Hopefully most people who are interested have now had some time to digest Evangelion 3.33. But for the sake of anyone who hasn’t, or who doesn’t want their interpretation of events to be colored by other people’s opinions, I’ll keep this quasi-review spoiler free.
For this post I just want to describe the experience of Evangelion 3.33. I think this release is much more of an occasion than 2.22 or 1.11 were, although that’s something you can only fully grasp after having seen the film.
For starters, it came out more than three years after Evangelion 2.0. Evangelion 2.0 came out a little less than two years after 1.0, so even by Khara standards this latest movie took a while to make. It’s been six years since the New Movie Edition tetralogy started!
If you were looking forward to the movie shown in the post-credits teaser of 2.22, this is not that movie. If you loved the movie continuity, then 3.33 is a radical departure from everything you’ve come to love. As a fan, I couldn’t help but feel some resentment at first. Loose ends were left untied, plot threads were dropped left and right, and everything was just different.
As I’ve discussed with a friend of mine, the effect is like this: imagine seeing the first two Hangover movies. The trailer for Hangover 3 comes out and gets you very excited. You happily buy your ticket and the movie starts rolling… and it turns out that Hangover 3 is actually the first half of Children of Men. I know this is an unrealistic analogy because nobody loves the Hangover franchise this much, but you could imagine the what-the-fuck-ness if this were to happen.
Evangelion 3.33 will make you feel like the rug has been pulled from under you. Your expectations have been building for six years leading up to this, but literally none of them will be fulfilled. it feels barren and interminable despite its relatively short runtime. Not much happens, most of what does happen lacks any sort of context, and there doesn’t seem to be a shred of story logic. It does an excellent job of making you feel lost and confused, which I guess puts you into Shinji’s shoes quite adequately.
I didn’t enjoy Evangelion 3.33 for those reasons. It’s not merely poor relative to my expectations; I think Khara just did not make a good film. But I think in the context of the entire tetralogy, we’ll start to view 3.33 very differently. The third movie is a jolt to the system for sure, but it opens the doors to questions and speculation. If nothing else, 3.33 has forced fans to examine the first two movies and the NME series as a whole. Being an Evangelion fan, I’ve found that having questions has been far more fun than having answers.
There is richness to Evangelion 3.33 even if the skin-deep description of the story looks pretty flimsy. I think it’s bad storytelling, but it does strike me as a film designed for Eva fans. It made me think: when was the last time I had such conflicted feelings about Evangelion? When was the last time I had so many questions and felt an obsessive need to answer them? When was the last time I pored over every frame of footage looking for clues?
You can’t really look at Evangelion 3.33 on its own, because then you wouldn’t get the full experience. It’s not a good movie, honestly. But I think it jumpstarts the New Movie Edition continuity, making it something unique and exciting. That’s my perspective as an Eva fan. We have stopped watching a reboot or a retelling of a familiar story; we’re now looking at a new story with perhaps a new purpose. The caveat is this: the next film must deliver. If Evangelion Final (or Evangelion: Bold Double Bar Line, or whatever it’ll be called) continues on the trajectory of 3.33, offering up more out-of-context events without any logic behind them, then we can probably close the book of the New Movie Edition tetralogy and call it a failure.
In short, I guess I’m trying to say there better be a point to all this. The fact that we have to wonder about that makes Evangelion 3.33 a bad movie. But we don’t have the full picture, so I don’t want to come down too hard on it. There’s one more movie coming, so there’s still a chance that 3.33 can be enriching to the series as a whole.