Film muse – Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance

Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance
(ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版: 破)
Directors: Hideaki Anno (chief), Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Runtime: 108mins
Release date: 2009
Starring: Megumi Ogata, Megumi Hayashibara, Yuko Miyamura, Kotono Mitsuishi, Maaya Sakamoto

Pornography. You know the form. Maybe not seen all that much of it, but even for just the once, you must have endured (or more likely, enjoyed) the gratuitousness of the spectacle.

That is what Evangelion: 2.0 is in a word. The second installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy is quite simply gratuitous exhibitionism; a gaggle of wantonly extravagant visual simulacra, forced into an artificial singularity, informed by primal impulses and culminating in endorphine-inducing climaxes. It satiates the baser instincts of the Eva-fan, and placates the confusion of the ignorant n00b – so everyone wins, no?

Not quite. Director-in-chief Hideaki Anno had pledged that the four-part retelling of his 1995 cult classic Neon Genesis Evangelion would be accessible to the uninitiated. Perhaps unsurprisingly as a result, somewhere on Studio Khara‘s planning room floor subtlety and nuance lie in repose. Something beautiful about the original series – its open invitation to viewers to engage with and explore itself – is lost. Yet how else could you hope to elucidate to the unknowing rabble a postmodern apocalyptic narrative, gravely burdened with religious symbolism and Freudian overtones?

To be sure, the film was never meant to be a standalone feature, and none of the Rebuild of Evangelion films can or will work as independent entities. But one might argue that such an episodic application is antithetical to the essence of the medium, and if nothing else, makes it harder still for the newcomer to the Evangelion franchise to bed in. The inability of an individual Rebuild film to stand and entertain on its own terms is as much a barrier to entry as is the heavygoing plot.

There is no merit in having a synopsis here. The Eva-savvy would need no primer, while lay viewers will be well-advised to begin where they ought to – with Evangelion: 1.0 – and go on to discover the plot for themselves. It will suffice to note that unlike the first film, which was essentially a visually souped-up amalgamation of episodes one to six, Evangelion: 2.0 is where the “rebuilding” truly begins. Significant plot changes occur, and a new female character slips in (but you already knew that).

I also resist the easy temptation to draw insight into the plots differences. With two more films to come, it would be highly premature to criticise certain unsatisfactory elements – absence of character development, for example – which may yet make good. What I will examine is the film’s narrative quality, which, as you might have guessed, did not fare me well.

Ostensibly dumbed down to give access to a lay audience, the film inevitably drifts on occasion into abject banality. Dialogue is the most obvious casualty. Perhaps afraid that the characters’ psychological turmoil wouldn’t permeate the audience, Anno resorts to cheap emotionalism – uncharacterisitically cringeworthy outbursts, so artlessly (even desperately, as in the case of Ritsuko in the final battle sequence) inserted.

Then there is the tawdry plot device. To explain it would be to spoil it, so I shall not. But you most certainly wouldn’t miss it. “Blatant” was never more apt an adjective.

Visuals could have been the one thing the film had going for it. They, in and of themselves, don’t disappoint; intricately animated, and at times truly majestic. But though spectacular they may be, the graphics threaten to overwhelm – so dominant they are on the screen. In contrast to Mamoru Oshii and Satoshi Kon’s glorious yet measured backdrops that enrich the cinematic ambience, Anno’s are spellbindingly detrimental to the narrative.

Every action scene it seems is an orgy of countless painstakingly rendered detail vying for simultaneous attention. Unlike the television series, where the credits and a new rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon” offer a couple of minutes for plot ingestion, such a luxury is impossible in the film. The result is a relentless narrative pace, made even more brusque by the visual distractions.

Perhaps its the deal with the devil Anno felt he had to cut – having already sacrificed artful nuance for general accessibility, the only compensation he can offer to the fan is the renewal of the cosmetic glory that time had plundered from his 14-year-old masterpiece. And if so, he overcompensated for it, inundating the screen with distractingly loud graphics. It’s all too much at times, overloading your senses, impairing your cognitive abilities, throwing you off the narrative. Somewhere in the film lies a lament for good cinematography.

Yet this trade-off was made, rightly or wrongly, and Evangelion: 2.0 is that much poorer for it. The consolation perhaps resides in the promise that the Rebuild will come good and make sense in the fullness of time.

Until then, this film will remain the object of onanistic fanboy obsessions and a platform for spurious, speculative fantasising. Or if it had failed to arrest your imagination, it would at least have indulged the primordial you with bursts of fleeting climax.

You know the form.


~ by spiegel2071 on November 24, 2009.

3 Responses to “Film muse – Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance”

  1. > Perhaps unsurprisingly as a result, somewhere on Studio Khara‘s planning room floor, subtlety and nuance lie repose.

    Your grammar broke towards the end.

  2. Sacrificed artful nuance? Hmmm… Compared strictly to the original, I agree with you in a general sense. Yet there are new moments of beauty from 2.0 that really impressed me. I truly welcome the character changes too. They are all less damaged, but we’ve already got a show about that, don’t we? I also can’t say the dialogue is dumbed down any. The film is very complex for a film, and perhaps that’s the way we need to look at Rebuild in general.

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