When the Rebuild of Evangelion project was started, I was very very excited. Evangelion ranked as one of my all-time faves so it was awesome to see it given life again. The project was to be a tetralogy of films and had the intent of making the franchise more accessible to new fans. It was also meant to feature a storyline that could stand on its own. And while Episode 1 [You Are (Not) Alone] tugged at that precious nostalgia and Episode 2 [You Can (Not) Advance] hinted at a grand possibility of what things could become… Episode 3 [You Can (Not) Redo] was one big “Huh?!?!?!”
First, let me start by saying that I absofreakinlutely loved the film. I think it’s the best Rebuild film yet! (although I think I’m the type of fan who’ll love whatever crap Hideaki Anno spews out anyway so…) But I think its appeal would greatly vary depending on your fandom with the whole Evangelion franchise. Bearing the whole intent of the project in mind, Evangelion 3.33 succeeded in telling a whole new story. But of course, viewers could not help throwing back to the original mythos of the series (that would be pretty much understandable) so it was a little (okay a lot…) confusing for us to appreciate where the whole series was going. Granted, Evangelion was always borderline incomprehensible and sitting through the whole series – especially the traumatic movie – warranted frequent therapy visits but 3.33 managed to top that, for me at least. All throughout the film, they kept showing and alluding story elements which were not set up in the first two films that by the time Kaworu was talking about spears and stuff, I was completely lost. I had to rewatch the first two films but even then, the cohesion was flimsy at best. But again, awesome film. 😀
Major Spoilers Ahead
From here on out, the review would be spoiler heavy so if you haven’t watched the film yet, it would be better to stop reading. I’m going to talk about the things in the film that bugged and confused the hell out of me (which was basically 8/9 of the whole movie) but not to the extent of disregarding the whole film as crap.
My first comment about the film had to do with the actual story itself. It seemed like they made a movie that was completely independent of the first two in the series. So many character development changes immediately hit you that like Shinji, you’d be constantly saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” For one, the whole preview shown in the last film was totally scrapped because none of those scenes actually made it in 3.33! I guess that was a big thing already since my initial expectations about what would happen next was crushed from the get-go. Why, you ask? Because they started with a time-skip. Of 14 freaking years!
I don’t know if it’s a Japanese directive to always use time-skips in media but now, Eva has joined in on the bandwagon (Naruto, Bleach, Fairy Tail…). So, the anticipation of what could have happened next after Mark 06 descended from the sky to stop the Third Impact as shown in the last seconds of the film was figuratively squashed because from the story’s perspective, it happened a long time ago. Now, the story takes place in a world where people had to deal with the aftermath of “The Near Third Impact” where mass extinction took place and mostly everybody was dead. I swear, I think Misato’s crew and the duo of Gendo and Fuyutsuki were the only humans left in the planet.
So Shinji wakes up to this scenario after being retrieved in space while still inside Eva Unit 01’s cockpit. He is rescued by WILLE (an organization hell bent on stopping NERV) which is captained by none other than Misato Katsuragi aboard the battleship: AAA Wunder. Asuka is found to be alive and still piloting the scraps left behind (just kidding…) by the awesomeness that was Unit 02 (now recoded as Unit 02-Dash) as well as Mari, who now pilots her own Unit 08. Apparently they’re all buddies now for no reason (and would remain so until the end of the film, seriously who is this girl???). Ritsuko Akagi is the vice-captain of the ship Wunder and the three lackeys (Aoba, Hyuga and Ibuki) also have updated duties. Several new characters are shown (if not named) as part of the Wunder staff including Toji’s sister Sakura and a girl with humongous lips named Kitakami. And every single one of them is a douchebag. Seriously, major douchiness.
