‘Evangelion’ delivers with eye-popping animation

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, January 14, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

Considering it comes from a family tree that includes a multi-episode TV series, previous movies and comic books, the Japanese anime feature “Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone” is surprisingly easy to get into.

That’s because even though there’s a complicated backstory behind all the stuff you’re seeing, the basic situation is pretty stark. Giant robotlike creatures seek to destroy all life on the planet, and an adolescent boy is the Earth’s best warrior because of his ability to inhabit and control another giant bio-robotic machine.

The boy is Shinji, whose father is the inventor and director of a huge defense program that seems to be located in a volcano outside Tokyo (or whatever passes for Tokyo in this futuristic world).

Maybe the original Japanese TV series explained this more thoroughly, but for some reason Shinji is the ideal candidate to pilot the giant, monsterlike purple-and-green fighting machine that represents mankind’s best hope against the invaders.

Happily, the movie version starts so fast and ramps up so quickly that Shinji is loaded inside the towering machine before you have a chance to catch your breath. The movie checks in with his teen angst periodically (Dad doesn’t love me, what is my purpose in life beyond defeating giant robots from space, blah blah blah), but mostly we go from one battle to the next, as the malevolent “Angels” from another world try to blow us up.

See? Not complicated. The final sequences hint to a backstory that might explain why any of this is going on, and presumably that will be expanded on in the second half of the opus (which will play, conveniently enough, next week at the Grand Illusion theater).

But given the sometimes mystifying storylines of Japanese anime pictures, “Evangelion 1.0” provides a clean through-line and some eye-popping visuals. The animation frequently detonates in all sorts of pinks and purples and yellows, making it a trippy, but not nauseating, experience.

It’s certainly got more oomph than “Tron: Legacy,” another movie designed to get by on its imaginative visual design.

I’m not entirely sure why Shinji triumphs over some of the Angels or why he experiences pain and distress in other battles, but on the other hand I don’t think my relative enjoyment of the movie is particularly dependent on knowing those things.

I haven’t seen “Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance” yet. Check in next week to see how the loose ends get wrapped up. I’m guessing the destruction of giant robots has something to do with it.

“Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone” ½

A movie adaptation of a popular Japanese anime series, in which giant machines fight it out to settle the fate of all mankind and a lonely teenage kid is the world’s best hope for piloting our defenses. Pretty basic, but the visuals are eye-popping. In Japanese, with English subtitles.

Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for violence

Showing: Grand Illusion

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