Evangelion 2.0: You Can (not) Advance(2009)
- RatedNC16 /GenreAction, Animation
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Rating: 3.5 out of 5
As the number of animated or computer-generated imagery films grows, some of these movies will leave you scratching your head as to why their stories were not told in traditional live-action format.
Taking the cynical view, some films are animated or done in CGI purely for commercial reasons, for this could be a way to expand an audience by augmenting it with younger viewers - even if the story itself doesn't really suit that demographic.
But there are also some films that need not justify their choice of storytelling medium. Hayao Miyazaki, Walt Disney and the good people at Pixar, just to name a few examples, would not be able to present their stories in live-action - in fact, one could say their works have helped to define the animation genre.
It would be equally impossible to present the Evangelion films, a four-part series based on a wildly popular Neon Genesis Evangelionanime and manga series, in anything other than the anime-CGI hybrid that the filmmakers utilise.
Set in a post-Apocalyptic world where otherworldly monsters known as Angels frequently appear out of nowhere to attack human settlements, the film's imagery runs the gamut of cheeky young exuberance, to a wide number of religious symbols, to nightmarish scenes of violence and destruction that stretch the very bounds of your imagination.
It's fair to say that a film series like this can only have come from Japanese minds. Even if you've not seen or read the original series, or watched Evangelion: 1.0, released in Singapore last year, this heavily layered part two, known officially as Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, offers enough information for you to glean the context of the story.
It appears that this future world, set in the year 2015 and infused with a dazzling array of technological gadgetry, such as the mechanised city of Tokyo-III, is the result of a major epoch-changing event referred to as the Second Impact.
Many lives have been lost, much land is submerged under water, and the geopolitical landscape is unrecognisable. There are clues that there is a major conspiracy - amid whispers of something called the Human Instrumentality Project - that threatens the tenuous future of mankind.
To deal with the plague of Angels, which come in a spectacular array of horrifying shapes and sizes, some bigger than a city - this is where animation and CGI are the only ways to present these impressively grotesque concepts - countries are armed with giant mecha-style military robots called Evangelions, or Evas, that require the skills and dexterity of children to operate.
Without delving into the complex story told here, with themes of loneliness, abandonment and sacrifice, as well as a fixation with the unthinkable possibilities for human evolution, or 'devolution', brought about by mysterious powerful forces known as AT (Absolute Terror) Fields, the film can be enjoyed for being a microcosm of many anime trademarks.
There is young romance, love triangles, and Japanese schoolgirl fantasies - teen female pilots tend to be buxom, wear tight outfits and occasionally cook in their underwear. Add to that amazing technology and outrageous leaps of fantasy witnessed in thrilling Angel-Evangelion battles, and long tracts of deep, almost incoherent religio-philosophical musings and plot developments - incredibly encapsulated in the English subtitles - and you have a multi-million-dollar movie franchise on your hands.
While the film threatens to spin out of control, in its particularly chaotic third act, and the film has the power to overwhelm and exhaust the viewer, this represents a remarkable movie-going experience, indigenous to the animation medium, and one that widens horizons yet further in the genre.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!" Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part III (1990).