So as it turns out, every one of them harbors seething rage at Shinji for causing the Near Third Impact. Misato even puts an explosive choker on him and warns him to never pilot an Eva again or else she’ll blow his head off. Personally, I found the character development of Misato and her crew to be totally distasteful even if it was a little understandable. I mean, you had to look at it from Shinji’s point of view. That guy always feels like the universe is against him and this time… that’s literally the case! And I’ve always been team Shinji even when he went on his signature emo overdrives (hedgehog all the way!) so I found myself hating on the characters every time they became self-righteous enough to blame Shinji for everything. Especially when it came to the new ones. I would be like, “Oh get off your high horse, you have no idea what you’re talking about!” 😀
I just found it unfair that they get to blame Shinji for the consequences of piloting an Eva when every one of them, Misato and Ritsuko in particular, have been spewing crap about: ‘not running from his father’, ‘facing his fears’ or ‘protecting the world’ by piloting Unit 01 during the first two movies. And when it was Shinji’s choice to not pilot ever again? They would just guilt trip him about shirking his responsibilities! And who could forget Misato cheering him on to do what he believes to be right during the end of the second movie? Then apparently just hate him wholeheartedly for what happened because of it. And Asuka? Urrrgh! Can there be a better poster child for hypocrisy? Judging Shinji for being a self-obsessed ‘brat’ and using phrases like, “after all this time” as if he hadn’t woken up from a 14-year sleep and as if she was the best model for self-sacrifice and altruism. Even though I kind of understood where they were coming from, I just wished that they could see it from Shinji’s eyes. Seriously, don’t they know how much of a whining pathetic crybaby Shinji is by now? Giving him no explanation and treating him coldly? It’s like they’re purposely trying to drive him mad by being such big assholes! It made me root for Shinji to be all destructive again which I think, was the movie’s intent in the first place. So good job movie! 😀
So, while its whole staff was being a complete dick to Shinji, the Wunder is attacked by new mass-produced Angels (not the numbered ones) which gave the chance for Wunder to debut its amazing capabilities. Using the Eva 01 as the main engine, the ship takes flight and goes on to single-handedly destroy the Angels, utilizing its own AT Field and everything. The ‘power that can kill Gods’ as Misato calls it. All the while, I was thinking, “What the hell is this ship? Where did it come from? So I accept that this is just a thing now?” I resign myself to the fact and the movie resumes.
After the attack, Shinji is made to realize that it really has been 14 years although he still does not know why everybody treats him like dirt. Asuka still looks 14 because of the “curse of the Eva” which I guess keeps them young if they pilot it too much (a plot device copied from Gatekeepers?). They keep harping on how they hate him to death when finally, Rei shows up and saves Shinji in a spruced up Unit-00 looking Evangelion. Shinji still doesn’t understand why Misato is being a bitch so he decides the hell with it!…he’s leaving with Rei since Misato doesn’t like him anymore. Mari (in Unit 08) sorties to stop Rei from flying off with Shinji – blowing Rei’s Evangelion’s head in the process – but to no avail. Rei’s Eva (Mark 09) suddenly transfigures boosters and takes Shinji away with Mari commenting that it was the “Vessel of Adams”. I again have no idea what the hell she was talking about but I love the scenes so I just continue digesting this continually confusing but awesome film. 😀
Shinji is then taken to the original NERV headquarters (which is now destroyed) by a very stoic Rei. He takes it all in with disturbing calmness actually until he is brought before Gendo who basically just tells him that when the time comes, he’ll pilot a new Eva (Unit 13) with Kaworu (cue spotlight). Then he leaves. Seriously, did he practice being all mysterious and shit all those years especially for that moment? And while we’re at it, what’s with the people in this timeline’s obsession with shades? Gendo looks like Cyclops if Scott Summers actually ages in the comics and Misato is sporting some weird Oakley ripoff. And who the hell mans the whole NERV complex? Somebody had to right? And since neither Fuyutsuki or Gendo seemed fit enough for actual hard labor, I guess we’ll never know.
And thus we are introduced to Kaworu Nagisa, a mysterious boy who befriends Shinji and basically become the one human being (-ish) in the planet who actually likes him. They develop a friendship which comes as a welcome reprieve for Shinji until he is told the truth of what happened 14 years ago. Kaworu shows him the aftermath of what he did and although he may not see it as his fault, the whole of humanity or ‘Lilin’ will never see otherwise. Not unless they ‘repair’ the world.
Fuyutsuki also tells him the truth about his mother – Yui – and how she was preserved into Unit 01’s core due to an experiment. She was then used as a template for the Rei Ayanami clones. So, after being successfully piled on with this additional traumatic knowledge, Shinji finally realizes that the Rei who rescued him wasn’t the one he knew (and basically destroyed the world over just to save) so he begins to act coldly towards her.
Which is something that also bothered me with You Can (Not) Redo, by the way. Rebuild 01 and 02 did a great job of humanizing Rei and it culminated to a semi sweet-and-twisted love connection between her and Shinji. Shinji’s resolve to save Rei no matter what was my favorite scene in the previous movie but with 3.33, they just reset it all. Now, we have another Rei who is in the process of discovering what ‘things’ are which of course further drives Shinji to his eventual psychotic meltdown.
So, Shinji goes on his signature “I don’t want to ____ anymore” as Kaworu arrives to tell him that they could repair the world if they: ‘retrieve the spears of Longinus and Cassius down from Central Dogma where they are pierced through Evangelion Mark 06 over the corpse of Lilith by using a new Evangelion which uses a double entry-plug type system’ because fuck it, that’s the story. 😀 Kaworu removes the choker on Shinji and puts it over his own neck (with me wondering why he didn’t just throw it away altogether…) to relieve Shinji of the burden of his ‘punishment’ and just like that, Shinji agrees to pilot the Eva again.
