Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A bit disappointing.
Read my review of the book here
The original book of The Giver was released in 1993, and ever since then, I’ve personally wanted the thing to be made into a film. In fact, of all of the young-adult made movies that we’ve been bombarded with, this was the one and only book that I actually wanted to be made…it’s one of my favorites! The idea is so simple, yet still pretty original and unique…it’s a wonder to me how it was never made to begin with. Finally, word came out that it was being released and it was like…a dream come true. Then, word came out that it wasn’t as good…but when is it ever as good as the book? Now…as much as I try not to compare the movie to the source material…I find it practically impossible here – because there really is a lot of…issues that I find with it.
The story is pretty simple, at the time of “graduation” Jonas is about to be chosen for a new role in life…but he hasn’t ever fit in anywhere, because he has the traits of everything they’ve ever looked for in people. He is chosen as “Receiver of Memory”, a role where an old man by the name of “The Giver” transmits memories of the world to Jonas magically. That’s when Jonas realizes that the world he knew was a sham – they created “sameness”. The world is black and white, no one has any emotions, and nobody truly knows the importance of ethics. It’s up to Jonas and the Giver to figure out how to right the world.
I want to first start off by saying that I read the book right before seeing the movie, to remind myself how the book made me feel when I was a kid, so a lot of this review might be a bit too biased based on the book, but I’ll do my best to be fair and objective. The movie definitely gets the idea across – you can follow it and even understand the messages throughout, however…the pacing was absolutely horrible. The entire book is filled to the brim with a very detail-oriented narrative. It’s a short book, but the detail is astounding – and it makes the pacing of the book incredible. The movie is also short, but it should have been longer. They mention everything in the book, more or less, but it’s through Jonas’s narration. He narrates the whole movie, and just mentions important plot points and that’s it! So, they used Jonas’s narration as a tool to keep the movie short when they should have just…not had any narration at all – show us these things! The movie feels so, so rushed for no reason.
A lot of people complain about Jonas’s age. In the book he was 12, in the movie he’s 18, so he’s an adult. I don’t really have a problem with that, in fact I thought he was a little too young in the book if anything. The thing I had more of an issue with…was the parents. THEY were way too young and didn’t fit the roles at all. I pictured, maybe, a Jon Hamm type guy for the father. Let me say that – yes, they changed a lot in the movie, but most of the changes I don’t care about. Things like – changing the occupations of Jonas’s friends. It’s fine, and I understand why they did it. The whole Fiona and Jonas romance thing was a little forced, but if you haven’t read the book, it really wouldn’t matter to you.
I just think that the movie tried a little too hard to be something it never needed to be. The book contained such a simple idea – and that idea was successful through an impressive voice of detail and emotion. They could have easily made an award-winning movie based on the book in the early ‘90s. They didn’t need technology or holograms, or any of that. K.I.S.S. – Keep it Simple, Stupid. Words to live by. When they pushed, they kept the main idea and the messages involved, but they lost a bit of the soul and mystery of what could have been.
The idea of the book remains intact in The Giver, and a glimmer of its mystery remains alive in the question of a sequel.
Any book that has been out for nearly 20 years – being award-winning and bestselling – is going to carry quite a bit of expectations. That’s almost unavoidable, but not everyone has read it – and this movie is for those people. The book is just too good, and anyone, anyone who has read it is likely to be unimpressed and even disappointed in what this movie did to the story. I myself am having a very difficult time seeing anything other than a rushed, missed-opportunity for insane potential. I am personally pretty disappointed.