The film focuses on a young teenager named Shinji Ikari, who is asked to pilot a mecha known as "Evangelion Unit-01" to protect the world from mysterious creatures known as Angels. The plot is largely a point-for-point adaptation of the first six episodes of the original anime. While some scenes and events are replications of the original series, others unfold differently with new or omitted scenes and newly-available 3D CG technology. The film received a positive response from fans, with Hideaki Anno himself calling it a "faithful remake of the original series". The film was ranked as the 4th-highest grossing anime film at the Japanese box office during 2007, earning a total of 2 billion yen.
In 2015, fifteen years after a global cataclysm known as the Second Impact, the child Shinji Ikari is summoned to Tokyo-3 by his estranged father Gendo, the commander of the paramilitary organization NERV. Shinji is caught in the crossfire between UN forces and an angel, an alien lifeform; colonel Misato Katsuragi rescues him and brings him to NERV headquarters. Gendo demands Shinji pilot Evangelion Unit 01, a giant bio-machine, against the angel. Shinji concedes when Gendo threatens to send Rei Ayanami, a wounded Evangelion pilot, into battle instead. Shinji wins the fight after Unit 01 goes berserk and destroys the Angel.
Misato becomes Shinji's guardian and he is enrolled in the local middle school. When another angel arrives, Shinji's classmates Toji Suzuhara and Kensuke Aida sneak out of the emergency shelters to watch the battle. The angel slams Unit 01 into a mountainside, nearly crushing Toji and Kensuke. Misato has the two take cover in Unit 01's cockpit and orders Shinji to retreat, but he ignores it and destroys the angel with Unit 01's knife.
The Sixth Angel appears and begins drilling into Tokyo-3 to reach NERV headquarters. When Shinji attacks it in Unit 01, the Angel fires a powerful laser, critically injuring him. He wakes from a coma some time later and Rei tells him she will take his place and leaves for the mission alone.
To motivate the despondent Shinji, Misato takes him to the deepest level of NERV headquarters and shows him a giant white being crucified to a cross-like restraint: the Second Angel, Lilith. Misato explains that the angels are attempting to initiate contact with Lilith and bring about Third Impact and the end of all life on Earth.
Shinji agrees to pilot Unit 01 against the angel alongside Rei in Unit 00. He destroys it with an experimental positron rifle, which requires the entire electrical power output of Japan to power. Rei is nearly killed defending Shinji from the Angel's return fire, but he saves her by cooling Unit 00 in water and prying open its cockpit using Unit-01's knife. Rei, normally cold and emotionless, shares a smile with him.
On the surface of the Moon, Kaworu Nagisa awakens from one of nine coffin-like containers arranged on the surface. In a pit in front of him, surrounded by construction equipment and scaffolds, is an unidentified giant, wearing a purple seven-eyed mask and wrapped in white bandages. A black monolith appears, through which he and SEELE 01 engage in a cryptic conversation. Looking towards Earth, Kaworu says that "the third one" has not changed at all and that he looks forward to meeting Shinji.
In September 2006, the October edition of the Japanese anime magazine Newtype, the first film of the Rebuild of Evangelion series was announced to be released in the summer of 2007 with an expected running time of 90 minutes. During pre-production, Toshimichi Ohtsuki stated that director Hideaki Anno rewatched the entire original television series back to back. It was revealed the success of the series had caused misunderstanding and disarray amongst fans and the new films would clear up any confusion. In the December 2006 issue of Newtype, Anno revealed he was happy to finally recreate Eva "as he wanted it to be" in the beginning and that he was no longer constrained by technological and budget limitations.
In November 2006, it was revealed that most of the staff from the original TV series had returned to work on the movie, along with the entire Japanese voice cast of the original series. The film's climax, Operation Yashima, was created as per Anno's original concept for the sequence, with collaboration from the famed storyboarder Shinji Higuchi.
In mid-2007, Hikaru Utada was chosen to provide the ending theme song for the film, "Beautiful World" She also provided a reprised remix of the series original ending theme "Fly Me to the Moon", known as "Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words) (2007 Mix)", from the version she released in 2000 on her "Wait & See (Risk)" single. It served as the soundtrack to the first full theatrical trailer and was well received by fans, selling nearly 881,000 copies while boosting Utada's own sales.
The complete score for the film, composed and arranged by Shiro Sagisu, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with performances by the London Studio Orchestra. An album featuring full-track selections from the film's score, without any editing to fit them into the film entitled Shiro SAGISU Music from Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, was released on September 26, 2007. The Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone Original Soundtrack, with the complete score and Utada's "Beautiful World" and "Fly Me to the Moon", were released on May 25, 2008. Many of the tracks on both soundtracks are rearranged versions of songs from the original series, with "Angel of Doom" among the new compositions, being used in a promotional clip as well as in the film's climactic fight with Ramiel.
