Saturday, June 5, 2010

Evangelion 2.22: You (Can) Not Advance

I watched Eva 2.22 the other day.

In truth, I still kind of don't know what I watched. I mean, I know what I watched. I knew, from people who'd seen the raws or the original screenings in Japan what would happen.

Despite all that, I still don't really know what I watched. Allow me to explain below.

I want to break down my review of 2.22 into two parts: the first on the movie as it stands, the second on how it deviates from the NGE continuity and how those changes work.

Like its predecessor, 2.22 maintains a brisk theatrical pace, starting with battle, taking a break to put the characters in the right mental and social states, and then knocking them down the way Evangelion always does. Compared to television, it does seem fairly fast, but less so then 1.11, which I'll explain a bit later.

Character interaction is a times both subtle and blunt. Shinji is glad to see Rei at the aquarium, and Rei's reaction to his offer of food is a bit muted. Her offer to Gendo to come to a dinner she'll prepare, however, is anything but. Asuka's last conversation with Misato before entering Unit 03 is almost too sophisticated and self-aware (which is also, in a train wreck sort of way, why it's more painful to know she's going there). Shinji's portrayal after leaving Eva and piloting, particularly his conversation with Misato, is also way too adult for my taste, but then, perhaps this is meant to signify how he's not really looking at the world the way a child, a 14-year-old, would. Or perhaps that he's trying to look at things as an adult and just coming off a little wrong. At any rate, despite the pace, emotions seem real and true, at least to me, and that makes them effective.

Perhaps in true Eva fashion, however, plot seems like a bit of a secondary concern. We don't even know why Asuka's in the vicinity when she saves Shinji and Misato in her entrance. Mari's reasons for "invading" Japan aren't really elaborated upon, and it seems like a convenient excuse to have her be there for the final battle. Granted, some things can't or won't be explained yet, but these really stand out as things that are odd without the strong possibility of explanation in the future. The Vatican Treaty is simply there, again for no discernable reason, just to handcuff the pilots. And let's not even get started on the mind trip that is Shinji's descent to save Rei. That, however, at least might get some explanation in 3.0. Or will it be 3.33?

As I said, though, no discussion of this film is really complete without comparison to the television series. On its face, the idea of Mari makes sense, even if the thought that she's Japanese in America kind of doesn't. That Asuka is a captain and so forth? Sure, I buy that, and her entrance was impressive, if lacking in the chance to really bond with Shinji. She makes up for that, though, and her doll complex is still there, albeit without the same details. Rei and Asuka seem to come to an understanding, which is admittedly pretty cool, and Rei, despite having a less emotional first reaction to Shinji's kindness, seems more affected by it than in the series. That too is fun to see. And while the roles of Misato, Ritsuko, and Kaji seem a hair diminished, Misato still has an important role to play, Ritsuko is still (directly or not) her balance, and Kaji is still making his moves, too. I think, for packaging this series into movies, this one was pretty good.

But by now, the New Movie Edition series has gone Off The Rails, so who knows what'll happen. 2.22 is a fun movie. It's also unabashedly brutal emotionally and graphically. I found myself just laughing out loud during the most horrific scenes, in part because I couldn't believe they would go to such lengths to amp up the gore. But don't take that to mean it was ineffective. Maybe that's just how I react to the insanity of it.

Edit: and finally, let me say that now and forever, when Megumi Hayashibara starts singing, Eva fans will know it's time for the world to go to hell. And that's okay, because it was kind of wicked crazy.

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