If you've watched the first two movies in Gainax's movie retelling of their hit anime Evangelion, then you know the first movie was pretty much a straight-forward recap of the TV series' first episodes. The second movie added new characters and new angels to fight, taking the story into new territory (our review is here). I'm here to tell you that Evangelion 3.33: You Can (Not) Redo, doesn't just find new territory, it finds an entirely new dimension, destroys it, and then hops two more dimensions over.
What I mean is that the third Evangelion movie is pretty much nothing like any Evangelion you've seen before. The characters are still the same — well, not all of them look the same, not all of them act the same, but they all still have the same names — there are still EVA Units and Angels, and that's about it. Seriously.
It's impossible to discuss these changes without revealing major aspects of the story, so here's a SPOILER WARNING for those that want to know a bit about it. The movie takes place 14 years after the end of 2.22, at which point Shinji caused the Third Impact. Pretty much all of humanity is dead, Tokyo-3 is gone. Misato is leading Asuka and Mari in a war against Gendo and NERV. Shinji wakes up from suspended animation to learn he pretty much destroyed the world and almost every single person left on the planet hates his guts. Different enough for you? END OF SPOILER WARNING.
As an old-school Evangelion fan, I assure you that these major changes to the series are shocking, but I don't know that they're making Evangelion any better or more meaningful. Maki, the new character introduced in the second film, basically sits on the sidelines. Kaworu is introduced, but his relationship with Shinji is so rushed that it doesn't have anything close to the impact of the TV series. Additionally, the film almost spitefully refuses to give Shinji — and thus the audience — information, so instead of capitalizing on all these major changes, we're treated to scene after scene of Shinji asking what the deal is, and everyone else giving him the silent treatment. But my biggest problem is that while the differences may blow your mind, they don't seem to take the series' core themes in any new directions.
But that's not to say you shouldn't see it. While I'm sure a few grumpy fans will be disturbed by the scope of the changes, I imagine the majority will be captivated with just how strange the Evangelion story gets in this movie. It's interesting to see these familiar characters in some radically new situations. And the joy of seeing any version of Evangelion told with cutting-edge animation is undiminished.
If nothing else, Evangelion 3.33 is beautiful. There are scenes in the movie that will make your jaw drop —if you have the chance to watch the film in its limited theatrical release (it opens today in select cities; check here to see if its playing anywhere near you) I definitely recommend it. I just don't know that when these four movies are finally finished they're going to replace the original TV series in anyone's hearts.