Having seen all four movies, here’s my ranking of them, from “least best” (because one can never truly have a bad Evangelion work) to “best”.
I’m putting this one in the bottom spot because, while it isn’t terrible, it just has the least reason to exist of all the Rebuild movies. It’s a remake, with very little outward change from the original TV series. Now, obviously the Rebuild series still has to set up Shinji’s story, but one would think that, this being a remake, they would have changed a lot more. If you’ve already watched the first few episodes of the show, this movie won’t surprise you.
This one isn’t a rehash of the original the way the first movie was, but it does make a lot of decisions that seem questionable and don’t really serve the story well. Some of these become more understandable in light of the fourth movie, but others are just strange. It’s also, unfortunately, the movie that has the most of its runtime taken up by infodumps, thanks to Shinji being in a coma for 14 years. Mari, who was set up as a new main character in the second movie, doesn’t get to do much here
I wish I could say the finale was the best of the movies. I really do. Unfortunately, it isn’t. There are a lot of good things about it, but it falls short because of the ending. More specifically, Mari’s relationship with Shinji, which was never hinted at in such a way before, and pushes her into borderline Mary-Sue territory. Luckily, that’s the only thing I really don’t like about it, and for the most part it’s a solid conclusion to the movie. But as the best movie in the series, it narrowly loses out to. . .
This is, in my opinion, where all the best parts of the movies come together. We can tell that the story is beginning to diverge from the one we know in the TV series, but the characters and world are still recognizable enough that there’s no need for massive expositions. Mari is introduced, and is kept mysterious regarding her motives and true alliances. All we know is that she hails from Britain, is capable of activating an Evangelion’s “beast mode”, and works for an unknown third party. We’re kept in the dark about her, and so are the main characters. Shinji, Asuka, and Rei are also still their recognizable selves, but there are hints—especially in the latter two characters’ cases— that they are not the same ones we know.
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