R&A by JL: Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance

Hideaki Anno’s Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance was the first film I screened at the 23rd Helsinki Film Festival. Basically it’s a part of a movie series that attempts to reimagine a TV show from the 90’s about a group of teenagers who are tasked with protecting the world. You can read more about the franchise here. Reimagining a grand story in a different format is difficult on its own and it’s even worse with Evangelion – a series more multi-layered and brilliant than anything else I’ve ever seen. At first you simply have to realize you are not going to get the same product since switching from 26 episodes (+ 1 film) to 4 films will inevitably require a drastic change.

The most obvious change is the focus. In 2.0 Anno is more concerned about Shinji and his father issues. However, that doesn’t mean the other main characters are reduced to anything bad. Rei’s character development is far more explicit and faster than in the original series – which is not a bad change at all since there simply isn’t enough time to handle it the same way. Asuka is especially different, but she is far from being an insignificant character. Pretty much every scene she is featured in develops her character gradually. Take the night scene with Shinji for example: only half the dialogue is about something other than their relationship and what happens during the scene is far more important than the dialogue. I’d say she gets as much development and screentime as Shinji and Rei even though it’s not as obvious.

Like the original, 2.0 has its outrageously comic moments. Anno turns sexual fanservice often into self-aware comedy that was clearly a hit for the audience I watched the film with. Asuka’s version of the infamous “toothpicks” scene goes to such ridiculous extremes with the fanservice that I simply can not see it as anything other than making fun of fanservice itself. Comic relief is needed in a film that is so full of narrative exposition and tough psychological drama. An engaging and entertaining narrative requires less serious scenes in order to let the viewer relax for a moment.

Thematically 2.0 is still quite close to the original. The flawed communication is still central. It is still very likely that Anno can turn the movie series into a commentary on the otaku – something the original series did as well. This might sound simple, but rationalizing Evangelion completely is difficult since first and foremost it is a cinematic and spiritual experience. Even after repeated viewings 2.0 manages to captivate me and play with my mind. That should be a proof of its success in writing.

As a fan of the TV show it’s too easy to simply look for the differences in the screenplay and ponder on them. Analysing and focusing on the film’s form might not be given enough attention. Whenever I’ve read a complaint about the new films I always notice how they always concentrate on disowning Anno for going with more blockbuster-friendly and simplifying ways in its writing. What they seem to miss is that Anno is still at the top of his game when it comes to cinematography and editing. Anno’s idiosyncratic editing patterns and a keen eye for framing are still as intense and magnificent as they were 15 years ago. Shiro Sagisu’s soundtrack doesn’t get enough praise either. Even though he uses a lot of material from his earlier work it still works extremely well in 2.0’s context too. His renditions of Give Me Wings and Today is the Time for Goodbye work seamlessly in the film and elevate the revisited scenes to a new height in my opinion. Especially the usage of Today is the Time for Goodbye can not be praised enough.

Whereas the first movie (Evangelion 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone) seemed unnecessary – because it had only a bigger budget, not anything new – its sequel is certainly worthwhile. The new fans lured to the franchise by the first film will be in for quite a mindfuck and the fans of the original will be perplexed. I can confidently say that Hideaki Anno still knows what he’s doing and is capable of producing a masterpiece.

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About Oz
A Finnish film buff who has taken a huge interest in language and Japanese cinema. Can be contacted via email (johlauri@hotmail.com), Twitter (@OzymandiasJL) and a Private Message on EvaGeeks (Oz).

6 Responses to R&A by JL: Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance

  1. Stefan D. Byerley says:

    Great. Now you’re making me wish I’ve already seen this movie. I seriously can’t wait for it’s spring 2011 DVD release, or any theatrical releases Funimation promises.

    I agree that 1.11 was a lot repetition, (I may even post a review about it), and therefore was a good movie simply by default of the original. So I found myself having a hard time rating the film based in it’s own merits since it really didn’t have any merits of it’s own. (Other than a few of the new or changed scenes, but there just weren’t enough of them too effect much of the movie.) But strangely, I couldn’t make that a “Strike” against the movie since it genuinely was a good movie, even though it was only because it borrowed almost everything from the original.

    Again, I can’t wait to see 2.0.

    • 1.11 was very good as well, but I was disappointed with it apart from the obvious change in animation quality. I give it 4 stars out of 5 because it is good in the end. Too bad Anno didn’t change anything about the pacing at the beginning of the film. It’s too fast.

      • Stefan D. Byerley says:

        The only glaring change in animation quality was the second angel battle in the movie. I don’t think CGI worked in Shamshel’s favor. It just seemed cheap and an attempt to appear flashy. Especially when compared to the cel animated Sachiel battle in the beginning of the same movie. Ramiel was the only angel in 1.11 where the CGI became an improvement to the battle scene. The beginning was a little too quick. I think an extra 10 or so minutes, some of which with Toji and Kensuke, and I think that film would have knocked it out of the park.

  2. Pingback: The 23rd Helsinki International Film Festival – Rakkautta & Anarkiaa « Forced Perspective

  3. Adam DiPiazza says:

    Not sure I would’ve given this a perfect score (if I actually liked giving scores in the first place), but it was definitely a marked improvement over 1.11, which was enjoyable enough but nothing worth multiple viewings. Still, it got my hopes up for the rest of the New Movie Editions to be a great companion piece to the original series. Also, the with Zeruel = nightmare fuel.

    • Yes, the Zeruel fight is certainly nightmarish. And so is the Bardiel fight, too. With great subtitles that translate the lyrics partly the whole sequence is simply brilliant – at least as good as the original Bardiel scene.

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