A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone

August 11, 2011

Neon Genesis: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone

Neon Genesis Evangelion was still relatively new when Amanda and I first watched the series. TLA Video had just about every episode of the series on the shelf (dubbed VHS I believe) when we worked there in the late nineties, and although the series was renowned at the time it was not acclaimed as it is today as one of the greatest and most completely befuddling anime series ever created. Indeed I am pretty sure that we started watching the series before all of it had yet been imported to America, so we had to wait in eager anticipation for the last two tapes to come out here and we got to scratch our heads in wonder when the series reached it’s completely strange climax.

The genius for me of Neon Genesis was that it started out as such a typical anime show. It’s the story of a fourteen year old boy who is forced by circumstance and by his uncaring father to pilot a giant robot to defend the Earth from giant invading aliens. There were little hints, even in the early episodes and in the opening credits, of some of the grander schemes afoot, but for the first few episodes this series was very familiar territory, with a different monster each week to be defeated by Shinji and his Eva unit. Of course there was much more than that. There was the mystery of what the “angel” attackers were, why they were bent on breaking into Nerv headquarters, what was the mysterious event called “second impact” which had so radically changed the Earth around the time Shinji was born, what role did his father play in things, and just what exactly was the giant machine he was piloting. As the series progressed it became clear that the world was much deeper and more complex than it at first appeared, and I loved that slow reveal. (In much the same way that I love the meticulous construction of the world Alan Moore created for Watchmen.)

Although the story told in the original Neon Genesis series has a very definite end this is in many ways the show that will not die. So great had its success become, and so confusing was its end that it continued to spawn new projects years after it was done. There were two movies based on the series – Death and Rebirth and End of Evangelion. Death and Rebirth is a pretty dense thing to get through because it’s a sort of “greatest hits” of the entire series, compressing 22 or so episodes into a single two hour experience. Then there’s End of Evangelion, which I have heard described as an alternative to the last two episodes in the series that presents more action and answers and less metaphysics and philosophy. There was also a “director’s cut” of the series that was released while I was working at Suncoast which is pretty much the whole series re-mastered and with some newer digital effects.

This movie is something completely different. In 2007 a project was begun to re-make Neon Genesis, preserving the character design, characters and overall plot, but doing it with a much bigger budget and with the benefit of hindsight. This re-make is intended to take the form of (I believe) four feature length theatrical films, although to date only two of them have come out. Knowing full well how confusing the end of the series is the makers of this movie have gone to considerable effort to start layering in the overarching plot much earlier. Shinji’s father is seen talking much more with his bosses in Seele – the conspiracy behind the Human Instrumentality Project, and it’s made much more clear that some kind of apocalyptic endgame is being planned by them.

I absolutely loved this film. We watched it in Blu Ray on my new computer’s hi-def widescreen monitor and it looks absolutely spectacular. I love seeing elements of the plot of the series being introduced much earlier in the new version, and I also loved all the familiar faces and scenes from the original. The lavish big-budget treatment and extensive use of computer effects fits very well with the epic story and lager than life creations in the world of Eva. This movie is a treat for the eyes, particularly near the end when things really begin to get blown up.

I will admit that I found some changes from the series jarring. Since this is in movie form the opening credits, which were one of my favorite parts of the series, are gone. Shinji’s first time piloting the Eva unit is significantly different than how I remembered it in the series – in particular I missed the moment when the Eva’t helmet gets damaged and a giant eye emerges, seeming to look right at Shinji in the reflection in a skyscraper. Also, part of the whole point of that first encounter was that the Eva seemed to come to life after all was lost, and when in theory it should be unable to move because its external power supply was disconnected and its charge was run down. I miss details like that. Oh, and I really miss “Fly Me to the Moon” over the closing credits.

I’m very much looking forward now to watching the second movie in the new series. I haven’t bought it yet, but I will be soon. Then it’s going to be a mighty long wait for the other two films. If they even come out.

I kind of hope that the proposed live action film never gets off the ground. Everything I’ve heard about the dreadful live action Akira makes me dread what might be done to this other anime classic.

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August 11, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , ,

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