The first of four Evangelion ‘Rebuild’ films was, more or less, a faithful adaptation of the first few episodes of the TV series. The second film introduced a new major character and rearranged some of the plot points, but was still recognizable as an alternate take on the same storyline. With the third film in the series, Evangelion 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo, director Hideaki Anno takes his creation into whole new territory.
Perhaps ‘You Can (Not) Redo’ is as much a mandate to the production staff as it is a reference to Shinji’s dilemma in the film. For the Rebuild of Evangelion to work, for it to have the same impact as the original; they cannot simply redo what was done before. They had to re-invent the series so that it speaks to a new generation.
And so, with 3.33 we are given something entirely new. It was a bold move; to take such a well-known and much-loved franchise and completely tear it apart, but the gambit paid off. It’s still Evangelion, but it’s an Evangelion you’ve never seen before. It’s just as well produced as the last two films; beautifully animated and brilliantly paced, but by taking the story in a new direction, Anno has added a needed dose of unpredictability and freshness.
Shinji awakens fourteen years after the events of Evangelion 2.22. The near-third impact that he initiated has destroyed most of what was left of the world. Now, the few remaining; Nerv and its adversaries, battle to decided the ultimate fate of humanity. Whether humans will continue to live as they have been, or the Human Instrumentality Project will force them into a higher state of being.
Shinji, as always, is the avatar for the audience. Just as we were introduced to Nerv and the Evangelion through his eyes, we now explore this new branch of the Evangelion mythos through him. I’m not sure that we (or he) ever gets a full grasp on things, but then that was true of the TV series as well. It’s almost as if the mythology of Evangelion is designed to be inscrutable; which makes sense given that we’re dealing with the machinations of higher-beings that we aren’t supposed to understand.
Nerv’s adversaries are commanded by a sullen and battle-hardened Misato, whose base of operation can best (and perhaps only) be described as an Evangelion-powered sky whale. She, along with Asuka and Mari, fight to prevent the continuation of the Third Impact, in an attempt to save what is left of humanity. On the other side is Nerv, still commanded by Shinji’s father, along with Kaworu and Rei. It’s worth noting that the two pilots that fight on the side of Nerv are not human (not entirely, anyway), and yet Shinji prefers their company. Perhaps his anti-social tendencies are soothed by the cold and distant Rei, and the effortlessly affectionate Kaworu. Regardless, Shinji is racked with guilt over what he did 14 years ago (though it wasn’t what he intended) and tries desperately to undo (or ‘redo’) it; despite the many people who advise against it.
In many ways, ‘You Can (Not) Redo’ plays like a sequel to the original TV series; the only difference being that in this world, the Third Impact didn’t happen, and the human race has staggered along in its aftermath. As great as these remake films have been thus far, having brand new content takes this instalment of the Rebuild of Evangelion to a whole new level of awesome.