End of Evangelion might be one of my favourite movies of all time. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t put it on when it’s a rainy day and I wouldn’t say it’s the best stand-alone movie of all time, either. End of Evangelion is what it is and functions as it is because it’s the conclusion to a story that had already been mostly told. It’s a statement that’s immediately suspect, like someone saying that Revenge of the Sith is their favourite Star Wars movie. Is that out of the new trilogy, is that as a movie, is that in comparison to all six and really–would it hold up well as an individual film? With End of Eva, that’s a really good question, innit.
The End of Evangelion, for the dozens and dozens of readers I have (okay, for the two to six readers I have) is exactly what it says on the tin. It is the last two episodes of the television series Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s also the sequel to a clipshow movie called Evangelion: Death & Rebirth, which has had far too many incarnations to sort through in a movie review. It concludes the story of Shinji Ikari, a shy young boy tasked with piloting a giant purple robot to save the world. And boy, is it conclusive. Very, very conclusive.
As it’s definitely an ending movie and not a real movie, it’s hard not to spoil some stuff. So while this review will have a few necessary spoilers to set the scene, you can be assured–you have no idea. You will never really know until you see it. With that warning, plot summary ahoy!
Shinji Ikari is a shy young boy who has spent an entire television series being the butt of every joke and having every person he reaches out to steadily grow further and further away from him. In the beginning, he was forced to pilot a giant purple and green robot called an Evangelion against his will by his overbearing and entirely evil father, Gendo Ikari. Until this point, he’s lived with his guardian, Misato Katsuragi, with whom he shares a very subtexual relationship (emphasis for laughs, but totes fr srs) and his roommate and fellow pilot Asuka Langley Soryu. He and Asuka share a very, very intense relationship. The tension between these two characters is of a quantity and quality I’ve never seen elsewhere. Might be why I stopped watching Bones…
Anyway, you’ll notice I’m focusing on character and not plot, so I’ll remedy that now. Whatever they’ve done is over by now, and now they have to face the consequences. The after-the-end scenario, if you will. And all of this is instigated by all of the various conspiracies alluded to throughout the series coming together after NERV has served its purpose to seriously wreak some havoc. NERV is being invaded by JSSDF soldiers and Seele are doing something-or-other, but to tell the truth, despite watching this movie three times, I still have no idea what the hell those two are up to. Which is fine, because they’re total plot contrivances to set the stage for NERV’s final battle.
And what a battle it is. I wish I could tell you how those characters I mentioned and their relationships factored into the plot. Man, it would be so sweet to tell you what happens in this movie. Here, imagine this movie is the key to eternal happiness, and looking upon it bestows whoever sees it with the truth of existence. Got that image in your mind? Now I have it under this sheet. And I’m looking under the sheet, basking in its glow, then telling you how great it looks. And boy does it look swell–moving on now!
Truth is, I really do love this movie. It is not only a stunning achievement in series conclusion, it’s a stunning achievement in narrative storytelling. This is the part of End of Evangelion that no one can spoil. There is no way to spoil something of this magnitude.
Through something you can see under the sheet on the table over there–no peeking!–there comes a time in this movie when the story is abandoned for a sequence of what can only be called purely emotional storytelling. This is something I’ve never seen anywhere else. And you know what? I don’t think I’m ever going to see it anywhere else. It’s been thirteen years from the release of this movie, and never before or since have I seen a filmmaker as daring as Hideaki Anno to abandon all reality to communicate, directly, the emotions of the people involved. I’ve seen plenty of brave directors since, but not one has trusted their skills, their narrative, their crew and their actors to be able to bring pure emotion through film projected onto a screen. It is honestly one of those rare moments of perfection in cinema, when you know that you are witnessing something that is utterly unique, entirely perfect and never going to happen ever again.
If you asked me to tell you which emotions are conveyed, I couldn’t tell you. If you asked me to tell you what the moral, or thesis, or exegesis of it all is, I couldn’t tell you. I can’t tell you, because that sequence and the truth it contains can only exist as the series of images and sounds that it occupies. And if that sounds pretentious, I can’t tell you what it is because it is what it is. There is no way to communicate that sequence that can accurately summarize it, or adequately mimic it or anything.
Does it require you to watch the entire series to understand? … Now, there’s a good question. I don’t quite know. I’ve only ever seen the movie after seeing the series. I know the characters, intimately, going in. But even so, does that really change the fact that this movie contains a moment of brilliance so shining that it puts every other film I’ve seen to shame? Or that the rest of the film surrounding that is one of the most visceral and emotional experiences ever put on film?
No. No, it does not. FOUR STARS