I saw this movie when it came out in Kyoto, rushing through a festival to the final session at the cinema the night before I left Japan, after having been impressed by 1.0. Epic times!
I watched the movie again recently, this time with English subtitles for the more obscure sections.
Unlike the somewhat pedestrian first movie that covers the first 6 episodes fairly directly, this movie shortens the the series drastically: Gaghiel, Israfel, Sandalphon, Matariel, Iruel and Leliel are skipped. Two new Angels are shown and dispatched quickly, and with Sahaquiel, Bardiel and Zeruel, the kill count hits 5.
There are a few role-substitutions between characters; one works well due to the shortened format, but Mari is an interloper in the story and not enough effort is spent making her fit in. I still hate the arbitrary renaming of Asuka.
The storyline is communicated much more directly, without any deception/retcons over Lilith in the basement, as well as the Key of Nebuchadnezzar and the True Evangelion (new additions). The symbolism (crucifix-shapes, halos, rainbows and angel-faces) is much clearer.
More time is spent depicting Tokyo 3 as a place rather than a background, and despite all the above fights, the characters manage to visit a marine park, a quiet sequence that communicates the personalities and the setting. During the combat sequences the scale of the participants is much better expressed (for example in the huge outpouring of “blood” when one of the Angels perishes) – something that was neglected after the second episode of the TV series. I liked the redesign of Sahaquiel (though I prefer the colours of the original), and Zeruel was decent (though I missed the bizarre quality of the cow pattern).
Shinji is much improved as a character; clearly Anno Hideaki has resolved the abandonment and self-esteem issues that he so tediously projected into the protagonist during the TV series. Shinji is far more bearable, whines less, takes the initiative and in fact achieves something with Rei.
Despite minor flaws, I totally recommend Evangelion 2.0 as a cleaner, clearer retelling of the anime.