NOTE: Please keep in mind that this review is old, so while some editting has been done to make it read a little more timelessly, a lot of it is obviously dated. As such, where some things may be noted as 'spoilers', they probably no longer are.
In reviewing this one, I am at both an advantage and a disadvantage compared to many others who watch this movie - I have never seen the original series. That's right, not a single episode. So while I can't compare it to how the original series went at all, I'm able to judge the movie completely on it's own merits. I think everyone should know that, going in to this review.
The story is thus - Sometime in the future, an alien (I presume anyway) race called 'Angels' have attacked the Earth twice, known as the First and Second Impacts. As such, the once proud city of Tokyo is now known as Tokyo-3. However, the Angels aren't gone, they still attack, and only one force (besides the seemingly in-capable military) stand between the remaining civilians and death - NERV and it's mecha force, known as the Evas. Enter Shinji Ikari, the son of one of the higher-ups at NERV. His father, never having a use for him before, calls for him to Tokyo-3. Shinji agrees thinking his father finally has a caring use for him, but comes to find he was only called to pilot Eva Unit 01, under the supervision of Misato. Between a life of rejection, and the new task of protecting Earth, Shinji could easily lose his mind at any given moment, but he's not alone. There is also Rei Ayanami, the pilot of Eva Unit 00, but is she a friend or merely a co-pilot?
It pretty much follows along those lines too, going back and forth between one reason or another for Shinji's infamous 'emo-ness', and a battle with an Angel. Having heard a lot of distaste for Shinji during my years as an anime fan, I can sort-of see why in this film, if he doesn't get any better. That said though, it's hard to fault him for being how he is, when you consider the kind of person his father is.
As for the character of Rei, it's hard for one to feel one way or the other just from this film. She's hardly in it, and is a very soft-spoken character, so right off the bat she's not left much of an impression on me. The film does have a lot of other likeable and unlikeable characters, like Shinji's father, Misato, and two of Shinji's schoolmates whose names escape me at the moment. For me, the clear winner was Misato - her personality alone held enough appeal to keep me watching.
About the only thing I can comment on as far as the original series goes is the returning voice cast. Sadly, it doesn't appear that FUNimation was able to gather everyone back, but they did get Spike Spencer (better known to me as Hanataro Yamada in Bleach and Papillion in Buso Renkin) and Alison Keith (known previously to me as Meryl from Rune Soldier only) back to reprise their roles as Shinji and Misato. The original voice of Rei did not return, and was filled by Brina Palencia. I can't say how she compares to the original, but she did an admirable job in my opinion at least. Greg Ayres also plays the spectacled friend of Shinji's, though I'm unsure if he played him in the original series as well.
The animation and action are superb, as is the soundtrack as well. Again, I can't say how it compares to the original, but if what I've always been told about the series being made due to tax reasons and had been expected to flop are true, then I can't see any of those three being better than what's presented here.
Overall, Evangelion 1.01 kept me quite enthralled, especially for a mecha title which is far from my forte. Honestly, I wasn't expecting a whole lot when I found this for $19.95 or so at my local Wal-Mart, but given that price and all the hubbub around this one, I had to give it a look. In the end, I can sort-of see why this is regarded as a must-see title (again, assuming this film is a good representative of the series it's a remake of) by much of the fandom. I still would call it a tad over-rated at this point, but I can say the same of much of my own personal favorites, so I can't hold that against it. Things can't get over-rated without first having SOME good to them to make people like it in the first place after all, at least, that's what I believe.
This movie is filled with lots of mecha fighting of the most bizarre sort, characters that you'll either love or hate enough to keep watching, and the cliffhanger alone will make you eager to see 2.0, which I believe is already out in Japan. I've had the original series on my list of things to eventually see for a long time, and after this, it's gotten bumped ahead of most other mecha at least. Evas, move out!