Claire Shaffer’s review published on Letterboxd:
What started off as a monster-of-the-week mecha robot anime series with teenage protagonists in 1995 ended up as a textbook mindfuck of pubescent angst, metaphysics, postmodern existentialism, heavy religious imagery, and enough fanboys to influence the Japanese animation industry for years to come.
A reviewer (not on here) by the name of JesuOtaku made the best analogy possible by comparing the life cycle of Evangelion (the series and movie as a whole) to Hollywood. "Started out simple, got better and better, pressed firmly upon the eaves of greatness, and then ended up stoned in a gutter somewhere, only to be resurrected after a congratulated death, at which time most of us were sick of the charade, but not enough to drown out the rabid fanatics."
Like New Wave Hollywood, The End of Evangelion improves the concept of the series almost to the point where it's easy to forget the abysmal final episodes of its original run, which were fascinating while at the same time infuriating if you have the most basic understanding of psychology and how a hero's journey is supposed to work. The movie serves almost as a giant "fuck you" to whatever conclusions you had made about the series's muddled symbolism, but at the same time it does offer a somewhat solid conclusion.
It also features one of the best speeches ever put to film, in which the gravely injured Misato finally tells Shinji to get his shit together, get in the fucking EVA, and save the world. Or cause the Third Impact. It wasn't really clear.
One can analyze the series and the movie for ages, and many have, but I would argue it's less for its philosophical themes and more for its refusal to follow basic elements of storytelling. It's both a shock and not at all surprising to find out that Rei Ayanami, one of the most iconic anime characters of all time, has the personality of a toothpick and is literally an empty vessel, in every sense of the word. She, like many of the other characters in the film's drawn-out psychoanalytic montages, is used primarily to voice the revelations and at times preachy messages made by the creator to the protagonist. If the religious aspects of the series were more apparent in the dialogue, there would be fits over how blatantly obvious some of it is.
But like it or not, it is one of the most influential anime of all time, and while it's incredibly easy to find comedy fodder in this mess of a film, it more often that not invokes frustration because, despite all its flaws, it's actually kind of good.
And yes, I would most definitely recommend watching the 26 episodes of the original television show before diving into this thing. Also, do not watch while depressed.