By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
Before Hunger Games and Divergent introduced young adults to science-fiction futures controlled by all-powerful governments, there was Lois Lowry’s The Giver in 1993. While it certainly wasn’t the first tale about the dark side of giving up freedom for unity, the beautifully poetic writing slowly painted a touching story about 11-year-old Jonas realizing how colorless the world had become. Sadly, the long-awaited movie adaptation of The Giver gives up the novel’s soul by trying to be too much like all the other sci-fi teen rebellion flicks, and it can’t be saved by the powerful acting of Jeff Bridges as the Giver nor the entertaining villainy of Meryl Streep as The Chief Elder.
Like the book, the movie is about a subtly controlled society where medication and restrictive rules keep everyone passionless and safe. Only the Giver is allowed to have memories of the old world with its warfare and dangers, and as he teaches his chosen replacement, Jonas, it becomes clear he’s encouraging the youth to break free from the black and white community he lives in. As Jonas stops taking the mind-numbing medication that everyone else is on, and receives memories of the old world via the Giver’s telepathy, he realizes how much people have lost their humanity in the name of safety.
Cue the slow burn of rebellion, and watch the flames unravel the government’s grip.
So, how did the filmmakers go wrong? Well, their first mistake was changing Jonas’ age from 11 to 16, and having a 25-year-old actor play the part. While Brenton Thwaites puts in a half-decent performance as the main character and has decent chemistry with his love interest Fiona (portrayed by the lovely and talented Odeya Rush), the teen angst drama plays out in predictably lame ways. In the book, a younger Jonas gives the story a childlike wonder, the depth of simplicity, and an inspiring perspective on the wisdom of young minds, which would have helped the film version stand out from the overpopulated crowd of star-crossed tragic romance. Not every dark sci-fi movie needs teen crushes.
Even on a superficial level, the movie fails to impress, with forgettable music that barely thrills the heart and B-movie special effects that look like they belong on the latest CW show. Despite the presence of so many talented actors like Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsård, and even a charming appearance by country star Taylor Swift, the script writing forces them into little boxes of boring personalities that drains all the life out of them. Ugh! I wanted so badly to fall in love with this movie, because I adore the original novel and am a huge sci-fi fan, but The Giver really missed a wonderful opportunity to rise above the flash with meaning. Our final verdict? We give this film a “C”. If it wasn’t for Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, we’d definitely be in “D” territory.
Images courtesy of The Weinstein Company.