Tag: Sci-fi

Ready Player One (movie) review

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Zak Penn, Ernest Cline

Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Hannah Jon-Kamen, Lena Waithe, Mark Rylance, T.J. Miller

Released: March 29, 2018

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What a pleasant surprise that this wasn’t awful. Then again, when your movie is in Steven Spielberg’s hands you can usually breathe a sigh of relief, but even for him this was a tough hurdle. He was working with an at best mediocre novel, and he managed to elevate it to an enjoyable blockbuster.

Wade Watts is a socially awkward teenager living in Columbus, Ohio with his aunt. He spends most of his time in the OASIS, a virtual world where you can be anyone and do anything. The game’s founder James Halliday, in his will, states that whoever wins a contest to find an easter egg in the OASIS, will win his whole fortune and control of the entire simulation. Using his wits and with help from his friends Aech, Daito, Sho, and his crush Artemis, Wade must find the clues and win the contest before the evil IOI does.

If you’re looking for something deep with themes to chew on, don’t even bother seeing it. But taken as it is, Ready Player One is an enjoyable if flawed blockbuster and a respectable addition to Spielberg’s resume. I found it to be at least more enjoyable than the novel it’s adapting. The script from Zak Penn and author of the original novel Ernest Cline actually changes quite a lot from the source material, keeping the premise but making the actual challenges work for a film, tightening the pacing, and adding new scenes that work better for a film adaptation.

Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan, actually manages to be sympathetic in the film. He’s socially awkward with dreams of having a better life by winning the contest. The film gets rid of the unintentionally unlikable elements from the novel such as Wade acting like a stalker towards Artemis after their breakup, and has him try to stop a tragedy from happening. Still, he’s nothing special as a protagonist and has no meaningful development. Artemis is in her own right a very interesting and likable character, and I found the relationship between her and Wade to be just believable enough to work. She’s even given some more backstory this time around that explains why she’s so obsessed in winning Halliday’s contest. Unfortunately the other side characters Aech, Daito, and Sho don’t have any memorable characteristics outside of the reveals of their real world identities. The villains are quite hammy and cartoonish, especially Hannah Jon-Kamen as the main villain’s second in command. She has no character other than being evil. While this is a blockbuster primarily concerned with entertainment, other popcorn flicks like the last few Marvel movies have shown you can have complex villains in them. That said everyone gave a good performance even if their characters were bland.

What really brings it home is how non-stop entertaining it is. Instead of merely being tests of how much pop culture you know, the challenges require both mental skill beyond your knowledge of classic video games and movies, and you have to be just as good at driving a car or dodging an axe to win. The three challenges are both very unique and will get you more than your money’s worth in entertainment, with the first challenge being a race with all of the excitement and energy you’d expect from Spielberg, and the second challenge referencing The Shining in the most awesome way imaginable. The plot has a fairly decent pace, albeit the first act at times feels either rushed or too slow depending on what’s happening. While some people will be left scratching their heads at just how does the OASIS actually work, some of the characters having martial arts mastery, and a couple of other plot holes; the movie’s focus on spectacle and not taking itself too seriously makes up for it. It doesn’t feel like it’s exploiting or looking down on its audience, it feels like it’s a part of the audience and wants to have a blast with it. It also manages to succeed, or at least succeed more so than the novel in having a cautionary message against overindulging in escapism.

The pop culture references are updated to fit modern tastes this time around, so you’ll see just as many Batman and Superman nods as you will Back to the Future and Atari video game ones. There were a few times where they were rather obnoxious and almost patronizingly explained to the audience, but there were also a couple of moments where even I couldn’t help but get excited at seeing a favorite character or vehicle from a franchise I love. This all comes to a head in the climax, which is just pure, unadulterated, shamelessly pandering fanservice that you will love every moment of. I knew I would have my fun when “We’re Not Gonna Take It” started playing.