They then head down to Central Dogma which was apparently the epicenter of the Near Third Impact (which must have happened in another film between 2.22 and 3.33 because that sure as hell was not how the last movie ended) and penetrate a lid of some stuff which made it impossible for anyone to enter the Dogma in the last 14 years. Only the Evangelion 13, with its dual pilot system, can conveniently break it down but only with Kaworu and Shinji piloting it. Rei can’t be the backup pilot because she was only a copy and that her ‘soul’ was somewhere else but she still came along to provide support with her Mark 09 in case WILLE attacks. Again I go, “Where the hell did Unit 13 come from? And why does it suddenly hold as much importance as Unit 01?” But the fight scenes are obviously coming up so I just go along once more and continue watching the movie.
And as expected, Asuka intercepts Shinji which starts an epic battle between the Evangelions. Unit 08 faces off with Unit 09 as Mari warns Rei of becoming the Vessel of Adams (because that’s an established thing now apparently…) while Asuka battles Shinji and Kaworu . Or against just Shinji actually because Kaworu suddenly goes introspective because he sees something wrong with the spears. He says that they should not be the same shape (which they were) so he had a bad feeling about it. Shinji does not listen or does not care, adamant to pull out the spears even if he has no idea what they’ll do so he goes to retrieve them after besting out Unit 02-Dash. He pulls them out which reveals Mark 06 or the Twelfth Angel as Asuka calls it (yes, that’s a thing now too…) in suspension until Rei beheads it to free the Angel inside to merge with Unit 13. Thus begins another ‘Impact’.
The usual Impacty-stuff happens as Unit 13 ascends to the heavens and begins destroying all life until Wunder suddenly rams into it with all its might. All the while, Shinji is still dumbfounded about the destruction he’s causing and struggling once more to understand what the hell was going on! (right there with you brother…) Wunder drags Unit 13 down but is suddenly attacked by Mark 09 itself.
Rei attempts to reclaim the engine of Wunder (because she was ‘ordered’ to although it’s clear that she has no idea why she’s doing things) from Unit 01 which causes Ritsuko to comment that Mark 09 was the true ‘master’ of Wunder (for the nth time, I go WTH???). Seeing the battle, Asuka relegates the responsibility of fighting Unit 13 to Mari as she goes to battle Mark 09 in order to save Misato and her crew. In the epic fight that followed, Asuka unleashes the beast mode of Unit 02 in order to fight Unit 09. In the end, she still had to self-destruct Ni-Gouki-Dash in order to win but not before Rei and she get the chance to eject the entry plugs.
Back to Shinji. Kaworu finally snaps out of his ill-timed bout of emo-ness and mysteriously says something about finally understanding what Gendo (the King of Lilin) wanted. Well good for him because I certainly didn’t! 😀 He says that he will close the Door of Guf (which was the door that comes with triggering an Impact) and that Shinji find peace and some other crap. The choker on his neck activates so before Kaworu’s head explodes, he pierces Unit 13 with both spears which somehow causes the Impact to abate (so what does that make? ‘Near-Fourth Impact’?).
Shinji bawls over again after seeing Kaworu die in front of him (seriously, how much trauma do they think he can take???) as Unit 08 rushes to catch the falling Unit 13 and forcefully eject the unit’s entry plug. This completely closes the Guf Door and effectively stops the Fourth Impact. So the impact ends and everybody’s semi-pleased, even Granda Cyclops who, of course, somehow, planned it all I’m sure.
The film ends with Asuka finding Shinji in his ejected cockpit and telling him to get up so they could walk and search for rescue. She does this while chastising him for not acting all grown-up as if she wasn’t well aware of his whole Shinji-ness. Rei then walks up to meet them and away they go. Seriously, the film ends with that.
Despite the many flaws in the film, I still found it to be the best in the series yet! It had a more somber feel and darker atmosphere to it, which I loved. The first 2 films hinted at the possibility or else vaguely relived an echo of what it was like to live after an Impact but 3.33 showed us the actual reality. And while I did not like the character developments, I did not begrudge them their attitudes because they all had to grow up amidst the aftermath while Shinji did not. Yes, I know it speaks volumes that I go for the side of the immature child over the tragedy-hardened adults. 😉
So even though the film did nothing but bombard me with questions, it was still Evangelion and for that it was awesome! The visuals and score (the music was gorgeous!) were amazing as expected. Its take on the human condition was always a unique one and was still present during You Can (Not) Redo so it was never dull or uninteresting. Besides, maybe all will be explained in the final film so it’s not like there isn’t room to answer the mysteries that were added to the already extremely large pile that was built during the first two films. What is Wunder? What about the Key of Nebuchadnezzar? What is/are the Vessel of Adams? How many more impacts will happen before everything is all right again? Will Gendo ever take those shades off? Is Ritsuko battling cancer or something? Will Mari be something else besides an annoyingly mysterious girl who sings a lot? And what the hell happened to Kaji?!?!?!
On to Rebuild of Evangelion 4.0: Final! 😀