Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo – Review
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.
Author: Miguel Douglas
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