The special effects in the film are pretty decent, but are 100% CGI and you will never be convinced otherwise. Now because most of the film takes place in the virtual world, that works and they never looked straight up terrible, but it’s a shame more convincing effects weren’t added. What elevates them is Spielberg’s direction, which manages to inspire a level of awe and reverence to the world and characters of the OASIS, especially during the exciting action scenes. Except for the music during the climax, I have to say I didn’t find the score by Alan Silvestri to be anything memorable except for the main title, which sounds like something John Williams would make.

Ready Player One is not great, but it towers over its source material and other films like it. It will probably be one of the better films of the year if you’re looking for just entertainment. It’s not a deep film, but it’s not a dumb one either and Spielberg is not trying to trick you into thinking it’s anything more or less than a fun blockbuster that gamers, 80s movie fans, and other nerds can have a good time with. Even if you’re not in those three groups there is still fun to be had with it.

Score: 6/10

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Ready Player One review

Author: Ernest Cline

Published: August 16, 2011

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Ready Player One is the first and most famous novel of author Ernest Cline. The premise is that in the future, people escape the miserable reality of a resource depleted, climate change raddled Earth to the virtual reality of the OASIS. The OASIS is a massive multiplayer rpg that has practically taken the place of the real world. The original creator’s will states that whoever can solve a challenging easter egg hunt that he set up himself within the game will inherit control of the whole OASIS and his whole, multi billion dollar fortune. Years pass until a teenager obsessed with 80s pop culture named Wade Watts finds the first clue, and the race is on to reach the prize before rivals and an evil mega corporation can beat him to it.

Ready Player One may have an interesting premise, but that can’t save it from its badly written characters, plot, and prose. The biggest example of this is the protagonist Wade Watts, easily one of the most shallow, wish fulfillment characters I’ve seen in years. He’s flat and I can barely remember what personality he has in the story. Apparently in the world of the novel, just having an obscene amount of knowledge regarding 1980s pop culture is enough to get you to succeed in life, which is exactly how Wade gets through the plot. Thanks to his obsessive knowledge of everything 80s, he starts off a broke, low level high school student and eventually becomes a rich, high level world famous celebrity. Whatever struggles he has or could potentially have are completely glossed over and just told to the reader rather than shown. For example, Wade eventually has some falling out with his best friend Aech, and he just tells it without us ever seeing it. He also has a romance sub-plot with Art3mis, the main female character that has next to no chemistry in it and has some rather creepy undertones to it.

The side characters really aren’t much better written. The love interest Art3mis is supposed to be this strong female character, and to her credit she is a more interesting character than Wade is with some cool moments. It still doesn’t fix the fact that she’s completely overshadowed by Wade and his shallow personality. The other important side characters are pretty flat as well, with Wade’s best friend Aech having barely any personality themselves or anything interesting about them at all aside from a completely preachy and clumsy reveal about their identity that makes you think the novel is deeper than it actually is. The antagonist is at least charismatic but he’s just a stereotypical evil businessman.

The plot has a quick, page turner pacing to it that will get the reader moving smoothly along from one event to the next due to the chapters’ short length. The quick pacing is the one good thing I can say about the plot because like the characters, it is shallow and badly written. The premise has the potential to be really interesting but it doesn’t seem concerned with actually exploring it. Oh it sprinkles some concepts to make it seem deeper than it actually is, like the evil mega corporation cheating to win the contest so they can control the OASIS and charge a subscription fee and insert advertisements into it being reflective of the net neutrality debate. Yet this, and the other issues the book stamps onto the plot aren’t actually explored with any nuance or even reveal something meaningful about the characters. The ending tries to have this message about not using escapism as a means of always avoiding the world, but it comes off as cheap and doesn’t really hold up considering Wade saves the whole world real and virtual via escapism

Lastly the writing style ranges from bland to insufferable. The dialogue is riddled with outdated slang that was already going out of style at the time it was published and is now just embarrassing to read now. The characters will actually say “noobs” and call the enemy faction called The Sixers the “Suxorz”. You know, because they suck (that is an actual line in the novel). If that wasn’t bad enough, the novel will usually stop the plot to explain a reference to 80s pop culture it makes because it assumes you care or are an idiot who can’t just look it up. The worst instance of this is when Wade spends a whole three pages bragging about how much 80s trivia he knows. If you grew up with 80s movies, games, comics, and books I guess you could forgive it but I found it to be needless and eye-rolling. At least the action scenes are described well.

