Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion
The advent of DVD has made deleted scenes and alternate endings standard fare for movie viewers. We've come to expect multiple versions of films, particularly when we hear that a studio required a filmmaker to cut a half-hour or more out of their project. This was cool for a while, but through the miracle of technology, we've learned that most of the stuff that doesn't appear on the big screen is excised for good reasons. Endings that didn't make the final cut usually aren't half as good as what's originally chosen. And so it goes.
But what does this have to do with The End of Evangelion? As the story is told, director Hideaki Anno was not thoroughly satisfied with the ending of the television show. A lack of budget and possibly censure from the broadcasting network meant that the finale Anno had planned had to be reworked to some extent. Many fans complained about the last two episodes, as well, and with the success of the show, Anno had the means by which to complete the story another way. Unfortunately for us, while the first half of The End of Evangelion is action-packed excitement, the second half throws away the audience's good will and leaves us with an ending that is not only not as satisfying as the original, it's downright crappy.
The first half of the film takes us directly from the end of episode 24. (I won't detail what happens there or in the movie just for the simple fact that the entire movie is a spoiler.) Episode 25 in the series comes at the viewer out of nowhere, and it takes a while for the audience to gain its bearings. The opening of The End of Evangelion corrects that problem and acts as sort of an "episode 24.5." For 45 minutes or so, we revel in a cataclysmic battle that will almost certainly satisfy any Eva fan and surprise those of us who are Eva critics. There are some elements in this section that are disturbing (in particular, unnecessary teenage nudity and a gross bit of unseen but heard self-gratification in the opening scene), but in a whirlwind, it becomes the missing link that Eva fans were looking for. I can't say that I liked everything about it -- don't get too attached to any characters that survived the TV show, for one -- but it was strong entertainment.
And if that was all the movie was, the missing piece of the puzzle that led back into the original ending, I would be OK. I would have even been OK with a better and truly alternate ending. But The End of Evangelion makes the slightly confounding yet ultimately understandable conclusion of the television series look like a stroke of genius. In the movie, we are treated to shots of barren landscapes, pointless live-action sequences, and inane dialogue. The essence of the two endings is the same, but the movie version rambles, halts, chokes up a couple of hairballs, and then sits in its own mess pretty much until the credits roll. It is pretentious and incoherent. And by the time it was done, I was mad...mad at wasting my time and mad at the first half of the film getting my hopes up only to drop me into a laborious exercise in ego.
Did Hideaki Anno really have to make this movie? No. It's been said he did it to please the fans, and by the measure of most, he succeeded. Many people love the movie for what it is. It is well-animated, certainly, and the rush of the first half is palpable. In fact, if the film were just the first half, I'd give it an A. But sincerely and honestly, the second half is an F. It is really that bad. Some folks will certainly say, "Man, you just didn't get it." But after watching tons of serious art films over the years, I've seen my share of amateurish posturing, and that's what the last half of this movie is. Just like the movie X, The End of Evangelion covers its lack of new ideas with wordiness. It didn't work for me. It was good to see once to get a couple more answers to the lingering questions of Eva TV, but that's about it.
Nobody really likes being the guy who calls out the emperor for having no clothes. But you know what? The gross first scene that I mentioned earlier actually speaks volumes about what the film really is. The End of Evangelion is Hideaki Anno's self-centered ego splayed on the screen for all to see...and it ain't pretty.
The End of Evangelion -- violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity -- C-