Given the fraught production of its original TV series and subsequent movie, it's only fitting that the release of this third in a quartet of theatrical outings has suffered from delays - 2013 should have been the year which saw the fourth and final "Rebuild of Evangelion" movie hit Japanese theatres, yet instead we're only just getting our first glimpses at film number three here in the UK following its Japanese theatrical release last year.
This, however, is pretty much where any comparisons with the Evangelion we all know and love ends - while the first new Evangelion movie stuck tightly to the original work, the second spun out in its own direction and this third film... well, this is not a take on Evangelion's world that you've ever seen before. Such is the extent of the narrative shift in this movie that I can't guarantee a spoiler-free review, so even though we'll try hard not to give anything away if you've sworn off seeing even minor spoilers before watching the film for yourself then beware.
As per its predecessors, You Can (Not) Redo starts in predictably action-packed fashion via a mission which pans out above the Earth's atmosphere - a spectacular blend of great imagery, character interaction and tension that pinpoints the kind of moments which have been standout throughout all of these Rebuild movies thus far. It has to be said however, that such moments are a little more sparse (or at least spread thinner) than in the two previous movies, and of course our real focus quickly returns to Shinji Ikari - having finally awakened from the events at the end of You Can (Not) Advance he finds that much has changed, not just within the world itself but also in terms of how he's viewed even by those he might have considered close to him.
With little information afforded him, Shinji has no real terms of reference when it comes to choosing his affiliation in the scenario which reveals itself before him - ostensibly a choice between old familiarity and the frightening prospect of a new, uncertain future filled with mistrust. This leads into arguably the main thrust of the film - that Shinji has to follow through on his decision at the end of the second film and again make a choice of his own volition, and once again it's a choice upon which the future of the entire world rests.
Given that Shinji's state of mind is a pivotal part of the film as it moves towards its climax and setting up the fourth and final movie, it's hardly surprising that the lengthy second act of the film focuses almost solely on our protagonist, his introduction to and relation with Kaworu, and how this relationship relates to what Shinji learns about the world and those around him. If you're coming to this film for the action and to watch Evangelion units kicking Angel behinds for a couple of hours then you're likely to find a significant portion of You Can (Not) Redo slow going, but as a character-focused piece this film perhaps does more to get to the core of Shinji's character and what drives his actions than any other Evangelion outing.
As a continuation of the process started by the second film, this third Evangelion movie is moving in an entirely new direction - having had a personal struggle with my feelings regarding this shift in its narrative across multiple viewings of You Can (Not) Advance (which I now love unreservedly incidentally), I felt ready for anything that You Can (Not) Redo might throw at me and thus took this film at face value from the outset. It may be this soul-searching at that time which has let me transition more easily into the seismic shift on show here - there's a lot to take in and unreservedly accept, and perhaps this film's biggest issue is that it expects you to swallow some huge gobs of exposition and techno-babble at times as it stretches its original premise to new limits that might just break through the boundaries of credibility for some.
Couple that stretching of its premise with a sneaking suspicion that this film is really just a big, long lead-in to the final movie, then add a dash of frustration at Mari's limited role in events once again and you can begin to see why this particular Evangelion movie has been so divisive amongst those who have seen it - it's so different in tone and pacing from any previous point of reference that no amount of jaw-dropping visuals (including some smart throwbacks to the first two films) or stirrings of Shiro Sagisu's powerful soundtrack will paper over these perceived cracks in the franchise.
In other words, this review is probably going to be a heavily debated one amongst those who have seen the film (and it's a debate that's far easier to have when you're not trying to avoid spoilers in all honesty!) - for my money though, this is another fascinating and largely superb twist to the Evangelion franchise that is both suitably entertaining and mind-bending from beginning to end before once again leaving us hanging in anticipation of the fourth and final movie. Particularly in the context of the unassailable You Can (Not) Advance, this third film isn't without issues in its structure and pacing, and equally in the way in which it delivers aspects of its narrative, but none of these hole that narrative or the world these films have built below the surface.
If you assumed that these Evangelion films were going to simply retrace the story of the TV series as a lazy cash-in, any such theories have certainly been well and truly disproved now, and this new legacy for the franchise is shaping up to be an intriguing one. I'd be willing to concede that You Can (Not) Redo is the weakest of the three films thus far, but being the weakest of three terrific movies isn't necessarily something to be ashamed of.
Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo was screened in Glasgow and Edinburgh as part of Scotland Loves Anime 2013