Ready Player One is not the worst novel ever written, or even that I’ve ever read. It’s bad, but just bad. It’s like Sword Art Online: an interesting idea brought down by bad writing and characters. At its best it is a good airport book, but I found it to be mindless and didn’t think it worked as entertainment. My hope is that Steven Spielberg can manage to make a good or even great movie out of this sub-par novel, since he’s managed to do so before. As for Ernest Cline’s other novel Armada and his plans for a sequel, I have no interest in either.

Score: 4/10

Annihilation (movie) review

Director: Alex Garland

Writer: Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac

Released: February 23, 2018

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I had some high hopes for this one, and it didn’t disappoint. Support this film to show that science fiction films like these can still succeed at the theater.

Annihilation is the film adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, directed and written by Alex Garland. I have some familiarity with Garland’s work. He wrote 2012’s Dredd, which was really good and I’ve heard high praise for his first film from 2015, Ex Machina. Annihilation just further cements his status as a guy to keep an eye on when he’s attached to a project.

The story is about Lena, a female biologist played by Natalie Portman whose husband played by Oscar Isaac has come back home after a year of being presumed dead from a military op. It quickly becomes clear something is very wrong as he can barely remember anything, and becomes deathly ill and is taken and quarantined by an organization known as the Southern Reach. Lena, wanting answers as to what happened to her husband, decides to join an expedition of all female scientists into a closed off area of land known as “The Shimmer”. As the mission goes on, they encounter unexplainable phenomena, and must try to finish their mission.

My previous review was for the original novel so I can comment on how this film is as an adaptation of its source material. Quite frankly I not only think it’s a great adaptation but I think I prefer it to the novel. The original novel was a top tier sci-fi read with great atmosphere and a chilling plot, but its characters were rather thin with very little actual emotional investment for us to give. They didn’t even have names, not even the protagonist. The movie fixes that by giving the characters names, added personal life details, personalities and backgrounds that serve as motivation for why they’re on the mission, and gives them a sense of comradery which makes the story more tragic. It also removes some details that would drag the film’s narrative down so as to streamline it more to fit the runtime. Last and most importantly, it preserves the novel’s spirit of Lovecraftian fear and desire to know the unknown. The only change that I don’t think they needed to make was change the name of the area itself, but that’s a very petty thing to knock it for and at least the new name sounds cool.

The technical aspects of this film are exquisite. The special effects are extremely convincing with creative creature and set designs, aided by gorgeous cinematography and stellar direction. The film is simply beautiful, no two ways about it. Garland managed to bring to screen the haunting beauty of Area-X VanderMeer put to paper. Even as beautiful as the film is, there is still an uncomfortable feeling lingering in the back of your mind. Even as you get lost in the beauty of the environment, what you don’t see may kill you. The spin-tingling moments of tension in the film is aided by the film’s chilling musical score from Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow. The performances from the cast are all really good, especially from Natalie Portman as the lead and Tessa Thompson pulling of a pretty sympathetic and complex role.

Annihilation’s plot is hard to get into without risking giving spoilers away. The trailers have done a good job of keeping the plot as vague and detailed as it needs to be, and I’m going to try to do the same but fix a misconception some may have from the marketing. The plot is not your traditional sci-fi horror story you’ve seen from Alien or The Thing. It’s a much more cerebral, slow-burn plot dealing with heavy themes such as humanity’s tendency to self-destruct, the apathy of nature, and the fear of the unknown that all culminates in one hell of a climax and ending. All of this is aided by an emotional hook from the characters all having damaged personal lives and differing traits that set them apart from each other. That’s all I’m going to give away concerning the plot and characters. If you want to know more, go out and see for yourself.

It’s not a movie whose flaws can be totally forgiven in spite of its outstanding qualities. I didn’t mind the slow pacing because I just got lost in the beauty and wonder of the film, but it probably could’ve gone a bit faster. Nevertheless it at least didn’t get boring. Also some characters are more fleshed out than others and while the special effects are outstanding 99% of the time, there is that 1% that just doesn’t quite work.

