu changes his mind about the whole thing (the reason is not revealed) and activates the explosive collar, which he placed on himself to take the burden of Shinji's sin, killing himself and halting the Instrumentality.
A devastated Shinji is fished out of the Eva Unit by Asuka, who drags him along with her and Rei as they travel through a desert of red sand. The end.
Here's a question: What was it about the spears that made them the wrong ones for Kaworu's goal? Why did he say that Gendo tricked him? All he says is that it's something about the shape of them. When Shinji pulled them out, an Impact event was almost triggered, with only Kaworu's death stopping it, so what's the difference between that and what Kaworu wanted to do?
What a clumsy, lopsided mess this movie is, on almost every level. At the end of this movie, nearly every character is not only the same as they were at the beginning of it, but in some cases, exactly the same as they were at the end of the last. Shinji is still despairing about the losses in his life and his inability to connect with those around him. Rei still has the mother of identity crises. Asuka still struggles with overcoming her inferiority complex and opening up to the very similar Shinji. Nobody knows anything about Mari and she's just there for the action scenes. Instrumentality still looms. Nothing is resolved, owing not to the fact there's a final movie, but that nobody writing this one felt they needed to contribute to the series in any impactful manner, leading me not to even care what the answers are now.
You know what this movie is? Do you know what I felt like after staring to the abyss of this monumental nothing of a film? It alternated between being the fourth chapter of something whose third chapter was missing or just a filler until they could finish the real final part. The time skip was entirely unjustified, because it didn't add any elements to the storyline that couldn't have already existed without it, the pacing was all over the place, with blurs of empty exposition and action separated by lingering, empty silence with sudden, jerking transition, and it completely failed to cash the check that the first two movies wrote in either a narrative or thematic sense.
Why does Mari exist? She does nothing. She says nothing. We have a character that in the second movie came in like a whirlwind, kicked ass, and laid the groundwork for some development and intrigue, but she contributes exactly nothing to this movie. She's just as much a question mark at the end of this movie as she was when she was introduced at the start of the previous one. The irrevocable conclusion is that she was conceived for marketing. She's there to make action figures and hug pillows for and nothing more.
Why does Asuka exist at this point? Why reveal that she survived her entry plug being crushed in 2.22 when she, too, contributes almost nothing? And they've utterly reversed her character development for no good reason. You might be able to argue that she just can't handle her feelings for our hero when they clash against the expectation to hate the person who triggered Third Impact, but they left it unexamined. Like Mari, she ends up being an accoutrement to the action scenes.
Misato has become bitter and hardened by the years passed since the last movie, no doubt self-loathing and overcompensating for her encouraging Shinji to save Rei at any costs. But frankly, that has to be guessed at, because we learn nothing about her state of mind, either, and it just looks like she's being a total bitch for no reason. Would it have killed her to just kindly tell Shinji not to pilot the Eva because it might cause a new disaster? Just a five minute conversation that could have prevented his bailing on them and ending up almost triggering another Impact event. This feels like a plot element designed to justify the entire movie. Why does Shinji go off and decide to go with his father's plans? Why, because Misato is cold to him for something that wasn't really his fault!
And let's be clear here: Shinji did not, from any perspective, know that diving into that Angel to save Rei at the end of the previous film, would cause that Impact event. He did it with complete abandon in a desperate attempt to save a friend. That anyone even blames him is just a justification for the skeleton plot of this filler movie.
You know what movie I would have preferred to see? I don't know, perhaps something involving the many events that happened between movies. Or at least a movie where actual events happen and not just these big, grand ideas Studio Khara had but couldn't fit together, so they settled on just crowbarring them in. This movie oozes with the indulgence of people who the money people won't say "no" to. It is a movie completely convinced of its own weightiness it doesn't bother to actually render any. It might be the first truly, unequivocally, undeniably pretentious entry in Evangelion. So self-absorbed with its reputation that it tries to coast on pretty visuals (and fails, because of the overuse of 3DCG and abstract designs) and its popularity alone without thinking or innovating.
There's no added value to the series in this film. No new thematic flourish or relevant musings on the existing themes or philosophies. Nothing that didn't exist already (and was better handled in the previous movies). Even the naval-gazing is rote and lame. This movie has one reason to exist, and that's to get you to watch the fourth movie by holding you over with shiny objects.
I also should add my impressions of the voice acting. The same basic level of quality as the previous entries from both the Japanese and English casts, really. The workmanlike quality of the Japanese cast remains. Megumi Ogata really does shine when she needs to, though it's rare in a movie nobody shines in. Or does much of anything. The English dub, ostensibly the reason why the North American release had been delayed for years, is no better or worse than with the previous movies. In other words, decent, nothing special, and not indicating any additional work in the quality. Spike Spencer and Tiffany Grant mostly stumble through as always, and the other VAs have to pick up the slack. This is especially obvious with Spencer, the only character with more than ten lines of dialogue in this. I'd like to say he improved since 2.22, but at least he's better than he was in the TV series, if only marginally. If you hate yourself enough to watch this, the Japanese track won't make it much better, but you may suffer less. Again, marginally.
Every exhausting, protracted shot of longing looks, every eye-rolling detail of bonding over piano, every desperate crowbarred plot element designed to be part of a big puzzle impossible to want to assemble, every overly designed mechanical element or action scene, every overplayed musical moment, from start to finish, this movie is so convinced of its own greatness it dares you not to anticipate the next, as if you couldn't possibly drop it this far in. It's Evangelion damn it, it has your attention, and there's nothing you can do about it!
Well, fuck you, Rebuild 3.33. You Can (Not) Be Of Value To Me anymore. I don't know when the next movie finally comes to fruition, but I can't imagine even bothering to watch to review. The Rebuild movies are basically ruined for me now. Let this garbage heap be tossed into Terminal Dogma with the skulls of lesser works, because now it's one of them. Unless that fourth entry picks up where the second left off, and treats this like a bad dream, I see no reason to watch it.
Everybody responsible for this movie should be taken to task for wasting time, money, and expectations. Especially Hideaki Anno, who clearly has as much contempt for his fans as I do for this movie. It actually makes me like the TV series, one of my favorite anime, less in reflection. To think this is his "focused" version of his vision for it is disturbing. The entire movie is brimming with an absolute venom by Anno and the rest of the studio for the material.
In short, this movie is as if somebody combined a mountain of assorted garbage with a mountain of steaming fecal matter and then vomited on the peak before falling over to their death. I've rarely been so disgusted by an anime in my life. If you're an anime fan, avoid it. If you're an Evangelion fan, it's best to pretend it never existed. Otherwise, no amount of piano is going to bring you back from the brink.
0.5 out of 5 (Half a point for not being a snuff film)
(And also, they left out Pen Pen!)