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Review: The Giver

The Giver
08.14.2014
5 10

PLOT: In a dystopian future world, young Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is chosen by his community to be the new Receiver of Memory. His new mentor will be the previous Receiver – now technically “The Giver” (Jeff Bridges) who introduces him to thoughts, feelings and sensations beyond his wildest dreams.

REVIEW: THE GIVER can’t help but feel awfully familiar in the wake of so many dystopian teen sci-fi yarns. THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT are both slicker, sexier takes on essentially the same material, but it probably needs to be remembered that THE GIVER was actually around long before either franchise, with it being based on the acclaimed 1993 novel. So really, those films are derivative of this rather than the other way around.

Coming from The Weinstein Company, and packed with star power (including producer-star Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep) and helmed by a sophisticated director, Philip Noyce, one can’t help but expect THE GIVER to be a cut above regular teen fare. While there are elements of THE GIVER that certainly are, this can’t help but feel stiff and curiously lacking in energy, with its morose tone and overly earnest (re: bland) hero.

Brenton Thwaites is apparently a significantly older Jonas than in the books, with the twenty-five year-old actor playing a sixteen-year-old. Thwaites and the rest of the teen actors suffer in comparison to the veteran pros they act opposite of. Given that the movie is short on action (this is remarkably dialogue-driven for a teen flick) a hero that’s easy to invest in is a necessity, but Thwaites is short on presence, especially compared to the teen heroines we’ve been somewhat spoiled by. That said, all the blame can’t be laid at Thwaites feet. In the book Jonas was eleven, and one can’t help but think the story would work better if the age had been left intact.

The film’s pace is also pretty sluggish, and given how many similar films we’ve seen, it’s hard to be too horrified or intrigued by this dystopian depiction of the future. Philip Noyce is a strong director, but his talents are mostly wasted here. The only really original choice was to start the film in black and white and gradually add color as Jonas is awakened to its perception by The Giver. Still, it’s weird that scenes Jonas doesn’t appear in are then filmed in color, if no one else but he and The Giver can perceive it.

THE GIVER’s only real strength is Jeff Bridges as the titular character. Bridges makes pretty much anything palatable, and his natural compassion (mixed with a little orneriness) suits the part. By comparison, Meryl Streep is wasted as the nominal antagonist. This feels like little more than a cameo, and she seems to have only been added for marquee value. Even stranger is the lack of Taylor Swift, who’s prominently featured in all the ads but it’s really only a minor cameo.

The fact is - if you grew up reading THE GIVER you’ll probably appreciate the movie more than I ever could. To me, it feels too similar to the other teen-driven franchises out there, with the handicap that the hero isn’t especially appealing. This is probably good, introductory dystopian sci-fi for (very) young viewers, but otherwise this is one you can safely skip.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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2:50AM on 08/15/2014
This is the new genre that is getting burned out. Which is a shame, because The Giver is one of the big, original young adult novels dealing with this kind of setting. It's pretty much as the review says about the book. The problem is that, with films that tackle material more suited to film, something like this really does lack. The trailer unfortunately didn't thrill much, so I expected as much from the movie. Hopefully The Maze Runner is a better film as that actually looks pretty good.
This is the new genre that is getting burned out. Which is a shame, because The Giver is one of the big, original young adult novels dealing with this kind of setting. It's pretty much as the review says about the book. The problem is that, with films that tackle material more suited to film, something like this really does lack. The trailer unfortunately didn't thrill much, so I expected as much from the movie. Hopefully The Maze Runner is a better film as that actually looks pretty good.
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6:43PM on 08/14/2014

Another thought...

I think these sorts of movies that are adaptations of first-mover source material for a currently popular genre all tend to get made the same way: they're greenlit because the novel was the first to do this sort of thing and a producer decides that gives it an edge, then they compromise the story because they realize it actually has very little resemblance to the modern version of the genre, then they compromise the story again because they want to crib superficial elements from current
I think these sorts of movies that are adaptations of first-mover source material for a currently popular genre all tend to get made the same way: they're greenlit because the novel was the first to do this sort of thing and a producer decides that gives it an edge, then they compromise the story because they realize it actually has very little resemblance to the modern version of the genre, then they compromise the story again because they want to crib superficial elements from current competitors, then they compromise the story AGAIN in order to shoehorn in cheap actors who look like actors from other competing genre movies. And in the end you have a shoddy production of a superficially adapted book barely anyone remembers, with no identity of its own because it's trying desperately to be something else. So you end up pleasing no one.