Annihilation is a smart science fiction film that deserves to succeed at the box office. It’s definitely a movie that will leave you pondering what it all meant, especially the shocking last act. It isn’t a masterpiece like Blade Runner 2049 or Under the Skin, but it’s a damn good movie that can be viewed in the same light. I highly recommend you give it your money.

Score: 8.5/10

Annihilation review

Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Published: February 2014

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Well isn’t this a surprise, I’m reviewing a book this time. Specifically, the first novel of the Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I first heard about this book when I saw the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation from Alex Garland. I liked what I saw and figured I would read the source material before I see the movie. I didn’t even know it was the first of a trilogy. I started reading it about two days before writing this review, and managed to finish it hours earlier today. It has been a long time since I’ve read something this engaging and well written.

Annihilation is just like a good Lovecraft story, if Lovecraft had managed to write a full book instead of just short stories. Its story is about an all female team consisting of a psychologist, surveyor, anthropologist, and our protagonist a biologist as they venture out into Area-X, an area of land which seems to defy the very laws of science. As the team investigates, things quickly fall apart, but that’s all I’ll say about the story without going into spoiler territory.

Like I said earlier, this has all the trappings of a good cosmic horror story written by H.P. Lovecraft. It involves a group of people dealing with an entity that their minds cannot fully make sense of, no matter what technology they have or investigative tools they use. Area-X is one of the most fascinating, realized locations I’ve witnessed in years. It’s strange, disturbing, and defies any attempts to make sense of it. It is as if it exists in a plane of reality outside of the rest of the Earth. The laws of nature as we know them are not followed in Area-X, with one of the books most memorable scenes being one where our protagonist witnesses some dolphins with a very peculiar trait their species should not have, and numerous ones that takes place in a “tower” that goes underground. Everything in Area-X simply should not be.

On the character side Annihilation doesn’t excel but it works. None of the characters are given names, not even our protagonist, and she’s the only one we’re ever given any insight into. She has a rather unconventional, and at times unsympathetic personality. She’s antisocial, wrapped up in her work, and just seems not to care about the people around her. The novel is entirely from a first person perspective, so we learn about her, and only her. The other characters’ pasts are unexplored. We also only have the protagonist’s knowledge of the area and its wildlife. This is a good way of adding to the fear of the unknown the book has. By the end, the protagonist doesn’t have all the answers, and neither do we.

Annihilation’s single greatest attribute is easily its atmosphere, which is thanks to VanderMeer’s excellent writing. He manages to bring to life the vast loneliness the protagonist feels during the plot, the sadness and isolation given off from the remnants of humanity found in Area-X, and the surrealism of its ecology. While it builds atmosphere, the novel still manages to have an excellent pace to it. Nothing feels padded on or unnecessary, and when I was finished I felt breathless and wanting more.

For all the good things I have to say, Annihilation is not for everybody. While it’s only 195 pages in total and I managed to read through it fairly quickly, it can be a tad confusing at times and the characters aren’t really the focus of the story. You also are left with unanswered questions by the end, which will no doubt leave at least one person feeling cheated. I personally did not mind this because the protagonist finished her own personal journey and since the story is framed as her recounting her experiences, it immerses us into her mindset and maintains the book’s Lovecraftian horror traits.

Annihilation is a great read and has left me feeling even more excited for Alex Garland’s film adaptation. I’m nervous and excited to see if he can make a movie out of such a surreal novel, but if he has to take some liberties to make it happen, then let him do so. It works both as a standalone work, and as the first of a trilogy. I’m eager to read the other two books of the series as soon as I can.

Score: 8/10

Snowpiercer review

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Writers: Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson

Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Jaime Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Go Ah-sung

Released: August 1, 2013

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Holy crap this movie is great! Why doesn’t this get more attention? Why didn’t this get a wide theatrical release? It’s awesome!

