Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Revisit Evangelion: 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance

(One of the first reoccurring columns on TTDS was my revisiting of The Neon Genesis Evangelion. An anime series that shaped an awful lot of my taste while alienating an awful lot of people. Around the same time I decided to revisit the series so did creator Hideaki Anno, who is directing four movies that retell the story. That’s being covered here.)

The Revisit Evangelion has risen from the grave and damned if I know quite what to make out of it.

The first Evangelion Movie You Are (Not) Alone, was a fairly straightforward retelling of the series, which made some key adjustments to character and plot, some intriguing alterations to the mythology and in the end felt like a well done, beautifully animated piece of fine tuning. In hindsight, it’s not that surprising, after all Evangelion 1.11 was based on a set of episodes with a relatively neat narrative arc. Evangelion 2.22 on the other hand takes a swift left turn into crazy town, the title almost seems like a taunt. Evangelion 2.22 doesn’t just advance the Evangelion mythos it for all intents and purposes rewrites them (including the addition of a suspiciously Poochie like new pilot).

This feels, even more so than The End Of Evangelion which I regard more as a bizarre public display of petulance than a coherent artistic statement, like a conscience attempt to push the Evangelion brand as far as it could possibly go. On those terms I suppose Evangelion 2.22 succeeds. But it’s as if your friend decides to crash his car into a wall. Perhaps he has succeeded in doing so, but now he has a car that has its front end smashed in and as the paramedic’s snap him into his neck brace you can detect the look in his eyes as he wonders if this was a good idea or not.

Like I said this is Evangelion turned up to eleven. Most of the elements that were offputting have become more so. If you thought the plot was needlessly murky before wait until you see the principles hanging out on the moon! If you thought the the religious jargon was nonsensical before, well now it’s really sloppily done! If the fan service made you uncomfortable before, well now you get to see what happens when GAINAX really puts its mind to be tawdry! The Violence of Eva make you squeamish? Well prepare for some TRULY ghastly shit (Spoiler: And I’m sorry, I’m well aware that anime violence operates by different rules but there is no way Asuka would have survived that beating. It’s to the point were the disconnect between the sequence and its consequence is distracting, borderline irresponsible and just plane bad storytelling). At times the characters seem aghast not at what is happening, but at what movie they are in.

Yet I would be lying if I said that the approach was entirely unsuccessful. The set of episodes that Eva 2.22 covers (for lack of a better word) are among some of my favorite scifi in any medium, and it can't help retain some of their power. The battles between the Evas and Angels have a sense of genuine awe, and retain their source material’s feel of other worldliness. The unfathomable geometric entities of The angels, have turned into something that Harlan Ellison sees when he has a really fucking bad trip. There is a sense of wonder, of immensity, and awe that the best of Eva careers. And it is present in Evangelion 2.22 and for those moments alone it is worth watching.

Evangelion 2.22 feels oddly like the perfect companion piece for Sucker Punch. Both films wrap the proverbial car around the tree in the end, but man watching them do it is really something to see.


Matt Keeley said...

Personally I thought the Dummy Plug sequence was significantly less disturbing in Revisit – the cracking of the entry plug seems less violent, for one thing. Moreover the character in the Eva is far less disposable than her television counterpart. Asuka is not going to be killed off an hour after her introduction.

Bryce Wilson said...

I don't know man in the original series Eva 01 breaks the plug with his hand and then kind of gets bored and throws it away.

In this one it takes the plug in its teeth and grind it. Anything inside would be a fine gooey paste afterwards.

Matt Keeley said...

I'd have to watch both scenes again to judge which disturbs me more. Perhaps the original had more impact because I wasn't expecting Eva to become so very unpleasant. I also really like the way the show intercuts between the battle and what's-her-name showing up at Toji's house. The film spends some time establishing Toji, then does nothing with him. Perhaps in Eva 3.0?