Evangelion’s End: I couldn’t think of a good blog post title.

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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.]

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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.

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…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.
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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.

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3 thoughts on “Evangelion’s End: I couldn’t think of a good blog post title.

  1. I think I had the exact opposite experience with End of Eva. I didn’t think too highly about the film initially, but went back and rewatched it semi-recently and ended up enjoying it a lot. So yeah, I suppose I’m gonna be that person bringing up counterpoints and possibly even getting you to change your mind.

    The main issue I have with your criticism of the film is that you’ve chosen to analyse the piece in a vacuum, making some of your complaints rather baffling when they could easily be answered by key events in the TV series. Remember, End of Eva was not conceived as a stand-alone product, but rather it came about because fans were so dissatisfied with episodes 25-26 of the TV series, that Anno and Gainax decided to give people what they had originally promised. As such, End of Eva is essentially a culmination of the TV series’ primary themes, the conclusion to the rest of the cast’s fates, and most importantly of all, an abstract, externalized representation of the events of the third impact (while retaining the aspect of complete self-reflection from the TV series’ finale). This is why I don’t believe it’s entirely fair when you pick at specific scenes without considering their impact in the grand scheme of things, or taking into account all the psychological and emotional build-up that was present in the TV series.

    Anyhow, I’ll address a couple lines from your post which support what I’ve called you out for.

    >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…

    I realize this is more a lead up into your next paragraph about the film’s presentation, but it also tips me off that you didn’t pay attention to an earlier scene in the film. The scene in question is the one where Shinji and Unit-01 are being [insert Biblical imagery here] by the mass-produced Eva units. 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? Not marching CG mudmen but the only glimpse of reassurance that his mind can muster up at that moment. Now what’s so great about this scene is that we see Shinji’s final attempt to cling onto hope externalized as the mass-produced Eva’s head morphs into something resembling Kaworu, before warping into Rei. So yeah, of course if you look at this scene in a vacuum it will just seem like SYMBOLIC nonsense, which is why I mentioned earlier that it’s imperative to look at what the film represents to Evangelion as a whole.

    Recall how broken Shinji was at the end of the series that he was willing to latch onto the first person or thing that showed genuine interest and compassion towards him – and that’s where Kaworu comes in. Shinji’s memories of Rei, on the other hand, were enough to cause him plenty of psychological trauma, since he was attracted to her, found out she was a clone of his dead mother constructed by his father, and the Rei that he actually had attachment to sacrificed herself and died a brutal death in front of his eyes. So yeah, it’s not random CG mudmen that we see during the latter scene, but a fucked up representation of the third impact from Shinji’s eyes – with Rei manifesting as some of his most conflicted, traumatic feelings. Now where in your criticism do you even stop to consider these existing relationships that most of the film’s imagery is a reflection of?

    >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.

    Newsflash: Shinji is the biggest tsundere for humanity, and that line taken alongside something like the final scene in the film where he tries to strangle Asuka is one huge summation of Eva’s theme of looking at both the positive and negative sides of humanity, and trying to arrive at some form of inner peace with oneself. The final scene involving Shinji strangling Asuka also implies a possible glimpse of forgiveness, of rebirth; afraid of being hurt again, Shinji attempts to kill her, only stopping when she places her hand on his cheek, causing him to break into tears. It suggests that he has slowly begun to open his heart to humanity again (which is what that line you quoted is conveying to the audience), although Shinji, like many other characters, is still far from this.

    Additionally, most of the TV series was spent detailing the characters going through ups and downs with their relationships, but ultimately retreating further into their own shells as a result. Shinji was in a constant downward spiral because he had been given false hope by Misato and Asuka, who accepted him and then turned around and hurt him, because they were constantly dealing with their own fucked up realities. There’s a passage in episode 4 of the TV series spoken by Ritsuko which brings up the Hedgehog’s Dilemma – that Shinji wants to be closer to other humans, but the closer he gets, the more he ends up being hurt while indirectly hurting others. This is Shinji’s relationship with every character in the series in a nutshell, and it’s an important point to keep in mind when viewing his introspective phase in the second half.

    Once again, if you just take the events of the film in a vacuum, there aren’t that many tangible acts supporting it. Because the TV series already constructed this fucked up web of relationships between the characters, Anno could opt to take the film in a different direction and give these exact same psychological dilemmas Shinji is playing through his head like a cassette tape on repeat a more abstract form. Similar to what writing a good analysis entails, a good conclusion should act as a summation of a story’s primary themes or messages. Of course, every story will try and conclude, so what separates the good from the exceptional are those that give it a new set of wings, so to speak. This is personally why I really like what End of Eva did to, well, end the series, since a more straightforward approach would’ve been redundant with what the TV series had already laid out.

    > 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.

    Silliness in your point aside, dude, do your homework and rewatch the TV series! I usually don’t like accusing people of this shit since it can easily devolve into pointing fingers, but it’s clear you’ve forgotten a key point in Eva’s narrative. Recall that the consciousness of Shinji’s mother was implanted into Unit-01, which kind of the whole reason why he could synchronize with it in the first place. For Asuka, it’s basically the same thing with Unit-02, it’s just now in her most desperate moment that she calls out and is answered by the spirit that was always protecting her in Unit-02, which gives her the internal strength to make one final push for her life. I guess whether this scene comes across as liberating or corny (but seriously, the part when Unit-02 runs out of power and the mass-produced Evas consume Asuka like a flock of vultures is chill-inducing) kind of hinges on your impression towards that specific plot point from the TV series, but nowhere in your analysis do I see it mentioned, so this part of your criticism just shows a lack of knowledge with the material.

