The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World

Craig’s at a stag do this week, so no meetup. Instead, some Neon Genesis Evangelion.

I saw the Evangelion remakes 1.0 and 2.0 at the GFT on Monday (first time I’ve ever been to an actual premiere!). I’d only been vaguely aware that it was getting remade until I saw the film festival listings, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Turned out the first film was more or less the same as the first few episodes of the original series, and most of the changes were fairly subtle. There were fewer lengthy pauses, the visuals were (maybe) slightly better (though as far as I’m concerned the original still looks pretty stunning – just look at the images in this post), and the music was horrible.
Hearing the music in the remakes made me realise just how much the original music meant to me. The whole way through there would be all these familiar scenes and I’d expect to hear all the little themes from the original, only to come up against some of the blandest (yet simultaneously jarring) music imaginable. I tend not to notice music in films unless it’s hideously offensive (how many crimes against humanity are the BBC going to let Murray Gold commit? It’s like they don’t have the slightest understanding of just how important the likes of Delia Derbyshire were to their programmes), or an integral part of the film (e.g. Requiem for a Dream), so this was a bad sign.
The music was probably the worst part though. The other problems I had with it were more subtle, and I probably need to see both films again to be sure how I feel. With the first film I think it comes down to the apparent decision to streamline the narrative. Without the original’s frequent pauses where nothing much happened, it felt like the film was a shallower experience than the series. You don’t get into the characters’ heads so much(?).
And a number of times the likes of Gendo and Ritsuko would come straight out with single-sentence explanations for what was going on in the plot/backstory. These were things that were only ever hinted at in the original, and to hear the mysteries explained in such an offhand manner was kind of disenchanting. Art works better as a whisper than a shout.
The second film was where the plot started to really diverge from the original. It’s hard to judge how successful that is without seeing the final 2 films (still in production), but I think there are a couple of ways in which it’s more troubling than the first film.
The introduction of an entirely new character, Mari, doesn’t seem to have any real point, other than to sideline Asuka (why Asuka of all people?). Maybe she’ll make more sense in the later films, but here I just don’t understand why she was added at all, unless… The conspiracy theory is that she was added so that Gainax(? – is Bandai involved as well?) could make more money on merchandising. Certainly, there is a lot of fan service in these films.
I know Gainax are known for their fan service, but I honestly didn’t notice it in the original series. In the films it’s incredibly blatant though, and more than just being unnecessary I think it actively detracts from the story.
The other thing in the second film is the shifting of the main romantic element from Asuka-Shinji to Rei-Shinji. It’s another thing you can’t really judge without seeing the final 2 films, and it’ll probably be resolved, but I like Asuka (dammit!). I don’t like seeing her pushed aside like this.
Overall, the new films just feel less subtle than the original series. It’s hard to put my finger on what’s missing – it’s still Evangelion – but it feels like something (possibly fundamental) has changed. It’s a bit like the Lord of the Rings movies – it’s hard to say what’s wrong with them (other than Liv Tyler – jesus!), but there’s definitely something not right about them, something that makes them soulless. Actually, the Evangelion films are still far better than the Lord of the Rings films. At least they take risks.
Anyway, sorry about the clumsy film review for this week’s post. I’ll try and think of something more interesting to write about next week.

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