The tragedy is, if people would adapt these books as-is, we may discover something about these common genres that is in fact uncommon and unexpected. These books after all were written before their given genre existed, they followed NO rules, and perhaps if we treated them with respect, we'd find that they still have something to teach us.
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6:34PM on 08/14/2014
Honestly, I think this will be better reviewed by people who have NEVER read The Giver. Fans of the book are going to be much more harsh, leaning toward a 2 or 3 out of ten. Mainly due to the lack of respect toward the source material, and the cribbing of plot elements from modern YA novels.
Honestly, I think this will be better reviewed by people who have NEVER read The Giver. Fans of the book are going to be much more harsh, leaning toward a 2 or 3 out of ten. Mainly due to the lack of respect toward the source material, and the cribbing of plot elements from modern YA novels.
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5:23AM on 08/14/2014
Orneriness-Nice one.The word has never been used in a review in the history of the internet.I tip my hat to you.
Orneriness-Nice one.The word has never been used in a review in the history of the internet.I tip my hat to you.
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4:18AM on 08/14/2014

Unfortunate

I wonder if I'd even still enjoy this book. I liked it when I read it long ago but I also liked 1984 and when I tried to read it again I couldn't even get through half. I can say the same about a lot of movies actually.
I wonder if I'd even still enjoy this book. I liked it when I read it long ago but I also liked 1984 and when I tried to read it again I couldn't even get through half. I can say the same about a lot of movies actually.
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2:46AM on 08/14/2014

I just saw it and I can almost guarantee you that fi you liked the book you're going to hate the movie

" it probably needs to be remembered that THE GIVER was actually around long before either franchise, with it being based on the acclaimed 1993 novel. So really, those films are derivative of this rather than the other way around. "

This is very true to an extent, the basic plot of the book is pretty much intact but they still took some pretty massive liberties and then changing Jonas' age just does not work well at all. THe books of The Giver and The Hunger Games are about as similar as Toy
" it probably needs to be remembered that THE GIVER was actually around long before either franchise, with it being based on the acclaimed 1993 novel. So really, those films are derivative of this rather than the other way around. "

This is very true to an extent, the basic plot of the book is pretty much intact but they still took some pretty massive liberties and then changing Jonas' age just does not work well at all. THe books of The Giver and The Hunger Games are about as similar as Toy Story and Princess Mononoke, yeah they're both cartoons... or in this case dystopian novels, but that's about where the similarities end. You can tell that the producers made a very conscious effort to try to gear this to the Hunger Games/ Divergent crowd as much as possible. Yes, that book came first, but apparently they either didn't understand or have faith in the source material so they just ripped off those later books instead. I'd say a 4 or 5 out of 10 is about right. If you like really this genre maybe you'll be more generous, but if you're the kind of person who only goes to see these things because your girlfriend drags you along then this is going to be like a 2 our of 10 for you.
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1:18AM on 08/14/2014
This feels like one of those films that's late to its own party, perhaps like John Carter in a way. Lois Lowry wrote the Giver long before The Hunger Games and Divergent popped up, just as Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote A Princess of Mars well over a hundred years ago. But in between then, The Hunger Games and Divergent beat The Giver to the punch while everything from Star Wars to Avatar was inspired by Burroughs' story.
This feels like one of those films that's late to its own party, perhaps like John Carter in a way. Lois Lowry wrote the Giver long before The Hunger Games and Divergent popped up, just as Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote A Princess of Mars well over a hundred years ago. But in between then, The Hunger Games and Divergent beat The Giver to the punch while everything from Star Wars to Avatar was inspired by Burroughs' story.
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