In the weeks leading up to the film's theatrical release, the film was promoted by promotional campaigns by numerous media outlets, including the Japanese edition of Rolling Stone and Pizza Hut. The film was originally planned to premiere in Shinjuku at the Cinema Square Tōkyū theater, but was changed to the Milano 1 theater in order to accommodate the growing crowds. At the film's theatrical premiere on September 1, 2007, the film's official Bandai Channel news feed reported full houses and full applause from fans. The film opened on 84 screens and at first place in the Japanese box office during its opening weekend, with some 236,158 spending 280 million yen (about US $2.8 million). The film dropped to second place during its second week and was later reported to have been seen by approximately 1 million people in its first four weeks after opening.
The film became Gainax's highest-grossing film of the series, earning 1.468 billion yen (about US $16,445,415), beating the previous record set by The End of Evangelion, which earned 1.45 billion yen or US $16,243,768, and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth, which earned 1.1 billion yen or US $12,322,858. The film was re-released in April 2008 under the title "Evangelion: 1.01 You Are (Not) Alone." in theaters with an additional 266 enhancements to coincide with the DVD release. The film was ranked as the 4th highest grossing anime film at the Japanese box office in 2007, earning approximately 2 billion yen (US $18.7 million) during its theatrical run.
The first international screening of the film was on October 12, 2007 as the closing film of the 2007 Pusan International Film Festival in Japanese with Korean and English subtitles. The film has been released internationally throughout early to late 2008. The film was released in South Korea (January 24, 2008), Malaysia (July 1, 2008), Singapore (March 13, 2008), Hong Kong (April 3, 2008), Taiwan (April 18, 2008), Germany (October 2008), and Italy by Dynit (October 30, 2008). The film was released on DVD in Australia by Red Ant Enterprises on November 12, 2008, although that release is no longer available for sale as Red Ant Enterprises went into receivership in January 2009. The Australian rights have since been sub-licensed to Madman Entertainment, who have a special relationship with FUNimation and have the rights to the TV series and movies from Manga Entertainment and ADV Films. The film was released in France by distributor Dybex at the out of competition screening at the 2008 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The film made its Canadian premiere at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema in November 2008. Madman Entertainment released the film in Australia on November 30, 2009. Madman then sub-licensed Evangelion 1.11 from Manga UK and has done the same for Evangelion 2.0.
The film has also screened at Santa Barbara International Film Festival as well as at the AFI Dallas International Film Festival in March 2009.
In November 2008, FUNimation Entertainment issued a cease and desist order to fansubbers of Evangelion 1.0 on behalf of NTV, along with several other anime properties. On December 31, 2008, FUNimation announced that it had acquired the rights to the first Rebuild of Evangelion film. On May 23, 2009, the cast was announced for the English dub for the film at Anime Boston, with Spike Spencer and Allison Keith reprising their respective roles as Shinji Ikari and Misato Katsuragi. The movie was shown at limited engagements in theaters in the United States and then premiered in Canada on September 30. The film is rated PG-13 in the United States for action violence and some nudity. The film was also shown in at least 77 movie theaters across North America, 60 of which are in Canada, starting with Anime Expo in Los Angeles, California, on July 2, 2009. In North American cinemas, the film took in over $100,000. FUNimation released Evangelion: 1.01 on DVD in North America on November 17, 2009, and later released 1.11 on Blu-ray and DVD on March 9, 2010.
The two-disc "Evangelion: 1.01 You Are (Not) Alone.: Limited Design Edition" was released on DVD in Japan on April 25, 2008. The release contained 266 shots that received minor enhancements and fine tunings in picture, editing, and sound quality. The first disc contained the movie and the script, while the second contained music videos, trailers, and the "Explanation of Evangelion" feature, which overlaid the film with textual labels and explanations. In addition, each DVD set contained film strips of five animation frames from actual reels of the film (which were otherwise only available in the "Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0 All Collection" artbook), some of which received bids at online auctions over 29,000 yen or over $200 (frames from the famous scene of Rei smiling at the end of the film were sold for 152,000 yen or about $1921). Only 300,000 of these special-edition DVD sets were made. The film was released on DVD in a "Normal Edition" on May 21, 2008.
The DVD release was promoted by numerous Japanese restaurants, including "Cure Maid Café" in Akihabara, which offered numerous Evangelion menu options such as an "LCL Drink", "Sachiel Pasta", and an "Asuka Cocktail". The Pasela chain of Japanese restaurants offered options such as "Eva Honey Toast" and "Misato's Curry Ramen". By April 29, less than one week after its release, more than 219,000 copies of the film were sold, making it the best-selling DVD for the first half of 2008 in Japan. Ultimately, the "Limited Edition" release ranked as the fourth best-selling DVD in Japan in the first six months of 2008, selling an estimated 263,395 copies in that time. Amazon Japan ranked the "Equipment Edition" release as the best-selling DVD in Japan during 2008.
