Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo – Review

by Miguel Douglas


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Fourteen years have passed since Third Impact was unexpectedly thwarted, yet the Angels continue their attacks against mankind. Shinji Ikari is salvaged from Evangelion Unit-01 and finds that things have changed, but not for the better: the world has been utterly devastated, his former allies from NERV have become hostile toward him, and Rei Ayanami, the girl Shinji risked everything for, is nowhere to be found. As he attempts to adjust to this strange new world, Shinji befriends the enigmatic Kaworu Nagisa. Together the pair learns the terrible truths behind the Angels, NERV, and the Evangelions. With only Kaworu to support him and the entire world against him, Shinji must now fight to bring balance to the world around him.Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo is a film about personal redemption. It is a film that is centered on the element of understanding one’s own past wrongdoings and being able to confront those wrongs in an attempt to free oneself from the past. It is a film about honestly taking a step towards understanding the world around you and how one’s past actions can greatly affect those you care for. But it is also a film showcasing how one can easily fall back upon the same actions that led to those past transgressions in an attempt to address the problems they face in the present. It is also a film that delivers substantially more questions than answers.

For those accustomed to the universe of Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995), or are simply familiar with the previous two films in the Rebuild series, You Can (Not) Redo is a film that largely departs from such familiarity with considerable awareness. Unlike the television series, The End of Evangelion (1997), or Rebuild films released prior, You Can (Not) Redo presents a new take on the universe of Evangelion as a whole, inserting new elements within its narrative and expanding the scope of the series as whole. From the opening moments of the film, we are thrust into a foreign world in which we have absolutely no understanding of, with longtime fans and mere newcomers being equally as puzzled. We as viewers are similar to Shunji Ikari’s current predicament–he awakens to a world unlike the one he left, with the people and places he once knew now changed, lost, or simply forgotten.

With such a premise, it would be a complete understatement to say that You Can (Not) Redo is a very, very dark and bleak film. It is also a slow and methodical viewing experience, particularly during the middle portion of the film, easing us as viewers into a world of increasing unfamiliarity. There is very little action throughout a majority the film as well, with most of it occupying the opening and concluding portions of the film. If the conclusion of Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (2009) was just a glimpse of the chaos to come, then You Can (Not) Redo veers completely into the dark recesses of the Evangelion universe. The film is pretty much devoid of any of the humorous elements found in prior films in the series, especially as seen in You Can (Not) Advance, but then again, this film is loosely based upon the final episodes of the television series, which consisted highly upon the philosophical and introspective interactions of its characters. Gone are the days of innocence: no humorous verbal battles at school, cooking bouts in order to gain affection, or gratuitous fan service on part of the female cast. Here we find the characters less sympathetic and overall well adjusted to the dire nature of their existence, both as individuals and members of humanity. These characters have been through a quite lot while Shinji was gone–much of what remains unknown to us as viewers–but it is expressed through their approach towards Shinji and his surprising reappearance. Rather than be joyous at his return, they despise him, looking to him as a burden and the source to their unnecessarily elongated battle to save the world.

With this in mind, You Can (Not) Redo is a film that spends a majority of its time focused on the plight of Shinji Ikari. Like stated earlier, it is a film primarily dealing with the element of redemption, with Shinji being the one to question his role as an Eva pilot and how his own selfish actions led to the destruction of what he held most dear to him. The film spends much of its time within the sparse and isolated landscape of NERV’s GeoFront, which was heavily damaged when Shinji initiated Third Impact in the conclusion of the previous film. Seemingly in a way to physically exemplify his atonement, it is in this barren, secluded environment where Shinji contemplates what he has done given the aftermath of Third Impact, witnessing firsthand the physical destruction brought about by own deeds. Like the previous film in which Shinji viewed the destructive onslaught and aftermath of the Angel Zuriel, here we find the tables have indeed turned.

But as so much attention is given towards Shinji’s current predicament, many of the film’s other characters do not fair too well in terms of being influential factors within the film’s narrative. Given the rather significant departure from the traditional narrative structure brought about by the two previous films, the lack of character development is even more pronounced in You Can (Not) Redo than even those films. Previously key characters such as Misato, Gendo, Mari, Rei and Asuka are provided little to any time for actual development here, instead being delegated to estranged positions of affronting Shinji off at any available opportunity. Other characters are strangely absent from the film as well. This is certainly surprising to see, but it further establishes the bitter and cold world Shinji finds himself in, even if we want more from the characters we have all grown accustomed to through the prior films.

Unfortunately, the narrative of You Can (Not) Redo can’t exactly be viewed in a similar vein. Given the time-leap of fourteen years, the narrative find itself in a perpetual state of catching up to inform the viewer as to what is actually going on, which is helpful, but writer and director Hideaki Anno also decides to throw in so many new plot elements that the end result will simply compound upon the confusion of the average viewer. It is not that the film is difficult to comprehend; it is rather the amount of information that one will need to decipher through to completely understand the entirety of it. Unlike the previous two films, You Can (Not) Redo is a film that will require more than one viewing in respect to the massive narrative scope that Anno presents, an audacious approach that one can imagine will make for a difficult and perplexing viewing experience for many out there.

This approach also does not alleviate the film from running into, shall we say, “awkward moments,” specifically on part of the viewing audience gaining some simple understanding as to what is actually going on. I use the term awkward here to signify several moments within the film where Shinji, by simply pursuing to ask more questions than he does, could resolve so much and avoid a ton of rather unnecessary expository sequences (an unfortunate approach that permeates most of the film). Simple inquiries such as repeatedly asking what transpired during the fourteen years when he was trapped in Eva-01, why is NERV deemed an enemy now, and how come a practically inoperable NERV headquarters can still function with little-to-no staff, would have been beneficial in more ways than one in explaining to us as viewers some fundamental elements of the plot. These and similar questions could have all been answered if Shinji would have just inquired more from the individuals he interacts with, instead leaving much of us in the dark for a remainder of the film. This aspect of the characterization of Shinji may have been warranted given his current perplexed state of mind in parallel to that of the viewers’ own, but it does not necessarily help out in terms of having a more focused narrative. Also, looking intently at the character of Kaworu, an individual that has been continually promoted as a significant figurehead within the Rebuild film series, remains just as mysterious and allusive by the film’s end as he did in the previous films. One would hope for him to finally develop more as a character here, but he doesn’t appear as dynamic as a character as we would initially perceive him as, which doesn’t necessarily help in establishing his role as a prominent individual within the Evangelion universe.

But characterization aside, the animation of the film remains a highlight. Like the actual narrative of the film itself, the visual quality of You Can (Not) Redo is also very dark as well, offering a stark contrast to the color palette of the previous films. Whether this is viewed in the decaying interiors of a destroyed GeoFront, to the elaborate and bizarre inner workings of Central Dogma, to the skyward battles of the Wunder, the look of the film is impeccably polished to say the least. There is also a brilliantly animated piano sequence that is shared between Kaworu and Shinji that is sure to appease piano enthusiasts and classical listeners alike. Out of all the films released thus far though, this film utilizes CGI the most, which may be a hit or miss with some viewers. Despite this approach though, Studio Khara is quite elaborate in their construction and detail of all the CGI sequences within the film, doing an overall wonderful job in regards to implementing them into the film. The opening space battle and final battle within Central Dogma are absolutely phenomenal displays of their technical prowess, continuing the tradition of being a studio that can truly deliver superb animation alongside an aesthetic experience.

Another striking element of the film is the music. Composer Shiro Sagisu, a man well known for his work on the Evangelion series as well as other popular anime series and films, delivers a fantastic score that is both unique and fitting given the awe-inspiring nature of You Can (Not) Redo. While the two previous films offered a reinterpreted range of music that stemmed mostly from the original television series alongside several compositions from past Anno-affiliated animated works, the score for You Can (Not) Redo consists of primarily new arrangements that nicely encapsulates the emotional mood of the film. With thunderous drums and powerful choruses, one can see that Sagisu truly surpasses himself here in terms of musical ability, delivering an astute reflection upon the grandiosity of the film itself.

