Minor spoilers for Eva 2.0 and 3.0
Forewarning: I am not a giant Evangelion fan. I've seen the TV series and have noticed moments of brilliance, but I was in some ways annoyed with the finished product (especially towards the end). My biggest problem was that the characters were not very likable. They were complex yes, but I didn't feel very connected to Sinji, Asuka, Rae, etc. They seemed to fundamentally lack any sense of pro-activity. Much of the plot consisted of their reactions rather than their actions.
That's not important however, and I only bring this up to clarify my surprise at Evangelion: 2.0, which did something I hadn't expected: It completely won me over. 2.0 is fantastic, clearing up nearly all the issues I had with the series. There is not a single character that doesn't improve; Sinji actually shows some integrity and becomes a protagonist I can get behind. Never did I feel that he was unjustified in how he was acting. Rae, surprisingly enough, shows consistent character progression versus the TV series where she too often remained stagnant. By the end of 2.0, it's almost a surprise to think this is the same character from the beginning of the movie. She goes from emotionless and hardly human to a caring person wanting Sinji to be happy. A small change, but very noticeable. Asuka stayed relatively the same but with some important changes. While in the series she was portrayed as egotistical and self-righteous, in 2.0 she comes off as more anti-social. Important dimensions are added to her character as it's hinted that her bombastic personality might not be because of her need for praise, but simply a defense mechanism to cope with her loneliness.
And then EVA 3.0 happened.
Where to start? Well, let's begin by saying much of the foundation laid by the past films are not existent just as much of the positive turns for the characters have been nullified. It really baffles me in some ways: Why have Sinji grow so much in 2.0, just to turn him into a self- loathing angst character again that can't handle the conflicts in this film? Why have Rae develop a personality and have audiences connect with her when she's rescued, just to say she's dead and have us deal all over again with an emotionless Rae clone? Why hint at feelings of self-denial and loneliness in Asuka, just to have those issues ignored and never addressed again? Why have Misato cheer Sinji on to save Rae at the end of 2.0, just for her to reject and coldly dismiss him at the beginning of this movie?
If these characters have problems that have changed them - THEN SHOW US. Don't build them up, skip ahead 14 years, and completely change them without explanation. It's not clever, it's nonsensical. Imagine any other show or movie you've seen, can you imagine how frustrating it would be to see the characters just beginning to be fleshed out, only for the plot to move decades ahead in the future. All the open questions you have and all the issues raised with the characters instantly become meaningless because their resolution occurred off screen. Remember Asuka's final lines in the last film, "I can laugh, I didn't know I could"? Well I hope you weren't expecting this to factor into her character at all because it might as well have never been said. Any character development from the first two Evangelion movies have next to zero influence in how anyone acts.
Unfortunately, there are no excuses for Sinji and Rae. Killing off the Rae we've come to connect with just to introduce her next emotionless clone and expecting us to connect with her all over again is completely unjustifiable. Rae had already progressed so far in terms of her personality. But no, all that progress is gone. Now meet a new Rae, who is coincidentally exactly like the Rae you knew at the very beginning. Sinji is no better. Him becoming an emotional wreck by the end that has lost the will to live is not shocking anymore, it's pathetic. Does this character have any other dimension to him, or is it all self-loathing? Why make him the least bit competent when all you intend to do is tear down his character again? Sinji is a microcosm for everyone in this film; any development is meaningless because they revert back to their starting point, just to begin the whole process over again - like a dog chasing its tail over and over again.
The whole movie stands in stark contrast to the last. The fundamentals of how NERV operates and what its relationship is to the characters is completely changed, and never explained. In fact, barely anything is explained. Asuka and Sinji have not aged a day after 14 years and the only explanation given is some reference to "the curse of EVA". Yeah, sure. All I hear is "we wanted to skip ahead 14 years, but we still needed Sinji and Asuka to stay at age 14 and pilot the EVAs." Don't you think if a machine stopped people from aging they would I don't know, warn them before they became pilots? Because that's kind of an important side-effect.
On top of this, the film is much darker than the second. But darker in EVA means better right?? Well if done properly, yes. But that's not the case here. This isn't a "dark turn" that is properly foreshadowed; the viewer has been thrown into another universe where consequences of the last film have not been dealt with or explained.
I'm sure there are many fans out there that will have a different perspective and will like this film. But for me, many of the reasons why EVA 2.0 won me over to the franchise are either ruined, reversed, or ignored.
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