Is it just me or is 90% of this movie complete nonsense?
[Disclaimer: this post assumes a lot of knowledge on the part of the reader. Many examples are mentioned more in passing on the basis that you have seen the film and will know what I’m referring to. Needless to say, spoilers everywhere.]
End of Evangelion. Cool imagery abound, but it’s hard to parse any sort of meaning from any of it. Slightly problematic talking heads and technobabble lace the framework of the film, but it loses its already shaky grounding once it hits its second half. Everything gets (ostensibly) introspective and symbolic. I get the impression this is the core of what fans of this movie like, but this is where it lost me. Okay, Shinji’s going through a lot, it’s overwhelming, this isn’t a situation any kid should be put through. What’s on his mind? Marching CG mudmen? O-oh…
Okay so that’s not all there is (though there is quite a lot of similarly overtly meaningless fluff!). The swath of Rei and Asuka imagery has some obvious connotations, but the way they’re presented muddles things. Things are flashed on screen in quick succession, little of it given very much significance. Images are distorted and run through random filters for long stretches of time. This all goes back back to the attempts at actualizing Shinji’s critically overwhelmed, damaged mind, making it real for the audience, but this really doesn’t have the desired effect. It puts distance between the viewer and Shinji if anything. We’re simply not privy to enough information to elevate most of these flashes above complete nonsense. It’s as if he knows we’re trying our darndest to see what’s going on in there, and he’s actively employing every anti-mind reading trick he can improvise to keep us out. The horror Shinji feels should be visceral and powerful, it should be felt. It should not be rooted in bizarro symbolism and shallow, distancing ~art film~ wankery. If this stuff is actually, genuinely what is going on in Shinji’s mind, none of it reached me or had any kind of significant impression on me. The director’s frantic obfuscating was more apparent than any aspect of Shinji’s psyche.
…Most of the time. The film is actually at its best when it’s being rather straightforward about its subject matter. The opening scene with Shinji, ehm, visiting Asuka is still powerful as fuck. Shinji’s final parting with Misato is also quite poignant and has a lot of subtle things to say about about both of them. Shinji’s nightmare encounter with Asuka towards the tail end of the film (you know, the one where he falls over in the hot coffee, flips a table, etc) is one of the few truly successful glimpses into Shinji’s mind. It’s a powerful emotion portrayed with wonderfully appropriate force, and encapsulates their relationship, as he sees it, in very insightful way. Unfortunately these scenes end up feeling like the minority in the film, and only serve as reminders that these things can be done well, we can be allowed a window into Shinji’s broken mind. We just aren’t most of the time. Anno opts for obscuring the lack of actual things to say and effective means of portraying them instead.
But let’s just say this chaos is actually an effective way of putting you into Shinji’s mindset, there should be something equally as strong to pull him out of it. After Anno spends forever flashing obfuscations, Shinji simply blurts “I wanna see those people again”. There’s 0 palpability. The revelation is apropos of nothing. Maybe there’s a case to be made that it’s hidden in the symbolism of the previous segments, but it really oughtn’t be. It’s a revelation. A moment of clarity, realization. If you reaaaaallly really wanted to, you could make a case for the preceding chaos being representative of something. You can’t do the same for this. It requires different treatment. This problem effectively makes what should be the stunning climax of film a flaccid “ehh?”. It’s a big deal.
And this isn’t the only moment like this. When Asuka wakes up after being hospitalized, she is curled up in a ball inside her Eva unit, being bombarded with bombs, with no bearings on where she is or what the situation is, repeatedly whimpering that she doesn’t want to die. It’s a really great scene. But what pulls her out of this is a few vague flashes of some nondescript thing (well i guess it has a hand…) she calls mother. After this brief shot of little significance to to viewer, she’s walking on sunshine, AT fields are the best yo, mom’s in town, yolo, kill ’em all (I’m being silly here, but the sudden burst of gumption is laughable). Again there’s 0 palpability to what pulls her out, and there needs to be for such a large leap in disposition. If the film is going to such lengths to make these mindsets real to the audience, to pull us into them (I don’t buy this, but whatever), then we ought to get the appropriate weight applied to counter them, to make these revelations real to the audience in the same way.
I’d argue that this is kind of impossible since I don’t think there’s any significance or meaning behind most of the more ambiguous scenes in this movie (which end up being the dominant constituents of the movie), and you can’t really resolve what is not extant, but this goes against the assumptive premise of these last few paragraphs so I guess I’ll leave it there.
Of course, the movie isn’t a complete failure. It does have a spellbinding quality to it. It’s an absolute audiovisual treat (for the most part). And I did like those few scenes detailed above. I just couldn’t help but be disappointed by the majority of the film. It’s also possible I just “didn’t get it”. I can accept that. I’d love to hear some counterpoints to this because I used to like the movie a lot and I want to like it again. I’m open to changing my mind! Even desperate for it!
This post was brought to you by parenthetical afterthoughts and shitty writing. It’s not nice to be back.