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Evangelion 3.33 : You Can (Not) Redo (2012)

Neon Genesis Evangelion has to be the most unlikely of mega-hits. The GAINAX 1995 TV show and its subsequent movies dealt with traumatised teens forced to pilot giant robots (that are actually genetically engineered lifeforms) and fight beings known as Angels that have been sent from an unknown source to destroy humanity. It goes to some pretty dark places, but somehow the series managed to become a phenomenon and one of anime's biggest franchises.

The 'Rebuild of Evangelion' movie series is a twenty-first-century reboot planned to span four films. The first rebuild movie Evangelion 1.0 : You Are (Not) Alone was essentially a better-animated remake of some of the highlights of the original series. The second movie Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance, on the other hand made it clear the new series was willing to shake it up and gave even hardcore fans plenty of surprises. Evangelion 3.33 : You Can Not Redo however is where the new series departs from the original entirely. The '3.33' title indicates this is the extended cut rather than the version that originally showed in Japanese cinemas.

Following the events of the climax of the previous film, Shinji Ikari awakens to find everything he knows has changed. Despite having not apparently aged a day, years have passed for everyone else and the world has entered a terrifying new phase. where Misato is now the head of an organisation named WILLE that is fighting against NERV.

It's important to acknowledge the fact that the fan reception to this third chapter has been broadly negative- in some quarters outright hostile. And in some ways it's not hard to see why, as this is definitely not the Evangelion that we are used to. This film takes the story in a radically different direction from the rest of the franchise. If you wanted the Rebuild project to just remake the original story with better animation, (and maybe a more conventional ending) then you're out of luck. If you go into the film with this knowledge up front and just go along with it, chances are you're going to have a much better time.

The rebuild project is designed to be more accessible to newcomers, so it's likely that viewers whose only experience is with the new movies will react much less negatively. In fact, due to their lack of existing expectations, Eva newbies might have the advantage here.

Following an opening action set-piece with Asuka and Mari retrieving Shinji's Unit 1, we are thrown head-first into the movie's intriguing new world. The time-jump has changed everything, and the audience feels as disorientated as Shinji himself. There's a lot of fun to be had seeing how the characters have changed with the passing of time. Asuka now sports an eye-patch -and even more of an attitude than before. Misato has been transformed into a bad-ass military commander in charge of an awesome flying battleship named the Wunder. And as for Gendo? He seems to have become even more ruthless than before.

Oddly, although Shinji has been in suspended animation all that time, his personality also seems different from last time we saw him. He seems slightly more proactive and less reluctant to pilot an Eva than before. At least that is, until a later revelation sees the old, traumatised Shinji as we know him come crashing back.

The movie has a modest selection of well-choreographed action scenes. Those wanting to see the iconic Eva units in action will get their chance here, but this isn't as action heavy as some may have hoped.

Despite the dark subject matter of its story, Evangelion is normally balanced with lighter moments and humour. In the case of this third film though this is almost entirely absent and the film takes itself deadly seriously throughout. In fact, the only moments of lightness poor Shinji gets in the entire film come from his friendship with Kaworu- and long-term Eva fans know just how well that's likely to turn out.

3.33 has also received criticism on a technical level. Visually, this does not live up to the previous two movies, with some occasionally seriously dodgy CG  and some off-model character animation. The quality varies throughout, from decent to (in a couple of places) outright poor. Not only does it not retain the quality of the rebuild movies, but even the (out-of-print) 2001 feature End Of Evangelion looked better, sadly.

Despite its flaws, Evangelion 3.33 is still an enjoyable ride. If you're able to temper your expectations and separate this from the original then there is much to enjoy. It would have been easy to have just continued along the same path, but what would have been the point in retreading the same old ground?  Evangelion has never been about that. There's something admirably audacious about what Studio Khara and Hideaki Anno have tried to do with this film, even if they don't always quite pull it off.  Ultimately this may be no masterpiece- but it's far from the disaster some may have lead you to believe.

EVANGELION; 3.33; YOU CAN (NOT) REDO is released on Special Edition Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK by MANGA ENTERTAINMENT on February 29th 2016, and is available now from FUNIMATION in the US.