Considering the substantial changes that are within You Can (Not) Redo, one cannot deny the impressive interpretation of the Evangelion universe that Anno has established with this film. While many of the characters don’t receive as much development as one would hope, one can view this film as essentially all about Shinji coming to terms for his past transgressions. This approach will certainly alienate some viewers, perhaps even discourage them from fully enjoying the film, but it is an approach that provides a uniquely compelling outlook towards how we may cumulatively understand the series as a whole. While some viewers criticized Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (2007) for appearing simply as a rehash of the original television series, one can predict that some viewers will criticize You Can (Not) Redo for quite the opposite reason–its interpretation of the original series is entirely too different. There is much material here to contemplate and debate though, which is something that Evangelion fans have a particular knack for. For better or worse, Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo remains a broodingly tragic, surreal, and emotional experience, even if its complexity may get the better of it at times. Let’s hope that the final film will provide some answers to the numerous questions raised within this film, in turn offering adequate closure to one of the biggest anime film series in the last decade.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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  • Andrew Scott

    This is a BEAUTIFULLY written review.

    I just watched the film (albeit not under ideal circumstances – but hey, I’m in the U.S., and I’ve been BADLY wanting to see this film since finishing 2.0 in the summer of 2010) and I have to say…I didn’t know what to make of it at first…and I think it left a not-so-good taste in my mouth. But after reading your review, I am certain that upon subsequent viewings (as well was once it’s an actual official copy) I will come to see this film as an Empire Of Strikes Back sort of film – in that it indeed serves as a deeply moving bridge towards an AMAZING conclusion to the Rebuild series.

    And I couldn’t agree with you more about the music – the way the film concludes with Sakura Nagashi is BEYOND perfect. And I’ve actually read your review with a piano and string version instrumental of that song playing on loop in the background.

    Anno has done it again. And while there are some problems with the plot as you mentioned…sometimes I think real life IS that way. And I think that the ill treatment that Shinji received at the hands of Misato, plus the fact that everything seemed so different, I wasn’t as surprised to see him trust Gendo. He was a familiar face. And he had “rescued” him from Misato.

    Once again – excellent review.

  • Miguel Douglas

    Thank you for the kind comment regarding my review Andrew – I truly appreciate it! You know what’s funny? I actually was thinking the same with your “Empire Strikes Back” comment regarding this film. 3.0 is a very dark and tumultuous journey for the character within the Evangelion universe, so it is very much like ESB in a lot of ways.

  • Branko Burcksen

    First off, I will say I have not seen “Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo”. Second, I really appreciate and enjoyed your review.

    From the reactions I’ve read, it seems there’s a lot of disappointment and confusion yet an immense amount of debate and anticipation surrounding this film and the direction of the story. In some respects, I think I know more than I should before seeing it, but I won’t worry about that. I have to say, based on what I understand, Anno and the rest of the team expected mixed or polarized reactions to the film based on what one of the voice actors mentioned in an interview. I also heard during the three year intermission they scrapped the original plans for the third movie and went somewhere new as the contrast to the preview at the end of “Evangelion 2.0” showed.

    Despite an overall agreement about the movie’s strengths and weaknesses in regard to writing, character, pace and tone, there’s contradiction about the roots of the third film’s qualities. You put the blame most on Shinji for a lack of curiosity or investigation into the world he finds himself in while Kotaku points the finger at Misato and everyone else for treating him so poorly and making it too easy for him to jump into Kowaru’s arms. Of course, there’s also Japanator who praised characters like Asuka and Misato for redefining themselves despite their lack of screen time. Anno has thrown the fandom or really the entire audience in flux. No one knows where to land or even if there’s ground below them.