    The main segment of your criticism that I felt had some weight to it was the paragraph about the presentation, and that’s mostly because you talked specifically about Anno’s style. That said, it’s rather narrow-minded to feel as though the film’s sole goal was to make Shinji’s trauma “real” for the audience, and that accomplishing it via visceral, relatable acts was the “proper” method of portraying his psyche. If anything, the film opted to strike a good balance between total abstraction (scribbles accompanied by voices of the other characters), a recollection of Shinji’s core behaviour as a child (the scene of him in the sandbox as a child) and a bunch of self-reflective bits about Shinji’s conflicted relationships with the women in his life. Maybe the second half’s appeal hinges on an individual basis more than anything, although with that in mind I like that aspect as the narrative boils down to Shinji trying to arrive at some sort of consensus about himself and his feelings towards humanity (before deciding his own fate and the rest of the world’s). I don’t see how this could be considered shallow or distancing when having a character reflect upon every facet of their existence is just about one of the most personal touches a director could add, but I’m starting to feel it’s a very “your mileage may vary” point of contention.

    Anyhow, I’m sure the point I’ve been making throughout this reply is clear by now. I doubt I would’ve gone to such lengths had your post simply been about you disliking the presentation of End of Eva, but what bothers me is that this doesn’t read like an informed criticism, because you’re forgetting key pieces of the puzzle. No amount of reasoning from me is going to change that, so if you’re still at odds with your stance on End of Eva, revisiting the TV series and then giving the film another go is the best option. However, if you feel it’s more Anno’s approach to the presentation that is damaging your opinion of Eva, then perhaps your tastes have changed and this is an indication that the film simply missed the mark for you. I’d definitely be interested in reading your thoughts if you ever do decide to revisit the TV series, so long as you don’t take the easy route out!

  2. Ok so I just re-watched the second half of EoE. And when reading the above…it honestly sounds to me like you were actively trying to not let yourself get caught up in it. I don’t know how you can say that the scenes of ambiguity and symbolism have no meaning. Everyone and their dog knows this is a very personal film coming from a fucked up mind. You think Anno just threw in a bunch of nonsense of no value to him? I don’t know, I just can’t buy that. Anno was clearly implanting his own depressed state of mind into Shinji.
    sorry for soundiing slightly pissed off, but it’s just that for me, watching this is the most stimulating experience I’ve ever had watching a movie. It is very personal to me. It affects me like nothing else. and i can’t handle it when something i love suddenly gets the “hey guess what it’s not actually that good” treatment (especially from someone whose opinion i value, DOLPHY). I’m not someone who can just be like “well i still love it no matter what you say”. I need to know that everyone agrees that it’s the greatest fucking thing otherwise i can’t love it with all my heart because i am flawed that way. Ok? Ok.

    Firstly: not sure if this will be of any use to you, but there are a couple reviews on RYM (one from hattivat, one from Jazzrivet) that put a lot of things into context for me. i recommend giving them a look, because they’re certainly better at getting across what they want to say than I am. If you disagree with them well, I don’t know. They’ve clearly found a lot of meaning in the visuals.

    Anyway…”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.”
    I honestly don’t know what to say. I felt it. All of the questions he asks, his outbursts and frustrations; they all hit home. And when komm susser tod starts, and the film is no longer about shinji or the others or evangelion, when it becomes universal, it reaches out to us as an audience…this is when I feel it most. The horror and the pain. Particularly when the flashing images sequence begins – what the voice overs are saying (you get on my nerves / i can’t do this anymore / let’s break up / etc) is far more generalized than anything in the film prior. This is all the negative emotions and disgust that people feel combining with an onslaught of uncomfortable imagery (this is all you can say it is really) to ram home the unease. And then, jesus bleibet meine freude happens and causes the most drastic emotional 180 ever, from disgust to beauty and a feeling of complete ease. Of peace. As humans we can not truly understand each other but we all share the same feelings, good or bad, and the same desires and hopes and dreams. We are together in our pain. We are not alone.
    I’m saying all of this because this is the important sequence ever, to me. I can just think about this sequence randomly and I’ll be overwhelmed and tears will spring into my eyes. It happens every single time. And it happened again when I re-watched it before; just as powerful and emotional as previous times. It’s not something I can really explain in great depth, because it’s something so personal. But it’s just this overwhelming feeling of ‘it’s going to be ok’. it’s so comforting. Is that the intended purpose of this? I don’t know, but the impact it had says plenty, I think.

    You say you don’t think there’s enough weight to Shinji’s sudden conviction of reverting everything. I see it as komm susser tod / jesus bleibet meine freude being a perhaps more vague representation of Shinji’s mind (or rather, his heart), so combined they provide more than enough groundwork necessary for Shinji’s ultimate decision feeling like it’s both measured and earned. Again, I’m kind of talking in terms of ‘feeling’ here. Because to me it feels earned, because I gained so much out of the preceding sequences. It was inevitable that it would lead to that.

    As for the Asuka + mum scene – I went back and just watched that specific scene, and it does seem like it was too drastic a turn around. I feel like it’s sacrificing plausibility for the sake of ‘epic’. so yeah, not much a fan of that, but as you probably gathered i’m primarily concerned with the second half, because it’s the kind of shit i get lost in.

    I get the feeling you probably won’t gain much from my post. You actively searched for meaning in this film but found very little. But I feel like I’ve gained so much meaning from every frame of it, and so have others, that it can’t possibly be meaningless.

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