Evangelion:3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon A Time (Cert 15)
VOD (Distributor: Amazon Prime) Running time: 156 minutes approx.
Release Date: August 13th
Well, to say this has been a long time coming is a bit of an understatement – 25 years in fact. I am referring to the (supposed) final, definitive, ultimate conclusion to the Neon Genesis Evangelion saga. The original 1995 TV series ended with a confused whimper, due to creator Hideaki Anno having a breakdown, and tried to make amends with a new theatrically released ending but Anno and the fans still weren’t satisfied.
This led to the Rebuild Of Evangelion film series to once again put things right and give everyone the proper, satisfactory ending to make us all happy. But, it has been 6 years since the third instalment hit UK shores (9 years for Japan), which either Anno was trolling us again by changing his mind or the multiple production delays were because he still didn’t have a decent finish for us.
So, was it worth the wait? Considering You Can (Not) Redo wasn’t warmly received for its wilful and baffling deviation from the source material, Thrice Upon A Time had a lot of ground to make up and Anno seems to think so too, delivering a 2 ½ hour film. It begins with a handy but all too terse recap of the previous three films then joins the action in Paris with Mari Illustrious Makinami wiping out a fleet of NERV craft on behalf of the WILLE organisation in a 13-minute blast of mecha madness.
Meanwhile, Shinji Ikari, Asuka Shikinami Langley, and the Rei Ayanami clone make their way through a ravaged Tokyo-3, eventually finding a settlement of survivors which includes their old friends Toji Suzuhara, Hikari Horaki, and Kensuke Aida, now fully-grown adults. As Shinji sulks and shuts himself away from everyone, Asuka constantly gets on his case to stop being such a wuss, whilst Rei mucks in with the people as they go about their work slowly acclimatising to human life.
I have to say, this was my favourite part of the whole film. It was very Ghibli like in its presentation, in part due to the pastoral rural setting and the gentleness of the way of life there. With no sci-fi affectations to spoil the mood, it showed a rare serene and simplistic side to Anno, as Rei and the other women plant seedlings in the water and the men build new homes and equipment on the industrial landsites.
Only Shinji’s insular self-pitying mewling ruins this – sitting in the corner of a shed and refusing to eat or talk to anyone, the only response from him is to vomit when he sees the explosive collar around Asuka’s neck. Now, I am the last one to criticise anyone for mental health issues and Shinji did just watch his friend die from his collar exploding so of course he is going to be traumatised, but Shinji abuses the privilege from being too weak all the time for the main protagonist of this saga.
Fortunately, hotheaded Asuka feels the same, and she ends up force-feeding Shinji to stop him dying which at least is enough of a kick-starter for Shinji to snap out of his funk and start integrating again. In doing so, he makes an interesting discovery, and this gives Shinji further fuel to search for his grapefruits and finally step, up and challenge his distant, despotic father Gendo face to face – or EVA to EVA – and end this whole conflict to restore the world to normal.
Can he do it after being a fragile wuss this whole time? I am not going to say any more otherwise I will spoil many developments and shocks that unfold in the second hour plus. I will say the reason Gendo wears a visor and not his usual shades is revealed which is more significant that you may think. It is still a world away from how we thought of Gendo all this time, and it is hard not to wonder if this was a new idea from Anno rather than the plan all along.
Rather cheekily, Anno references the scrappy ending of the TV series for the climax of this film, right down to the hand drawn animatics and storyboards being inserted into the footage instead of the completed images. Some might feel this is a troll too far but the context here is that they are fighting in an alternate reality called Minus Space, a surreal world with no boundaries, where Shinji’s memories become battlegrounds and the truth comes to life before his eyes.
Primary issues are resolved and we do (finally) have a conclusion but is it satisfactory? Of course, this will be subjective. Some might have given up with the metaphysical allusions and dense, prolix psychobabble, whilst the hackneyed philosophical rationale for Gendo’s actions feels out of place in a series that was so revolutionary and seminal when it first appeared. In fact, look closely, and you can see subtle references to other shows from recent times, implying Anno has been keeping up with the current scene.
Embracing CGI to its fullest, the production values are at the highest for this final outing as they should be – from the sumptuously detailed backgrounds of the rustic vistas and city landscapes to the animation of the Mecha battles and surreal virtual worlds, one thing that can’t be denied is the visual treat this film offers. It certainly helps make the scripted psychoanalysis content easier to swallow if you didn’t like or understand it.
Like it or not, Hideaki Anno has delivered a definite ending to the Evangelion saga with this Thrice Upon A Time as promised. Did it need to be 156 minutes? Probably not. Does it answer every question we have? Depends on what they are. Will it meet the lofty expectations of the fans after 25 years of waiting? Only time will tell. It is certainly a spectacular and epic climax and hopefully now Anno – and the fans – can move on.
Rating – ****
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