    Of what I know about the movie, one character still has me baffled, but I don’t expect to get a clear answer until after I see the film for myself. (POSSIBLE SPOILER) It surprised me to read the name Sakura Suzuhara in the cast list. All the reviews mention how everyone apart from Kowaru treats Shinji like a criminal or useless baggage, yet the promotional material shows her smiling and even giggling with him. (It did not look sarcastic or sadistic to me.) It piqued my interest that a character who existed since the original series, played an important role in Shinji’s personal struggles though never appeared on screen till the second Rebuild film shows up now. It’s very odd, and the fact that spoiler reviews and forum threads make little mention of her when her actions seem to contradict what most people say just baffles me. (END SPOILER)

    The one aspect of the movie I can agree on without seeing it is that it throws in too much for two films to cover. The third movie completely revamps the world of Evangelion and introduces a whole host of new characters while giving few of the original cast much development. I think this is what confuses people about the movie the most since at this point in the narrative, the pieces should be coming together. The motivations, goals, story threads and set up should be paying off now to shoot the drama toward an exciting and intense climax where stakes on top of stakes are raised. Instead, Anno presses the reset button right in the middle of the game.

    The Rebuild series has had a surprising evolution. It went from a very successful otaku centric anime with the first film to a popular, buzz worthy second entry that touched the mainstream, jumping from $16 million to $40 million. Now, the third movie is in the $50 million “One Piece”/minor Ghibli territory. To say it went beyond anyone’s initial expectations is an understatement. Especially for Anno, who after almost two decades just could not move on or let Evangelion go, this reception must be a very moving experience for him.

    They are making an Evangelion for a whole new audience. Though Anno is Anno, he is a different Anno, looking toward the future. During the last three years, there must have been a lot discussion, a lot of debating, negotiating and yes, soul searching, about their careers, the studio and the future of this franchise. “How far can we go? How can we build on what we’ve made and accomplished?” By throwing out their original plans for the third movie, I think they found their answer.

    “Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo” introduces a changed world, new characters and old ones with new understandings of their situation. Two movies cannot resolve everything. This is my pure speculation, but I don’t think that the fourth movie will end the Evangelion story. After the credits role on the final movie, we may get a preview for a forthcoming fifth and sixth movie, or more likely a new TV series, that continues where Rebuild left off with some major conflicts resolved but plenty more still left to work out. I am unsure about many things concerning this series, but the one thing I won’t deny is that “Evangelion 4.0 Will (Not) Be The End of Evangelion”.

  • Miguel Douglas

    Thanks for the great comment Branko. It is very interesting to hear the discussion surrounding the film, considering that much hasn’t really changed considering the core story of Evangelion is still within 3.0. In my opinion, the film stays very true to the narrative found within the original television series albeit explored in a different light.

    It is also interesting that you mentioned Sakura Suzuhara, who I found to be an extremely mysterious – and perhaps even important – character within this new interpretation of Evangelion. Even though she has very little screen time in 3.0, her brief discussion with Shinji is very important IMHO, hinting at her perhaps being a major character in 4.0. I believe that subtleties are important, and the interaction between her and Shinji really stood out to me. Of course, this is all speculation, but it does make for some very interesting speculation nonetheless.

    I really like your idea regarding 4.0 not being the last film in the Rebuild series. Perhaps these Rebuild films are but the catalyst to further explore the universe of Evangelion. I can’t reasonably see 4.0 as being the last film, but hey, the Rebuild film series started out as three films, then turned into four films, so the possibility for even more films (or series) is certainly a plausible reality at this point.

  • Renan Ribeiro Vilela

    What a great job! Amazing review. Can’t wait to see the movie!

  • Warren MacClean

    I think the biggest disappointment with the film was that rather than picking up where 2.0 left off and finally answering the questions surrounding the Mark.06, Seele, Kaji, and Mari, 3.0 threw all of those story elements aside and instead gave us a world in which “everything that we had been waiting 3 years to see has happened”.

    Absolutely none of the original teaser shots made it into the film. And everything that was said to be relvealed in 3.0 was not even mentioned throughout the entire film. Its as though we waited 3 and a half years for our main course, our “steak” if you will, and instead were handed a bag of barbeque chips. We should be angry about this, but we waited so long, so hungry for what we were promised, that when we were finally given “somethng” we took it as the greatest course of the meal. Even though it was just chips and not our cursed steak.

    That’s 3.0. Not what we were promised. Just chips.

  • Kamille

    Just watched it… Horrible movie. -__-

  • Rafael Vazquez

    I liked it. :p