Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone, recently began showing in cinemas all across Japan, and from what I can tell, the fan response has been mostly good. That said, I’ve not read much in the way of impressions, but from the three or four people I’ve spoken to, it’s mostly “the first six episodes, only prettier.” The fact that the first movie is more or less a slightly condensed version of the opening act doesn’t really bother me (what else was it going to be, anyway? It’s not like it’s going to be TOTALLY HOLY SHIT DIFFERENT from the get-go), but one thing that did have me worried was the pacing of these fims.
Shingo of the Heisei Democracy says the film provides a “Reader’s Digest condensed version” of the events from episodes 1 through 6. Having read that, I was instantly reminded of the Zeta Gundam movies. What’s wrong with the Zeta Gundam movies? The pacing is horrible. There really isn’t decent padding between each of the events to make them seem worth caring about, and any character development that there was in the series is lost. I was scared Eva would suffer the same fate, but after some rational thinking (a rarity for me) I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to squish Eva into what should be 4.5 hours (assuming that movie 2 stays 90 minutes, and movies 3 and 4 are 45 minutes, as previously reported.) As of right now, I’d just like to think Shingo’s view is affected by him already seeing the original, and being used to its pace.
Evangelion, unlike Zeta Gundam, is 26 episodes rather than 50. Zeta Gundam is also very dense, whereas Eva has a lot of fat that can be trimmed off (especially in the earlier episodes.) Each episode of Evangelion is around 20 minutes, sans opening, ending and episode preview. Six episodes are around 2 hours, and any clever editor could easily knock off those extra 30 minutes to fit six episodes into the 90 minute runtime. And as we all know, Eva is all about its clever editing.
Provided that they keep with the 6-episodes-worth-of-content model for the rest of the movies (let us just think of movies 3 and 4 as one movie), we should have about 18 episodes worth of content in there. Now, that’s chopping off a good 8 episodes, but when you stop and think about it, it really isn’t that hard. Eva has 2 recap episodes. They’re not really recap in the traditional sense, but they use mostly reused footage. One of them is the long mind rape that takes place after Unit 1 goes berserk, which would probably be reduced to shorter scene (however, that is mixed in with the 30 days of trying to salvage Shinji from the cockpit…), and the first recap can be eliminated all together. Those two, along with various episodes in the “Action Arc” (that being the monster of the week bit) can be left on the cutting room floor. For instance, why should JetAlone be in the movies? Who wants to see Magma Diver in bright shinny 2007 computer animation? Who even cared about that weird computer hacking angel? I assume some angles are going to cut all together. Actually, I know they will. It’ll be a tight fit, but I think with some real strategic editing they can fit Eva into movie run-times while keeping the same pacing we know and love.
However, what made Eva work for me was its presentation as episodes. I liked how each episode of Evangelion had its own theme that it focused on, its own problem that it centered around. That individual attention given to the various elements of the show is part of what made it work for me. Aside from the story details that carry on between episodes, a lot of the episodes stand very well on their own, in terms of tone and themes. I’m not really afraid that this attention to the themes will be lost, but rather the films will feel awkward with the constant shifting tone. I have a feeling this fear is somewhat irrational, as the first 6 episodes are mostly setup, and what I’m talking about mostly happens between episodes 6 though 15, which will be most covered by movie 2. According to people who saw the preview for the next movie, it should be pretty different, so they’ve probably retooled that material altogether. So, basically, I’d like to think I have nothing to worry about.
There’s been a lot of talk about these movies since they were first announced. There is of course the camp that thinks it’s just Gainax trying to cash in on the series once again, but I think it’s something more. Anno wouldn’t go out of his way to completely reanimate and rewrite the entire thing just to make an extra buck. They can just put out another crap game or silly figure to do that. There is a point to remaking this series, and I hope that it becomes gradually apparent in subsequent films. Anno and his crew know what they’re doing. They can do this, and they’ll do it well.
(note: I’ve not actually seen the first movie, so this entire entry is basically me talking out my ass)