Guess what? We’ve got another movie adaptation of a classic work that I have yet to read. And I really should have, because then I might understand why all the fangirls are freaking out about the casting directors getting the eye colors wrong.
The Giver tells the story of one young man’s quest to bring back stolen emotions and memories to the victims of a dystopian, conformist world. Does it give us something worthwhile or does it steal our time away? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out. (To follow along, click here.)
So who stars in this movie? Brenton Thwaites of Maleficent is our hero, Jonas. His mentor, the Giver, is played by Jeff Bridges of Tron, True Grit, and Iron Man. The Chief Elder is Meryl Streep of Doubt, The Hours, and The Devil Wears Prada. Other cast members include True Blood‘s Alexander Skarsgard, Batman Begins‘s Katie Holmes, and The Lorax‘s Taylor Swift.
Veteran director Phillip Noyce helms this project; his many other films include Salt, The Bone Collector, and Tom Clancy adaptations Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games. In short, the man knows a thing or two about action, politics, and adaptations, so I’d say we’re in good hands.
The trailer begins in black and white as Elder Meryl Streep exposits on how communities came into being. She calls them “serene, beautiful places where disorder became harmony.” Oh, so that’s how gated communities got started. Jonas, Asher, and Fiona take a ride on a flying sled, and Jonas asks Asher to fly them out past the edge of the Community. “It’s against the rules,” Asher tells him. Teenagers breaking the rules? What a novel concept! Turns out, though, Jonas can simply bike out to the edge of the world, so the whole flying the sled to the edge thing isn’t that big a deal.
What’s at the edge, you might ask? A mausoleum that leads down to a library. Jonas takes a closer look at the volumes on the shelf, and the Giver tells him, “They’re called books.” No, really? Thank you for stating the obvious. That’s right up there with Percy Jackson’s “This is a pen! A pen!” or Haymitch’s Hunger Games tactic, “Stay alive.” He knows exactly who Jonas is because all bearded old men in dystopian futures are Peeping Toms, and he explains that his role is to advise the Elders with his memories of the past. These are memories they purged from their own minds in order to create the perfect government, yet they still need those memories to keep the perfect government running? Flawless logic!
The Giver tells Jonas there was more to the world once, and he shows him what he means using a variant of the Vulcan mind meld. This reveals a multitude of memories and turns the world colorful a la Oz the Great and Powerful, which I’ll admit is a pretty neat effect. Jonas begins to see the color red in apples and in Fiona’s hair, and the Giver tells him that the morning injections everyone takes purge all emotions. First, these people really are Vulcans. Second, I’ve been keeping an eye on Jonas, and I’ve noticed plenty of emotions before his mind meld. Happiness, contentment, curiosity, anxiety, uncertainty … he’s not exactly a blank slate. Third, how does an injection that purges emotion turn off the cones of your retinas so that you can’t see colors?
“When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong,” says Elder Streep. You’re in charge; you’re people who have the freedom to choose for everybody. You’re probably choosing wrong too. What about all those decisions that don’t have wrong answers? And shouldn’t people statistically choose right about half the time, given a fair chance? Anyway, Jonas tells Fiona to skip her injection, just as he’s been doing for months. Good thing he had a large supply of apples and no one noticed him sneaking them in. “What do you feel?” he asks, taking her hand. Warm skin, of course. Are you telling me the injections kill nerve sensations too? That’s what makes leprosy so dangerous. But no, I guess he was talking about love, or whatever equivalent you can feel with out-of-control emotions and hormones suddenly materializing.
Katie Holmes tells Elder Streep that Jonas isn’t normally so emotional, and Streep says she should be more worried. Gosh, lady, it’s just puberty. He’ll grow into it. “He’s inquisitive,” says the Giver. “You should know better than anyone,” says Elder Streep. Yes, clearly the Giver was a very inquisitive man in his youth, what with everything he knows, like, “Those are books” and “that’s red.” “The way things look and the way things are are very different,” the Giver tells Jonas. But those are still definitely books. As an example, he shows Jonas’s father killing someone by lethal injection. “He killed him,” says Jonas. Judging by this world’s hairstyles, it was definitely a woman, but yeah, you’re half right.
“The young and the old are killed,” says the Giver. Isn’t that everybody, then? Or does that just leave the middle-aged people? Why isn’t Elder Streep or the Giver killed? What about that little girl getting her morning injection earlier? And if all the young are killed, how does this world keep repopulating? Does no one ever age? Does no one think that’s strange? Anyway, Jonas tries to warn his friends about what he knows, telling them their families aren’t their own. Because the government wouldn’t have been evil enough if they hadn’t broken up families and lied to everyone about it. Fiona gets taken to some prison facility and strapped in for lethal injection, but the Giver tells Jonas, “You can stop this. You can change things.”
Jonas flees on his bike, punches his friend, and then runs from the motorbike corps with those Taser-sticks everyone seems to use in action films these days. “I want you to find him,” says Elder Streep, “and then I want you to lose him.” Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of finding him in the first place? And the trailer ends with Jonas jumping off a waterfall, just like in The Fugitive, Ice Age, The Emperor’s New Groove, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull … what is it with people in movies going over waterfalls? And how do they almost always survive?
So based on the trailer, do I recommend this movie? Yes, yes I do. While I’ve been kind of hard on the glimpses of logic the trailer has shown us, I feel as though that’ll be cleared up in the movie and that it’d make a lot more sense if I had read the book. The film has good actors, beautiful cinematography and a proven director, plus it’s based on a beloved classic. Will I see it? Probably not in theaters, but I’m definitely checking it out when it comes out on DVD. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have actually read it by then.
And yes, Jeff Bridges, I know it’s called a book.
The Giver is owned by The Weinstein Company.