I don’t want to say something like, “With Q, Eva really has jumped the shark,” or, “Q is a giant disappointment after three long years of anticipation,” because neither of those things are the case. That said… it’s not a very good movie.
I saw this movie twice. Including train fare, I paid a lot to see this movie two times in a theater. I would have written a review right after seeing the film like I did with 2.0, but this movie is a real punch to the balls. The game is completely changed, and much like Shinji, you spend the entire movie dazed and confused, and before you know it, you’re dropped off at a really bad cliffhanger. It didn’t help that 50% of the script flew over my head, but then again all the Japanese people came out of the theater with lingering murmurs of “wakannnai (I don’t get it)” floating through the air. A guy even asked if I understood the damn thing–to which I admitted confusion–and then went on to say that he was just as confused as I was.
I had to see this again with a clear mind. Knowing now that this film refuses to explain itself, instead of worrying about when the explanation will come, I wanted to see if this movie actually works as a movie. And it is upon this second viewing that one realizes all the characters have turned to shit, the story is kind of half-baked, and that new Eva actually just looks kind of dumb. Also, what was once a genuine relationship between Shinji and Kaworu in that twenty-forth episode of the TV series turns into pure fujoshi fodder in this film. And guess what: That’s most of the film.
Another major part of this movie is the End of Evangelion-esque imagery that tries to top that film, but instead just feels like more of the same, and not really done quite as well. There’s only so many times you can make the Eva go crazy super-powers-berserk before it just gets old.
But honestly? These characters. I’d be fine with a remix of End of Evangelion imagery if the film had just kept the characterization solid. Everyone in this movie is a total shitba–excuse me–hardened badasses due to the Hell-on-Earth they live in. They let you know just how much they’ve become badasses, too. When Shinji offers to pilot the Eva, Misato shoots him a cold glare, and tells him, “Don’t do anything”; Asuka busts in with her eye-patch, punches something, and tells Shinji that they have no need for his wimpy attitude in their cold and harsh world; and never mind that in the climax of the film, Shinji announces his motivations quite clearly, just in case the audience doesn’t understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. Simply put, for a franchise built on small quiet moments and subtle nuances, this movie isn’t really subtle at all. The TV series obviously had its over-the-top moments, but it went out of its way to portray its characters as realistic people with realistic problems. The characters in Q are simply caricatured, flat, and soulless beings.
The action doesn’t save this film, either. While Eva has consistently had well-done action all the way until 2.0, Q drops the ball. While the film’s opening scene managed to entertain me while in a drunken haze at A-Button when they aired the first few minutes of the film on television, other than that scene, the film’s action isn’t very good. Even that first scene raises some eyebrows, but it works as a quick, flashy way to grab the audience’s attention, similar to 2.0’s opening scene.
The action in the original Evangelion is very physical and brutal, and that’s what makes it compelling. Sure, sometimes Misato has a wacky plan, and the Evas make use of their weapons at times, but to really defeat the Angels, the Evas have to wrestle them down with their bare hands. A lot of this film’s action focuses more on the procedures and the weapons, and less on physical combat. And the physical combat that is there just feels thrown in to make the audience remember that this is in fact Eva, and in Eva robots wrestle each other, and it gets really bloody!
The action is also simply difficult to follow. The Angels have gotten abstract to the point where watching them being taken down is neither exciting nor interesting–it’s just weird, and kind of boring. The Evas have also have a few new variations along with new weapons, to the point where they feel gimmicky, kind of like some of the sillier Gundam designs, and this focus on weapons and equipment takes away the kineticism that made the original battles in Eva fun to watch.
Also, Mari’s Eva looks really dumb.
But moving away from specifics like fight choreography, the film just looks bad in sections. The worst parts can be attributed mostly to the franchise’s ever increasing use of 3D CG animation. I think the Evangelions look fine in CG, but a lot of the other machinery in this film doesn’t come out quite as nicely. The film attempts to ape live action film techniques by moving the camera dynamically through its settings. In live action film, moving the camera around is easy to do, but in animation, framing of static shots for characters to move around in is more important. As such, this weird mix of badly copying live action techniques with poor CG alongside traditional animation is just jarring. The film has exactly one good part where it makes good use of 3D environments: It’s a POV shot where Shinji is being brought into a mysterious place he–and the audience–hasn’t seen before. It’s well rendered, subtle, and convincingly puts you into Shinji’s shoes. But all the other attempts to move the camera around just look bad, and the movie gives up on it after the first fifteen or twenty minutes.
