I followed The Giver movie from the time it was first announced it was being slated into a movie to the time it came out in the big screen. Fan reactions though were mixed and rightly so due to some major changes to the storyline such as aging up the characters, adding more romance and action than what the book portrays. I for one was one of those initially disappointed from the trailers and I was not shy about expressing my initial reactions about the movie. Leading up to the movie, my posts about The Giver have been the most popular this year, so I return to write about my most buzzed about topic of 2014. Since getting a chance to watch the movie for myself, my initial reactions have softened. Here’s my long overdue review on The Giver movie.
After seeing the initial trailers, I was prepared going into the movie that it would not be 100% faithful to the beloved classic by Lois Lowry (no surprise there.) With that in mind I had to put aside my personal feelings in order to see the movie in an objective light.
Disclaimer: This review does have spoilers!
Much to my delight, the movie began with Jonas’ world in color, which was true to the idea behind Sameness in the book. Jonas’ community is safe and predictable. Hunger, poverty, and war are things of the past, a past most in his community know nothing about except one person; the Giver. In the first five minutes, viewers are given context as to how Jonas’ world came about, emphasizing the stark contrast between his world and our world. Peculiarities of Jonas’ world which were subtly revealed in earlier chapters were made apparent right away in the movie.
Personally the beginning was a little too rushed. I wished the beginning could have spent some time to develop and maybe even warm up viewers to his world. The movie was no doubt paced so that the inciting incident could start sooner, which is when Jonas receives his assignment as the Receiver. That is the point in the book when the plot really begins to take off as Jonas begins to discover new memories and realize what his community has sacrificed.
The main characters although aged up, were readily identifiable. Asher was Jonas’ carefree friend and Fiona was portrayed as kind and nurturing. Although the actor that played Jonas is my age he had a boyish face to pull off being a teenager at least. Asher initially seemed playful but he became rather stiff and serious throughout most of the movie which was out of character for him. Of all the characters I must add that Jeff Bridges did a great job portraying the mysterious and aloof Giver. It was interesting though seeing the dynamics between Jonas and Fiona. It was no surprise that the movie played on Jonas’ natural chemistry with Fiona and made her his love interest, especially when Jonas’ experiences memories from the Giver such as love. Although I strongly resented having Jonas being played by such an older guy, I can see why they aged his character.
This movie didn’t have “mind-blowing” special effects or explosions but the visuals were still eye-pleasing. How they incorporated the memories was my favorite part of the movie. The modern clips, encompassing an array of the human experience made me feel like I was watching a National Geographic special. One scene I enjoyed which had the score Happiness and Pain playing in the background, shows Jonas engrossed in the memories as he is holding a baby he helped deliver. I also appreciated how the black and white treatment of the movie gradually transitioned into vibrant colors. Many people will say this was done in Pleasantville first. True the movie did the B&W to color thing. But the gradualism of color in The Giver encompassed everything in the viewer’s range of sight vs. splashes of colors on a person or an object, which made their color treatment slightly different.
Clearly there were many changes to the book. In the movie they got injections instead of the pill. Jonas kissed Fiona which never happened and many changes that I can rant about later. Despite the changes, the movie didn’t deviate a lot from the main plot which is what really mattered. A lot of the pivotal scenes are in the movie, including the scene when Jonas asks his parents what is love only to get lectured on how love is an obsolete, meaningless term. From this scene to the part where Jonas is shown what “release” means, helped propel the character to no longer be content with the choices his society has made and move him to take the course of action by the end.
While I won’t give away the whole ending I will say there are some notable changes to the ending for those that haven’t watched it. The ending is ramped up, to provide more action than what the book offers. Some people who didn’t like the ambiguous ending to the book may actually like the ending to the movie. I personally liked how the ending brought the plot full circle while still capturing a little bit of the unknown, keeping true to the open-ended nature of Lowry’s work.
Considering this book is more introversion vs. an action-driven plot like other dystopian adaptions like the Hunger Games or Divergent, it had pressure to ramp up the action and romance subplots. I loved the book because of the simple yet compelling story line which sets it apart from other dystopian works. If you haven’t watched the movie already and are wondering whether you should see it, don’t expect this to be another Hunger Games nor expect a true book-to-movie adaption. Instead just watch it for what it is, an adaption for entertainment purposes. Coming to the movie with lowered expectations I surprisingly enjoyed the movie. Factoring in the strengths and weaknesses, I give the movie a B.
Now this is just my thoughts on the movie. What did you think about the movie?