The Guardian has touted the upcoming Pacific Rim as “the thinking man’s Transformers”. It is directed by Guillermo del Toro, the same man who said “I was never into heroic fantasy. At all. I don’t like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, hobbits — I’ve never been into that at all. I don’t like sword and sorcery, I hate all that stuff.” and then went on to try and direct The Hobbit. No this nerd is not a fan and is not expecting much from the Hollywood blockbuster Pacific Rim.
When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge.
Del Toro has denied any direct influences from Japanese film. “I felt there was a chance to do something fresh, something new that at the same time was conscious of the heritage, but not a pastiche or an homage or a greatest hits of everything. One of the first things I did is make it a point to not check any old movies or any other references. Like start from scratch.” The fact is, however, the general plot is similar to most Mecha anime stories. And one of the most loved and loathed Mecha anime series of all time is Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The original 26 episode anime TV series of Neon Genesis Evangelion aired in 1995-1996. Evangelion has become a cult classic. On the surface it is a standard Mecha anime, a young boy must pilot a giant robot in order to save mankind from an alien attack, with hormonal teenagers, pretty girls, and plenty of action. Producers Gainax, however, created one of the most captivating, intense and enigmatically complex anime series of all time.
Fans were initially eagerly awaiting the proposed live-action version, but it has been stuck in development hell for years.
With the recent announcement that Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo would be shown in cinemas here later this year (Japanese fans saw the release in November 2012) we decided to watch the original series again, and follow on with the various movie-length versions (listed here).
The original ending to the Neon Genesis Evangelion, Episodes 25 and 26 caused reactions ranging from controversy, death threats to outright rioting. This is where the series left the anime and plunged into the philosophical, psychological, and religious themes with a truly bizarre outcome. The End of Evangelion, with it’s alternative ending, was no less extraordinary.
The Rebuild of Evangelion consists of four movies presenting an alternate retelling of the original series, including new scenes, settings, and characters and a completely new conclusion to the story. It is clear it has been created to make the series more accessible to a larger audience, with everything explained. It’s infuriating.
To imagine what we would get in an American produced live action version, let’s take a brief look at The Golden Compass movie. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a masterpiece, an epic fantasy heavily influenced by Paradise Lost. An outright attack on organised religion and a superbly terrifying journey into consciousness. The adaptation into film was an unmitigated disaster. With the restraints of being unable to explore religion and dogma in any depth in a children’s film (the trilogy was a young adult series) the very soul was sucked out of the story, leaving an insubstantial and vague mess of an adventure film.
Neon Genesis Evangelion would be no exception. If the protagonists are children then the target audience will be children, and everything spiritual and philosophical about the story would be sacrificed to make way for the entertainment and action-figures. If you want an idea of what it could probably be like, take a look at Pacific Rim. Probably entertaining, likely all looks and no soul.