Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0 — Alternate Perspective

The general reception of Hideaki Anno’s most recent additions to the Neon Genesis Evangelion Franchise has been rather positive, including those reflections on the film by writers on our own site — Juuso and Johannes both praised the film on numerous levels, and had good reasons for doing so. But an important part of cinema, and the forum atomsphere that helped spawn this film blog idea was having Alternate perspectives — different views on a particular film that help increase our understanding of the particular piece and cinema as a whole.

Though I cannot attest to seeing the film in the atomsphere of a cinema, I found 2.0 to be quite underwhelming. The film was certainly high concept, and played around with the philosophy and psuedo-science that was existent from its spiritual godfather, Neon Genesis Evangelion (henceforth reffered to as NGE), but to be utterly frank, the series just did not translate well into the cinematic form. The pacing was off, and much of the character relationships, which were so essential to the brilliance of the first series, were rushed and at times fel arbitrary and nonsensical.

NGE was a brilliant watershed anime that proved that character development and mature, philosophical, and sexual themes could be intelligently presented in animated form — and was done in a mecha series, which is usually focused more on the technological and world-building aspects of narrative which are so prevalent in science fiction. Rebuild reverts back to pre-NGE tropes — as if Anno decided to return to the mecha narrratives of the 1970s and 1980s. This in itself is not neccessarily a bad thing, and homages can be done artfully in this way — but Anno has proven that NGE might be his magnum opus in that way; Rebuild is just some pretty visuals. Mike Bay does Anime, essentially.

It starts, as Syd Field would say, with the characters. Asuka’s NGE rendition was a crockpot full of aspects worthy of analysis — a psychoanalysts dream whose fall from grace in the context of the overall narrative was a literary brilliance — dare I say Shakespearian in scale and affect. In Rebuild, her like many other characters in the series are given an arbitrary, poorly written arc and then fizzle out. Misato, Fuyutsuki, Toji, and Kaji all aren’t given their just dues — and in all honesty, it can’t just be due to -pacing. I blame it own the major Refocus of Rebuild — the relationship between Shinji and Rei.

For those unfamiliar with the series, allow me a quick digression — as I’ve said before, Rebuild focuses on the relationship between two particular pilots of massive robots called Evangelions which fight against supernatural “angels.” These pilots are the manic-depressive Shinji and the emotionless Rei, and it doesn’t get much deeper than that. Two cardboard characters engaging in an awkward romance that seems so arbitrary it hurts. This detracts from the depth of the supporting ensemble, an ensemble that was fundamental to the progression of the narrative of NGE, and whose virtual non-existence and overall lack of attention causes the story to become trite.

To not make it seem that too much butt was hurt over the film — the majority of the visuals were on par — Sadamoto’s character designs were on par, and of course, the CGI action was nothing to sneeze at. But when one allows action to replace character, well, you get anime’s version of  The Expendables, or worse, (and more aptly named), Hideaki Anno’s Transformers starring Tommy Wiseau. And by this I mean a forgettable summer action flick that can squeeze a few laughs, but is ultimately not the intellectual and visual experience that its predecessor was. I suppose what prompted me to write this review, was simply that I feel my fellow reviewers missed something important here — and it’s character depth. And it feels bad, man.

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About Ryan Silva
An American born cinephile writing, making films, and studying in New York City. Festival addict and student Jurist at the 2010 Rhode Island International Film Festival. Hits: moe anime and space operas. Misses: Smelly roommates and Jersey Shore

4 Responses to Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0 — Alternate Perspective

  1. No character depth? Puh-lease. Just because it is handled in a more explicit and faster way doesn’t mean it’s non-existent. The side characters had to be “reduced” to that level because the film form isn’t flexible enough for all of them. That’s the essential difference between films and TV shows: attention to detail is inevitably different for the two.

    I find it funny how the ones criticizing 2.0 keep saying it makes “no sense without seeing the original series” – a statement which makes no sense to me – yet they are the ones who keep comparing it to the original.

  2. Ryan Silva says:

    And that is exactly why Eva doesn’t translate well into the cinematic form. You can have the freedom of focusing on the minutae of character development in an episodic format. It sounds like you’re almost apologizing for the lack of development there.

    In any event, in regard to the little character development that was in the film itself: as I’ve noted in the forums, there are points in which the development seems like it’s arbitrary. The aquarium and kitchen scenes would have been better executed if the characters had been fleshed out a little bit more. Those are really cathartic points in the romantic subplots. But they seem arbitrary due to the presentation.

    • You’re still comparing it to the original without evaluating as a stand-alone production. If that’s what you call “apologizing for the lack of development” then let’s call it that. I just don’t get what you are driving at when you demand more focus on character development (and other characters) since that would not only be impossible with the limited running time, but also utterly confusing in the film form. Rebuild is a vastly different beast and evaluate it on its own merits – not as straight remake of the TV show.

      I thought the aquarium and kitchen scenes didn’t need more emphasis. For example the aquarium scene was followed by “The Second Impact” sequence in which Kaji explains Misato’s past. It would have screwed the film up if you had had 2 emotionally charged scenes back to back like that. I don’t see why they should have been more cathartic. Just for the sake of doing so, let’s compare this to the original: Rei’s development was pretty much as subtle as possible. Now that her development is given “more than enough” focus you call for more powerful presentation. Huh?

  3. Matko Gjurašin says:

    Yeah! Ryan, show them who’s boss!

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