As you could probably tell, I think Snowpiercer is good. Actually I think it’s freaking brilliant. Snowpiercer is a Korean film directed by the same man who did last year’s Netflix film Okja. It takes place during an apocalyptic ice age that has rendered the Earth uninhabitable, like Metro 2033. The only place where people can live is on a massive, self-sustaining train called the “Snowpiercer”. The train is divided by class, where the rich live at the front in luxury, and the poor live at the back in squalor. One day, they’ve had enough and Chris Evans’s character decides to lead a revolution to take the front of the train by force and hopefully lead to better conditions and more fair treatment for the poorest passengers.

Snowpiercer is a movie that unlike other, lesser movies, has intentions beyond being a brainless action movie. This is a movie that has something to say about society, class inequality and struggle, violent revolution, and how delicate our eco system is. The whole train can be seen as a metaphor for the world we live in. The pacing of the plot is near flawless, with no act going on for too short or too long, and each character getting the proper amount of screen time they deserve so the audience can learn about them and their motives. There are twists, horrifying revelations, emotional gut punches, and an ending that will leave your jaw on the floor. With that, and some seamless and interesting worldbuilding, this isn’t your usual Hollywood action film, this is one that is more concerned with getting you to think instead of just entertaining you for 90 minutes then moving on. The characters are also all interesting and complex. Curtis Everett seems like your standard, idealistic revolutionary leader at first, but as the movie goes on we see darker dimensions to his character that reach downright chilling levels. Even the villains have their own complexity and understandable reasons for their actions, to the extent that by the end even I saw where they were coming from.

That isn’t to say Snowpiercer as an action movie fails, in fact it excels in this category. While the beginning had more shaky cam than I expected or wanted, it only last for a moment and the rest of the action is tightly choreographed and directed. Taking place on a confined, claustrophobic train, the violence is brutal, bloody, and unforgiving. Screw your PG-13, pull your punches action movies, this is R-rated, close quarters combat that does not shy away from showing how short and blunt violence can be. The standout action sequence is one that happens in a tunnel. I have no intention of spoiling it. Watch the movie, because it’s one of the most tense, nail-biting sequences filmed in years.

On technical merits Snowpiercer also gets high marks. The film’s cinematography makes you feel like you are in this claustrophobic environment, with each section of the train feeling like a lived in, authentic place. If there was CGI involved in anything, I could barely tell if it all, except for the outside environments. The cast all do a great job as well. Chris Evans completely disappears into his role, and Tilda Swinton is practically unrecognizable as one of the most repugnant film characters I can remember seeing recently. John Hurt and Ed Harris do a great job as well as among the most interesting and spoilery characters of the movie.

It’s a struggle to come up with any real faults that Snowpiercer has. It’s not entirely a smooth watch however. One of the characters is a teenage drug addict with psychic powers that totally felt out of place in the otherwise mostly believable world of the movie, to the extent that she sort of took me out of the experience. That and…well I can’t say I remember the music that much. That’s really it though, but they still do hold this movie back from getting my first ever 10/10 rating by an inch. This is a movie that deserves more attention and I think will be remembered one day as a classic.

Score: 9/10

The End of Evangelion review

Director: Hideaki Anno

Writer: Hideaki Anno

Studio: Production I.G.

Released: July 19, 1997

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Warning: spoilers for Neon Genesis Evangelion since this movie is the finale meant to finish the original series

While I think they’re pretty good, the final episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion left many people feeling cold and disappointed. So many questions and plot threads were left unresolved, and the fanbase was demanding a proper finale. The movie The End of Evangelion was intended to be the definitive finale to the series, a “final draft” if you will of the concepts and events introduced in the last two episodes, and boy it did not disappoint.

The End of Evangelion begins with the immediate psychological aftermath of Shinji killing Kaworu. He’s in a predictably awful state, and its implied he tried to commit suicide via drowning but failed. He then follows this up by accidently exposing a comatose Asuka’s breasts and…does something absolutely despicable (watch the movie). That is the state of our “hero” throughout the majority of the movie: a self-loathing, wallowing in self-pity, selfish and despairing wreck who cares barely about himself and even less for the people around him. It gets better: the shadow organization SEELE decides to make their move and begin the apocalyptic event of Third Impact that will assimilate all of humanity into one consciousness, consent be damned. What follows are a series of events that bring our characters to their lowest, to self-realization, death, and not even necessarily in that order. Have fun!

