Why I don't rate the Rebuild of Evangelion movies all that highly

March 3, 2014

Back in my best N in 2013 entry I mentioned that while I'd seen all three currently available Rebuild of Evangelion movies in 2013, none of them made my year-end list for reasons beyond the scope of that entry. Today I feel like elaborating on that passing remark.

Fundamentally the reason I don't find the movies really impressive is that I've already seen both Neon Genesis Evangelion (the TV series) and End of Evangelion. Having seen both, there is not much really new and impressive that the Rebuild movies bring to the table. There are two sides to this, one for the TV series and one for EoE.

While the production values of the first two movies are higher than the TV series, the TV series covers basically the same ground in more depth and as a result has more fully developed and interesting characters. This is really what you'd expect because the TV series simply has more time. The movie hits the high points and adds some twists but its limited time forces it to simplify many elements (often ones I quite like) and I don't think it really adds more than one or two new things to compensate for this (the 'seaside' scene was nice but about it). Rebuild's desire to retread most of the same ground confines it and lessens it.

As for the third movie, it's mostly incoherent and unexciting as a movie (although it has some spectacular action sequences). What it really is is yet another giant Anno gesture in the direction of the fans, and as mentioned I've already seen Anno's first version of that. End of Evangelion is in many ways the ultimate middle finger to fans and I saw it years ago. By now yet more gestures from Anno to the fans have lost their ability to shock and impress me; now my reaction is more 'what, again?' (with a side of 'haven't you got tired of this yet?').

(The other difference between You Can (Not) Redo and End of Evangelion is that EoE tells a coherent and powerful story that just happens to be brutally ugly and 3.0 doesn't really. EoE is successful as a movie, not just as a gesture to fans.)

So the short version is: the Rebuild movies look nice but they aren't doing anything particularly new and interesting and they aren't significantly great purely as movies. This still makes them decent movies that I didn't regret watching but they're not 'best N in 2013' material.

(The first two movies are probably close to the best that they could be under the circumstances, but I tend to think that almost any relatively faithful movie retelling of a good TV series is going to suffer because of having less time. The movies did have some stabs at departing from the straight and narrow of the TV series but I didn't find those compelling enough on their own merits.)

I do accept that Anno is trying to say things to and about the Evangelion fandom; see Bobduh for one analysis of this. I'm just not particularly compelled by Anno's commentary, at least wrapped up in this form. To put it unkindly, being meta does not automatically make you interesting.

Written on 03 March 2014.
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Last modified: Mon Mar 3 18:07:33 2014
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