In a post-apocalyptic world, the last remaining human settlement in Japan is the heavily fortified city of Tokyo-3. Fourteen-year-old Shinji Ikari is brought to the headquarters of Nerv, an underground organization lead by his estranged father, Gendou. He requests that Shinji become a pilot of an "Evangelion," a colossal android built to fight against monstrous and destructive alien creatures known as "Angels" that wreak havoc on the planet and threaten the survival of the remaining human race. Although initially reluctant, Shinji is swayed by the idea of reconciling with his father, and agrees to aid in mankind's perilous endeavor against its alien threat, as the pilot of Evangelion Unit-01. Thrust into the midst of a dangerous battlefield, Shinji must find the necessary courage and resolve to face against the Angels' incursions before it is too late. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
Seeing as how I am a fanboy of the original series of Neon Genesis Evangelion, you will have to take everything I say with a grain of salt. That said, it is pretty much inevitable that everyone watching this is already a fan of Evangelion anyway. So let’s begin by making this clear: This is not Evangelion. It may look like Evangelion, it may claim to be Evangelion, but it isn’t.
The movie covers episodes 1 through 6, beginning in much the same way as the series did, and ending with the 5th Angel’s attack. We see much of the scenes faithfully recreated, up until Misato comes to pick up Shinji, and they begin talking as fast as they possibly can. The dialogue moves by ridiculously fast, in an incredibly thinly-veiled attempt to cram as much of the series as they can into the space of a single movie, with horrible results. Their sacrifice of quality for the sake of quantity thoroughly destroys the pacing, which, upon retrospect, was a big part of what made Evangelion what it was. There were a lot of long, atmospheric shots that helped to build the tone of the series, and here, they’re gone.
In fact, even the overall style feels different. It seems to opt for darker, richer colours than the original, which honestly doesn’t suit the style of the original series at all. It could be argued that animation has since moved on from the original series, but then, look at End of Evangelion. That was fantastically animated, and kept with the style of the series perfectly.
Another thing it seems to have lost track of is the soundtrack. Another interesting part of how the original series was directed was how rarely they used background music, often opting for silence punctuated only by the cicadas. Here? Pretty much every scene has a musical score behind it. This is how normal shows function, not how Evangelion is supposed to function. And even then, some of it actually seems like something Gainax would have used in Gurren Lagann, as opposed to Eva. Even with their choice to use more music taken into account, it still feels like they could have done a better job, although this is a comparatively minor nitpick.
Another major point is that the dub is very badly done. Aside from the fact that all the acting is forcibly quite bad (although this is less the actors fault and more the fact that they have to talk very fast to keep up), one particularly noticeable thing is that most of the original cast has been replaced, mostly by much less fitting voice actors. Whilst some changes are welcome, for example Touji sounding considerably better than he ever did in the main series, most are very distracting. And even the ones who stayed don’t sound remotely similar to how they did 14 years ago. The most noticeable example is Spike Spencer’s performance as Shinji. For the first half of the movie, I was thoroughly convinced that they had replaced Shinji’s voice actor. With a female one, no less. Shockingly, Spike is still in the role, but sounds absolutely nothing like he should. How this could happen is an absolute mystery, considering he’s been playing nothing but Shinji and Shinji knockoffs for the last 14 years, but somehow he botched his performance quite badly.
Now, I know that a fairly basic argument against this is that it isn’t trying to be like the original series. This is somewhat thwarted by the facts that A: Pretty much everyone who watches this will be judging it by the standards of the series, and B: It doesn’t stand up very well on its own either. The pacing and dialogue have ruined any chance this had of being a replacement Evangelion in its own right, as well as the plot and directing being skimmed over. Considering the series always had a habit of throwing you in without knowing what the fuck was going on, imagine how that works when everything is thrown at you at a mile per minute. Hint: NOT VERY WELL. I can’t imagine a newbie to the franchise would have the slightest clue what the fuck was going on.
All in all, I was somewhat worried that Hideaki Anno might have lost it, what with being sane now. And to my surprise, I was right. This has completely failed. It doesn’t capture anything that made Evangelion a loveable series, and while it does clear out some of the faults it had, it doesn’t balance things out nearly well enough. The only redeeming features are a handful of new scenes, all of which are quite good, and strangely more in the vein of the show than anything else in the movie, most notably the final scene that raises an enormous amount of questions about Kaworu, and promises that the single greatest reason to watch this movie is the promise that the next one will do things very differently.