Another aspect of the film’s presentation that kills it is its use of anime abstraction and short-hand. Eva is no stranger to abstraction, but in the TV series it’s always artistic to the highest degree, and the show hardly ever falls back on conventional anime short-hand, if at all. The designs are most certainly Anime with a capital A, but the manner in which the show is shot and presented is similar to a film. Q has an awful montage depicting Shinji and Kaworu playing the piano, composed only of slow pans over still images, with that CG piano they had in that one Q preview layered over it. As far as I remember, the original Evangelion only has one montage, and it’s brilliantly animated. Shinji also has a freak-out scene that seems less like an Eva mindtrip and just another half-assed scene from Any Random Anime depicting someone freaking out. It’s run-of-the-mill, and doesn’t feel theatrical at all.
The music isn’t even that great. Up until this point Sagisu has made good use of the choir to add healthy amounts of gravitas to certain scenes, but in this film it just feels overused. Eva has also never been afraid to thrown in some corny rock guitar or deviate from the typical orchestral fare when needed, but it feels out of place and simply bad in parts of this film. The worst part is shoehorning Beethoven in when it isn’t needed.
Given the way in which the story drops the viewer in the middle of things without much in the way explanation, the movie offers nothing compelling in the way of its presentation or characterization to make up for it, and the few solid story points that the film does throw at you aren’t that great. Similar to the film’s remixed End of Eva imagery, the plot points just feel like remixed Eva plot points. I realize that’s the point of Rebuild, but given how much the game is changed setting-wise, the story just feels routine in comparison.
The main problem with this film is that while it tries to shock the audience by throwing a bunch of new things in their face, the film forgets to make any of those new things good, and just falls back on cliche, along with poorly mimicking aspects of the original. It’s good that Eva’s breaking out of its mold with this film, but it abandons key aspects that make Eva good, from the designs to the writing. I don’t want to make the “It doesn’t feel like Eva” criticism, because it’s okay to not feel like Eva, but at least feel like something good, and not like some really cliche anime. It doesn’t help that various plot points from the previous film are hardly even mentioned in this one.
When it comes right down to it, this film feels like fanfiction. It’s filled with dumb things fans would probably find cool, but in practice, they simply don’t work. This goes back to the film’s handling of its characters–it’s as if all the characters are boiled down to the key traits that fans remember, and are stripped of everything that made them feel human. Asuka yells “BAKA SHINJI” (okay, she upgrades to GAKI SHINJI), Rei is silent as usual, Gendou is cold as ice, Mari is irritating, while Shinji and Kaworu reenact scenes from boys love manga.
That said, there is some good in this film. There’s a very convincing sense of bleakness in the film’s various settings, giving it a nice post-apocalyptic feel. Things such as Shinji’s meals composed entirely of solid blocks of color, and vast expanses of destroyed walls and walkways are great touches. Shinji’s descent into madness is also compelling and convincing. And even though the film is a mess of cliches, the fact that Anno and his crew at Khara are trying something completely new is refreshing.
With that said, one paragraph of praise after several of harsh criticism isn’t very good for Q. I want to like this film, but after a few conversations with other friends who’ve seen it, I think we can all agree: Neon Genesis Evangelion is headed in the wrong direction, much like Gendou’s taste in eyewear.
From this point on I’m going to run through some specific points about the movie in detail, so if you don’t want to be completely spoiled, don’t read any further.
- I like Misato’s new gang of minions, but they seem pointless given they have very little time to shine. Also, their ship isn’t cool at all.
- Kaworu making teasing appearances in the previous films only to explode into blood and guts in this movie seems like a waste.
- The “TOUJI’S DEAD” reveal felt a little heavy-handed.
- Evangelion Unit 13 having two sets of eyes, four arms, and two entry plugs is, quite honestly, rather silly. So is the need to pull two spears out of Lilith’s corpse simultaneously.
- The film makes a lot of questionable design choices. I’m fine with futuristic, Diebuster-eqsue designs, but I’m not fine with giving Yui metal angel wings when they flashback to when she’s put into the Eva’s core.
- None of the scenes in the preview at the end of 2.0 are actually in this film. Those scenes are also way more compelling than anything that happens in this film. Even if Khara were to make a prequel to Q using those scenes, it wouldn’t excuse the fact that this movie isn’t very good. The same goes for the finale–I don’t care how good it might be, this film just isn’t good.