In all seriousness, The End of Evangelion is phenomenal. Both as a finale to the original series, and as a movie in its own right. Having the budget and resources of a movie elevates the animation to new heights that still looks great to this day. Those awesome fight scenes in the original? They’ve got nothing on the mecha battle that happens in the first half of the film, which is easily one of the best animated fight scenes of all time, with an outcome that will leave your jaw on the floor. And the visual delights don’t end there, because The End of Evangelion boasts some of the most creative and memorable visuals not just in the series but in anime and cinema in general. Love or hate the plot and characters, but you can’t deny the imagination and creativity on display here.
Speaking of plot and characters, it wouldn’t be Evangelion without an…interesting resolution to the series. It’s not as confusing as the original series’ was, and it leaves off on an overall satisfying ending, but it will still leave you scratching your head as to exactly what happened. Shinji once again is confronted by the inner depths of his subconscious and must finally come to terms with his character flaws, stop running away from people in order to avoid getting hurt, and is given a choice regarding the fate of the entire human race.

One gripe I had with the original was barring a few exceptions, I didn’t think its music was anything special. Well this movie totally fixes that! The music for The End of Evangelion is nothing short of fantastic, and is without a doubt one of the best in anime history. Komm Susser Tod (Come Sweet Death), Hajimari He No Touhi (Escape to the Beginning), and Yume no Sukima (Opening of a Dream) are my three favorite musical scores of the entire movie. The first playing during the most surreal, horrifying, and memorable part of the movie that viewers will never forget, the second featuring the most epic chanting ever, and the third being one of the most melancholic piano pieces I’ve ever heard.

The two flaws of The End of Evangelion are that it cannot be viewed without watching the original series. If you do, you will be hopelessly lost. Now I can give it a bit of a pass because it was never meant to be viewed as a standalone work, but it still was released as a full length feature film that requires knowledge of the original’s characters and plot. Lastly, regarding the ending, while I love it and think it gives great closure for the original, did leave me confused on one aspect of it. It’s on one hand arguably a plot hole, but to this day provokes discussion and debate. I have mixed feelings about it overall. Other than those two things however, I have no major issues with it.

The End of Evangelion is the grand finale that the original series deserved. It’s thought provoking, daring, and beautiful. While it fails as a standalone movie, it never was meant to be one, and serves to elevate the original Neon Genesis Evangelion. If you did not like the original, this will not change your mind. If you did however, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie.

Score: 9/10

Neon Genesis Evangelion review

Director: Hideaki Anno

Writer: Hideaki Anno

Studio: Gainax

Episodes: 26

Aired: October 4, 1995-March 27, 1996

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I’ve had Neon Genesis Evangelion on my watch list for a long time, and it’s about damn time that I decided to check it off my list. It’s one of the most debated anime of all time, some calling it a masterpiece, others calling it overrated, pretentious tripe. My opinion? It’s a classic that deserves just about all the praise it gets.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is the confusing, surreal mecha deconstruction anime from the mind of Hideaki Anno and the talent at Studio Gainax. Set in Tokyo years after an apocalyptic event known as Second Impact changed the face of world, three young teenagers named Shinji Ikari, Asuka Langley Soryu, and Rei Ayanami are chosen to pilot giant synthetic mechs known as Evangelions to fight giant monsters known as Angels to prevent Third Impact, an even greater apocalyptic event that would result in the complete extinction of all of humanity. As the series goes on, the inner motives and psychological torments of the pilots get taken under the microscope and Evangelion goes from merely an anime about robots fighting giant monsters to a dark, psychological character study about the inner boundaries between people and the collective human desire for acceptance.

