Score: 6 out of 10
Thanks to the success of movies like Twilight and The Hunger Games, every studio in Hollywood is racing to see who can churn out the next big hit based on a young adult novel. The latest contender is The Giver, based on the 1993 dystopian science fiction novel of the same name. The book isn’t just dimestore trash, it’s actually won several prestigious awards and has even found its way onto the reading lists of many high school curriculums, so it’s time to see if the film will live up to its name.
The backstories behind these young adult novels alway take a lot of set up, so I’ll try to make this as brief and straightforward as possible. The Giver takes place in a futuristic society where all forms of hatred, violence, and poverty have been systematically eliminated after a cataclysmic war. Unfortunately, this means every other emotion has been eradicated as well, and the average citizen has no concept of love, joy, beauty, or sexual attraction. Two of the only people allowed to know how things used to be are the Receiver of Memories, an old man played by Jeff Bridges, and his successor Jonas, played by Australian pretty boy Brenton Thwaites. Everybody got that? The story follows Jonas as he learns more and more about the love and beauty in the world that he’s been denied, and in the finest tradition of Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, he decides to fight back.
For a movie that’s all about the importance of emotion, it’s ironic that this is one area where The Giver is lacking. The filmmakers were obviously at a disadvantage because of the intentionally bland nature of the characters, but eventually relationships start to form and when they do they feel rushed. There’s an unexpected “I love you” moment that’s completely out of place and unearned, and it would have been better if we had actually seen those two characters fall in love in the first place. The filmmakers instead spend most of their time setting up the world, and they manage to do a pretty good job of guiding the audience through all the exposition in a straightforward manner. They also found some ways to have fun visually. The characters are unable to see colour so the film starts out in black and white, but as Jonas begins to learn the truth, more and more colour seeps into the camera. This is a nice merger of story and visuals, but I’m not sure if they ripped off Pleasantville, or if Pleasantville ripped off the book. One thing is for certain, when school starts next semester, underachievers everywhere will be able to rent this instead of actually reading the book.
-Review written by Blake Siefken, follow me on Twitter!