Saturday, January 26, 2013

crueler angels' theses

In my review of the first two movies of the Rebuild of Evangelion series, I noted that with these two new movies (especially the second one,) we saw a more refined, more world weary Hideaki Anno. With the latest movie, You can (not) Redo, now out in Japanese theaters, we see the divergence that we saw in the first two movies careen wildly off course into new territory. And by doing so, we are left in a fugue state, with no questions answered and with many new questions raised.

In essence, while being a completely original chapter in the series, it felt a bit like the old days of Evangelion. Whether the end result is effective or not, I leave up to the viewer.

Be warned, spoilers follow.

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After the end of 2.0/2.22 Shinji grows a spine and sacrifices his all to rescue Rei Ayanami. Truth be told I felt some hot blooded manliness from that scene. You'd think 3.0 would build on that and tout a new, braver, more assertive Shinji.

Nnnnnnnnnope. Anno turns the whole situation on its head and deconstructs the idea of hot-blooded "sacrifice everything for the person I want to protect" machismo. Shinji completely fails to save Ayanami, and in the process ruins the world even more; he wakes up into a new world, 14 years after the fact, where everyone hates him for what he did. Misato, who had actually egged Shinji on, now keeps distant; Asuka, who had cared for the Shinji of pre-Third Impact, treats him with nothing more than disdain. It seems to be a cautionary tale on what happens when you disregard everything to get what you want: everything has consequences.

Anno frames the story through Shinji's eyes, and Shinji is confused all throughout the movie, unsure of where his footing in this new world exists. Because of the lack of information presented to Shinji, this carries over to the viewers, most of whom I'm sure have no freaking idea what is going on (or what the hell happened over that 14 year gap.) Hopefully the DVD/Bluray release of 3.33 remedies this.
 
Eventually Shinji learns the truth behind Rei, his father and the Evangelions. It's not exactly the catharsis he desperately needs. In the middle of wading through all this emotional shit, Shinji comes across Kaworu, who offers him a way to undo the things that he did. It doesn't go well. It's weird that most of the conflicts in this movie can be solved by simply leading Shinji down on a table, carefully explaining everything, and leaving. The movie would end right there.

But one of the themes of 3.0 seems to be the lack of communication between people. Like the AT Fields in the original series, people keep an emotional and physical distance from each other with barriers, and hurt each other by failing to express their true feelings. It's a belief of mine that (whether intentional or not,) ignoring someone hurts more than actively hating them.

From a bit of a meta perspective, the 'newness' of this movie, being a production of completely original material, puts most Evangelion fans in the same place they were when the TV series ended almost 20 years ago. Unsure of what will happen next, speculation ran rampant. I remember walking in silence contemplating all the questions that the series raised during and after its run. It's a nice feeling.

Evangelion 3.0 is a flawed work. By cutting loose from the source material and going in a completely different direction, it treads unknown paths, and to a lot of fans, this sense of unfamiliarity may be jarring, maybe even alienating. With the release of the last movie, Evangelion: Final :|| still up in the air, we may wait all the way to the real 2015 to see a conclusion to the remake series, and get questions answered for this movie as well.

Until then, only time will tell.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Middle Earth and Back Again

While it takes us back to the familiar setting of Middle Earth, Peter Jackson's adaptation of the Hobbit takes us on an unfamiliar experience - a film shot in 48 frames per second.

The plot is framed from the perspective of a flashback during events immediately before Fellowship of the Ring, but otherwise closely follows that of the Tolkien original: a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, who wants nothing more than sit in his comfy house and sip tea, is dragged by the wizard Gandalf into a great adventure along with a company of thirteen dwarves.These dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, want to reclaim their lost kingdom from a dragon named Smaug.

Unlike the first trilogy, which covers three books in roughly one movie each, this movie takes around a third of a book that is much shorter than the Lord of the Rings. This is filled up with exposition detailing the fall of the Dwarves, expanded plot points made to lead into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and expanded parts for several characters. Personally these additions enriched my experience of the movie but I can see why purists might find them distracting or unnecessary.

One thing about the books that was a welcome addition to this film was the inclusion of song. Yes, I know there was that scene in the Prancing Pony and during Elessar's crowning in LOTR, but they were cut in the theatrical versions of the film and exist in their pure form only in the extended versions. Here song ties into the main musical motifs in the movie and they really enhance one's experience.

The casting is spot on. Martin Freeman is a great choice for Bilbo and he shows his acting chops here. The other cast is equally excellent as well, especially the actors carried over from the first film.

I watched this film both in 3D at a high frame rate, and at 24fps on the usual cinema screen. Peter Jackson intended for the film to be seen at the high frame rate, and in many scenes it shows: a lot of the details are lost in the process of transferring to conventional frame rates. On the other hand, high frame rates make some scenes feel like television (if you ever wonder what it would look like, take a look at a hardware/appliance store and take a look at the demos on some of the high end HDTVs. That's pretty much what it looks like.) Some reviewers even compared the effect to watching daytime soaps (!)

I'm a bit of a Luddite in this sense and I prefer the conventional frame rate version. Maybe it takes a bit of time to get used to it. I'd recommend seeing both versions and making your own decision. Personally I don't think it's a technology that's going away anytime soon. In any case, the end of the movie did nothing to stoke the fire of anticipation in my head for the next film, due late this year.