ANIME & MANGA - Review
14:55 - 23rd June 2016, by NEO Staff

Evangelion 3.33

The third instalment of Hideaki Anno’s reboot of the Evangelion franchise is the first of the feature films to radically depart from the plot of the classic TV series. As such it offers new storylines, situations and characters, but it presents a tricky proposition for both longstanding fans and newcomers. Warning – some spoilers ahead.

After Shinji’s determination to save Rei Ayanami resulted in mass destruction at the end of Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, the angst-ridden young Eva pilot wakes up 14 years later in a world he scarcely recognises. The Eva pilots, including Asuka and Mari, have not aged in the interim; NERV’s headquarters is a shell of its former glory, while a new group, WILLE (unfortunately pronounced as willy) fights both the invading angels and NERV’s Eva units.

As Shinji struggles to come to terms with his new surroundings, he finds a friend in another pilot, the enigmatic Kaworu, who encourages him to play the piano. Together they jointly pilot an Eva unit on a mission to recover the Spears of Cassius and Longinus, which Kaworu promises can be used to set the world to rights.

Evangelion 3.33 starts fast, jumping straight in with a hefty jolt of action and spectacle, which is what the film does best. It looks amazing, packed full of striking design work and explosive animation. The script, on the other hand, struggles with too many characters to give anyone enough time to resonate, and suffers from dialogue laden down with clunky technobabble. The screenplay – and the characters onscreen – deals in opaque references and unexplained jargon. Much of the plotting feels contrived – on the mission to find the Spears, Kaworu wants to call a halt, but Shinji, for no apparent reason, suddenly decides to ignore his co-pilot’s frantic appeals to stop.

There’s no trace at all of the humour in Evangelion 2.0, and certainly no comic relief penguins. Asuka is a ball of constant rage while Shinji is whinier and needier than ever. Mari, one of the new characters introduced to the franchise by the movies, is thoroughly sarcastic, but there’s no sense of what drives her, and her contribution to the story is marginal. Kaworu has a much more central role to play, yet his character remains impenetrable. Sure, clumsy expo dumps are never welcome, but Eva 3.33 desperately needs to slow down long enough for someone to explain something to Shinji instead of barrelling along to the next chaotic action scene or emotional outburst.

Regarding that latter subject, on the plus side, the animation in the sequence showing Shinji’s latest mental breakdown is mind-melting. However, Anno’s direction typically favours form over function. In one particularly silly example, Shinji’s emotionally distant father Gendo appears, standing in a perfectly aimed spotlight that even fades out once he turns and walks away. Is he followed at all times by his own personal lighting crew, to insure the maximum dramatic impact of his every utterance? Apparently somebody has a bad case of diva syndrome.

Besides the intense action scenes and impressive visuals, Anno’s third film leaves the viewer with little but unanswered questions. Established fans may be frustrated by the sluggish pace of the plot, while newbies will likely be baffled by the script’s refusal to explain much of anything. The long awaited finale, Evangelion 4.0, will have a lot to clear up!
SCORE: 2.5/5
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