A Blu-ray Disc and new DVD release titled Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone. was released on May 27, 2009. The film was given a re-transfer to fix some darkness issues in the previous DVD release and roughly 3 minutes of new animation was added to the first 15 minutes of the original film. The release became the best-selling Blu-ray in Japan thus far, with around 49,000 copies sold by the start of August 2009.
Funimation released the 1.01 version on DVD on November 17, 2009. The 1.11 DVD and Blu-ray was released on March 9, 2010. However, people who pre-ordered the movie received it early (primarily from Right Stuf and AnimeNation). The 1.11 DVD and Blu-ray discs come with a 20-page booklet with character art and production stills and information about how the movie was made. The DVD's first disc has the movie on it, while the second disc contains special features, including a music video of "Angel of Doom", a preview for Evangelion 2.0, along with trailers from the 1.0 release.
1.0 was broadcast on NTV on 3 July 2009 (with a modified preview trailer for 2.0).
The 1.11 version of the movie was broadcast on Adult Swim's Toonami block on March 17, 2013 as part of the block's 16th birthday celebration. It aired with a TV-14-LSV designation.
Various action figures of characters were released to coincide with the theatrical and DVD release, including Rei Ayanami, Kaworu Nagisa, and Misato Katsuragi. Gainax provided the licensing, while Kotobukiya provided distribution in Japan. Revoltech also released numerous figures from the film including the Eva units and characters. In December 2008, Gainax announced the release of the "EVA-W01" Quad Elements watch with a Seiko Instruments design, designed in the image of the Evangelion units from the film, for February 2009. In January 2009, Salomon also announced the release of an Evangelion snowboard and a "Snow-Compatible Plug-Wear Model 00" gear in Japan in early February. Appliya, Inc. announced it would produce iPhone and iPod Touch applications based on the film series, utilizing the films' visual style, characters, and storyline while taking advantage of the devices' touch screen, camera, calendar, and clock functions.
In April 2009, Namco Bandai Games announced an action adventure game based on the film's storyline to be released on the Sony PlayStation Portable, titled "Evangelion: Jo". The game features Shinji, Rei, Misato, Asuka, and Kaworu and was released on June 4, 2009 to correspond with the release of Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance.
The 328-page artbook for 1.0, Groundwork of Evangelion 1.0, was released on May 28, 2011 for 3,675 yen.
The film was well received by fans of the series and audiences alike, with some forming lines outside theaters on the films opening day. Eiga reported users gave the film "A-" while on Japan Yahoo! Movies fans gave the film an average of "4 out of 5 stars". Zac Bertschy of Anime News Network gave the film an overall "B-", stating that while the film had "great animation, excellent fight scenes, some hints at exciting changes to come and a cool cameo at the end," it was stated as "feeling pointless and dull at times with the cast's previous emotional complexity being dumbed down"; Tom Tonthat of The Escapist Magazine criticized it for being, beneath "the shiny new packaging...a dumbed-down version of the original series", "truncating the subtle exposition and character development". The New York Times reviewer Mike Hale criticized 1.0 because "nearly everything that made the first two-thirds of the television series distinctive — the deliberate pace, the wry humor, the subtle (for anime) characterizations — is lost. Evangelion becomes just another giant-robot story." Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Charles Solomon ranked 1.11 the best anime on his "Top 10".
Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone received the 2008 Tokyo International Anime Fair award for anime of the year and Anno received best director. The film was also nominated for Animation of the year at the 2008 Japan Academy Prize, but lost to Tekkon Kinkreet. The film was awarded the DCAJ Chairperson Award during the 22nd Digital Contents Grand Prix in Akihabara on October 11, 2007. The film also won the Tōkaimura Genpachi Award at the 7th Annual Japanese Otaku Awards on January 5, 2008 and the Theatrical Film Award at the 13th Animation Kobe Awards on November 2, 2008. The film was judged ineligible for the 2009 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Oscar because of its 2007 Japanese release.
At the 2009 Anime Expo, FUNimation Entertainment premiered the English dub of the film and once the credits rolled, the film received a standing ovation from its audience. The AX audience was overwhelmingly pleased with the voice acting direction that ADR director Mike McFarland had with the film, while also noting the more realistic performance than the TV series was known for. Also, the voice actress rendition of Rei Ayanami, Brina Palencia, was very well received by fans for her performance as Rei, and many noted it was on par with Amanda Winn-Lee's performance, or in some cases, surpassing hers; Animation Insider described Palencia's voice-acting of Rei as having "subtle hints of emotion lingering under her facade". Asian Weekly listed it as the 7th best 'Asian film' of 2009.
The next film in the series, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance., was previewed in a trailer following the credits, continuing the story with the introduction of Asuka Langley Shikinami, a completely new character, redesigned Eva units, and hints of a new storyline. The film was released in Japan on June 27, 2009. The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD in Japan on May 26, 2010 with the title Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance.