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Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 22 June 2011 10:44
Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) AloneLet's not beat around the bush: Neon Genesis Evangelion was one of the most influential and popular anime series of its day, a license to print money for pretty much every company involved in releasing it (and witness the many re-releases ADV Films gave it back in the day for evidence of its drawing power). So what happens when you hit the reboot button on a universe that's so well-known? Let's find out...

The year is 2015, and half of the Earth's population is dead, victims of a disaster at the turn of the millennium dubbed the Second Impact and thought to have been the result of a cataclysmic meteor strike on Antarctica. In fact, the event was brought about by human interaction with a race of alien beings known only as Angels. To defend the earth against future attacks from the Angels, humans were forced to utilize the Angels’ alien technology in creating a new breed of bio-engineered vessels, the Evangelions, giant robot-like weapons piloted by human youths. Answering a summons from his estranged, enigmatic, scientist father, 14-year-old Shinji Ikari arrives in the rebuilt city of Tokyo-3 just as another Angel attacks, only to learn that he is next in line to pilot an Evangelion and defend the city, and ultimately the planet, from the rampaging alien force...

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Excuse the lack of real screenshots for this one - I lack the ability to take captures of Blu-ray discs, and the promo images supplied for the release are of a slightly different (albeit very pretty) nature. I have a bit of a mixed history to reboots - of those that I've seen, only Battlestar Galactica could be considered a success, with many others littering the sidelines and showing how not to do it. It would also be fair to say, though, that Evangelion had scope for starting again, given the mess that the latter part of the series turned into, and that the initial End of Evangelion movie tried to resolve. Try again, do it right - and this time with the added benefit of CGI animation that could make the Evas' battles look suitably epic.

So here we are, with the first of four planned movies, and the one that by design remains closest to the source material. It's essentially a re-imaging of episodes 1-6 of the TV series, with a few minor changes, but fans of the original series will feel right at home with what they're seeing on the screen - the characters and storyline are all as they were, and there's a cosy feeling of familiarity as you watch events unfold on the screen. I was always more of a fan of the almost comic approach that the first half of the TV series took, and that's recreated quite well too. Gendo Ikari's trademark pose, Rei's lack of emotion, Misato's boundless energy - they're all here. Along with Shinji's incessant whining, but then it wouldn't really be Evangelion without it. Welcome back, old friends. The mysterious plans of SEELE, the force behind the scenes, also make an early appearance, brought into play far earlier than they originally were (as is a certain character who appears in the movie's final scenes), but so far SEELE seem limited to just being mysterious and getting on Gendo's case about his lack of progress, and don't yet have much in the way of influence over events. If you're looking for the political maneuvering of the TV show's second half to make an appearance, you'll be waiting for a while yet.

If I'm being honest, what I was really waiting to see the first time I watched 1.11 (and I've seen it several times already) was how the action scene had come out of the rebuild. You only have to wait a few minutes into the movie before that happens, as the first Angel battle quite literally explodes into action. This is where the reboot has its most obvious value - a lot of work has clearly gone into the movie's battle scenes, a level of care and attention that makes them as epic in nature as they should be. The visuals are jaw-dropping, and combined with the familiar musical score of the TV series (and a few new pieces, too) the battles are moments of pure awesome.

But that's also where a common criticism has been made of the movie, and it's one that I find I can't really disagree with. In the effort to make things more explosive, more action-packed, something has been lost from the characters themselves: there's less time to devote to developing them, and I was finding that I was relying on memories of what they were like from the TV series to flesh them out, rather than using what the movie was telling me about them - because frankly, it wasn't telling me much. But the characters were a large part of what made Evangelion what it was - take them away, or make them less roundded, less developed people, and you lose a little of what made it so special. Coming to the remake with the background knowledge gained from who knows how many viewings of the original series, I could live with that - but I don't know that I would be so forgiving if I'd been trying to work it all out, with only the movie as my source.

But ultimately, I also can't deny that I had a great time watching - and rewatching - Evangelion 1.11. All-action extravaganzas certainly have their place, and the movie doesn't disappoint on that front. Yes, it's not quite what it was in other departments - but then this is a reboot and not a remake, so it would be a little unfair to hold its differences from the original against it. Well worth picking up.

Rating - *****

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