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Movie Review

Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance

In anime sequel, teens rule the hyperworld

Mari, a confident teen pilot, in “Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance.’’ Mari, a confident teen pilot, in “Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance.’’ (Eleven Arts)
By Ethan Gilsdorf
Globe Correspondent / March 4, 2011

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In the future — or, at least, in the apocalyptic, anime version witnessed in “Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance’’ — a paramilitary organization called Nerv protects its home turf, Tokyo-3, from glowing, bowling-ball-like spaceships and nasty, ginormous robots. Nerv must stave off the “Third Impact.’’

In case you missed it, a couple billion years ago, in the First Impact, an asteroid collision sheared the Moon from Earth. The Second Impact, so goes the story, happened on Sept. 13, 2000: An experiment-gone-awry explosion in Antarctica shifted Earth’s axis, caused massive floods, polluted the oceans, and killed 2 billion people. Oops. We don’t want a Third Impact.

Just like 2007’s “Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone,’’, in “Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance,’’ hope rests with teenagers. They pilot Nerv’s “Evangelions,’’ giant “mecha’’ robots that walk, run, fly, shoot missiles, and battle WWF-style with enemy mecha called Angels. Overshadowing the shy boy pilot Shinji are three chicks: the confident Mari, the fiery Asuka, and the remote Rei. Teen “Eva’’ pilots being teens, they’re also grumpy, horny, and anti-authoritarian. Which explains defiant lines of dialogue like “Just die already!’’ Making matters worse, their fathers tend to be the robot masters at Nerv.

These Angel robots ought to be called Devils, but in this techno-religious anime mash-up, Christian references are played fast and loose. There’s talk of Lilith and the Key of Nebuchadnezzar, and scenes of Mission Control guys excited about linking “the spirit with the divine’’ and “Human Instrumentality’’ through robotics, “even if it means opposing God’s Logos.’’ (That’s Logos, not Legos.)

The director, Hideaki Anno, fills his visually busy — OK, exhausting — vision with blood-red seas and cities that close up at night like flowers. His aesthetic also includes upskirt views of his female protagonists. Add to this an odd undercurrent of racial tension: At one point, the big blue-eyed, blond-haired Asuka barks at her colleague, “Stupid Japanese, apologizing all the time!’’

A box-office smash when it came out in Japan, “2.0: You Can (Not) Advance’’ will probably please those who ate up the hugely profitable TV series upon which it was based, “Neon Genesis Evangelion.’’ These fanboys and fangirls will eagerly await “Evangelion 3.0’’ and “4.0.’’

But the uninitiated probably can’t advance beyond plot gobbledygook such as “Enact Task 03 with Priority on Unit 00 launch!’’ Like a surly teen pilot, you, too, might find yourself bored and muttering, “Honestly, maybe the fate of humanity and the world isn’t important to me, either.’’

Ethan Gilsdorf can be reached at ethan@ethangilsdorf.com.

EVANGELION 2.0: YOU CAN (NOT) ADVANCE Directed by: Hideaki Anno

English version voiced by Colleen Clinkenbeard, John Swasey, Spike Spencer

At: Brattle Theatre

Running time: 109 minutes

Unrated (robot violence, upskirt shots of teenage girls)

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