We frequently have movie nights here, with a varying assortment of friends and family. Without question, our most unsuccessful movie night ever was Evangelion 2.22
And I do mean ever.
We actually had a fairly large crowd that night, and while most of them hadn’t seen 1.11, some of us had (although, yes, it had been a while) and I had no reason to suspect the coming disaster. After all, the first had been fairly straightforward giant mecha versus alien monsters sort of fare. But the second was a confusing mess, and no one enjoyed it. I ended up apologizing to everyone with weak comments about how we’d seen the first one and it was okay.
So, as you can imagine, I went into this one with low expectations.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised that this one starts out remarkably well.
Shinji, the hero of the series, awakes after the events of the last film to find that fourteen years have passed. No one will tell him what’s going on, and, what’s worse, his former friends treat him as an enemy. There are even questions about whether he is, in fact, Shinji.
The world is in ruins, thanks to the third impact, his EVA has apparently been scrapped and rebuilt as a new warship, the Wunder, and even though he’s been revived by his friends, it turns out that they are no longer part of NERV. Instead they’re part of a new organization, WILLE, which is trying to destroy NERV.
And it is this beginning – with its mysteries and frustrations, the long gaps in what we slowly learn of the events, and Shinji’s increasing feeling of isolation – which is the strongest part of the film.
This leads to another strong sequence where Shinji meets the mysterious Kaworu, who has been chosen to be his copilot on the brand-new EVA 13, and immediately forms a strong bond with him. Only Shinji’s Father has some sort of (probably) sinister plan going and Kaworu is part of it. Maybe.
However, that’s when the giant mecha action everyone’s been waiting for finally starts and the story starts getting very murky…
I’ve only ever seen a few chapters of the original series, and would hardly describe myself as a fan. So I don’t have a lot invested in the characters or in the original story. From what I’ve heard, while the first two reboot movies closely followed the original, this one is a radical departure. The fourteen year gap is new, and it certainly seems a strange change – although it does give the film a certain dramatic strength it would have had otherwise.
But, for a film that was originally supposed to “end” the series (a fact noted by the subtitle “Kyu”, here rendered as “Q”, which is a term used for the final act of a Kabuki play), with the fourth film merely repeating the same events from a different perspective, far too many issues are left unresolved. We never learn what his father’s plan is, or whether it will make man evolve, or whether it is good or evil. There’s enough philosophical talk for two or three Mamoru Oshii films, but none of it seems to mean much.
But, however murky and meaningless, it is an amazing final battle. Which will keep the fanboys happy.
So, yes, I enjoyed this film. But its murky metaphysical messiness does get in the way of enjoying all that mecha action.
Which is why we’re there, after all.