The aspect of Evangelion most worthy of praise then and now is the characters and their development. It might seem unremarkable now but at the time, a cast with such deep, crippling flaws like these hadn’t been seen before in anime. Shinji Ikari is no badass, escapist protagonist. He’s whiny, self-critical to a fault, and arguably a coward at times. He’s a character whose very human flaws make him sympathetic, but not necessarily likable. Asuka Soryu is an examination of the tsundere character archetype, and what kind of trauma a person would have had to suffer to turn out like that, and what effect it would have on them and the people they care for deep down, but have trouble showing. Rei Ayanami is…well that would be going into spoiler territory that I don’t want to go into, but Rei’s character is mysterious, struggles with her identity, mortality, emotions, and feelings regarding the two most important people in her life, and her past is tied intricately to the overarching plot of the series. Those are just the three main characters. The side characters are just as well developed and psychologically complex. Shinji’s commanding officer and guardian, Misato Katsuragi, is on the surface a confident woman with issues keeping a tidy house, but is just as damaged on the inside as Shinji is. No character is overlooked, and the show takes the time to show you what they’re like on and off the job, and the events that made them the people you see in the anime.

Complementing Evangelion’s great characters is an extremely well written and intriguing plot. The first half of the series is an entertaining and well directed but overall played straight mecha anime, but the second half is where things really get interesting. The series takes a much darker shift in tone, and the focus shifts from giant robots fighting monsters to examining the psychology and motivations of the characters, and dealing with themes examining depression, suicide, identity, love. At the same time we slowly learn the truth about the Evas, NERV, Second Impact, and the goals of the secretive organization SEELE. All of these elements make for what is quite frankly one of the most memorable stories in anime.

I had heard that Evangelion had problems with its animation budget and that Gainax had to cut corners and get creative to compensate for this. After having watched the series, I think there is at least some truth to this, but it’s been exaggerated. The mecha battles in Evangelion look awesome the majority of the time, and still hold up today. The non battle scenes with the characters just talking and doing their daily activities have some clunky animation once or twice, but nothing seriously detrimental. Even in the scenes featuring limited animation, the stellar direction by Anno keeps them engaging visually.

The battle scenes in Evangelion are never repetitive. There is always a unique solution that the pilots have to figure out in order to win, and even when they do, victory will sometimes come at a great sacrifice and leave them scarred mentally and physically. The second half of the series increases the tension and stakes of them with the Angels invading the pilots’ minds and forcing them to confront their deepest insecurities. They never feel stale and are always coming up with new ideas to remain exciting.

Watching the series in English was an interesting experience. While the first couple of episodes can be grating, to the point I was considering switching to the Japanese audio, but by the time Asuka shows up in episode 7, they begin to grow on you. I can’t imagine anyone other than Spike Spencer being the voice of Shinji Ikari, or Tiffany Grant and Amanda Win-Lee as Asuka and Rei respectively. The standout performance of the cast, in my opinion, would have to go to Tristan MacAvery as Gendo Ikari, perfectly capturing the character’s cunning and mysterious nature and his cold, yet still human personality.

Other worthy editions of note are the unique visual designs of the Evas and Angels, and the opening and ending themes being extremely memorable and catchy. Unfortunately, I can’t really recall the rest of the soundtrack being particularly memorable except for some great usage of Hallelujah in episode 22.

The final two episodes

I won’t go into spoilers here but I am going to devote a whole section of this review try to justify the most divisive aspect of Evangelion: the last two episodes of the original series. Episodes 25 and 26 are what can be considered a rough draft of The End of Evangelion movie, which I view to be the definitive finale of the series. They both deal with the same events, serve to wrap up the plot, and spend a large deal of time psychoanalyzing Shinji, but the final two episodes do so with leftover animation, still frames, and monologues from the characters.

The result wasn’t perfect but they still managed to give the episodes a surreal atmosphere and finish Shinji’s character arc. The episodes also still take time to fully psychoanalyze the other characters, and 26 features a charming sequence of what their lives might have been like if they did not have to pilot the Evas. Not great, but not terrible either and you’ll remain transfixed by what you are watching. I recommend you watch these episodes, then move on to The End of Evangelion movie so you can have a better appreciation for them.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is flawed but still a masterpiece. Whatever flaws it has can’t take away from all that it does so well and even after all these years, it still holds up. Any fan of anime, or just a fan of well written and compelling fiction should watch this series.

Score: 9/10