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The Giver

August 15, 2014

All summer people have been asking me about movies they think I’m going to just outright hate. Several of my friends were champing at the bit for my reaction to the “Bayturtles” or expecting me to tear The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a new asshole. However, the real movie I’ve been dreading and preparing to hate has finally come to pass: The Giver.

What you might not know is The Giver is one of the few books I’ve actually read more than once. Not because I really liked it, I thought it was a lame dystopia when I read it at age 12, but because I had to for class. When I revisited it in college for a Young Adult Literature seminar, I was surprised to find it was not as terrible as I remembered. In fact, I actually enjoyed it the second time around. It’s charming, a perfect primer for better books like We (or its British cousin 1984) or Brave New World, and it has just enough uncertainty in it that there are things left to ponder when you turn the final page. That and it can be read in an afternoon without much difficulty.

The other thing I’ve always liked about it is that unlike the ‘dystopic’ YA of today, it actually is a dystopia. It’s never quite clear at the end if Jonas dies or even really accomplishes anything. The Giver actually presents a story about trying to subvert a government that has completely subjugated the populace rather than telling a stirring revolutionary tale of strong teenage girls triumphing over corrupt patriarchies (or whatever the subtext of Divergent is).

All of this is why when I started seeing trailers that tried to make it fit this recent craze, I was wary. The more I watched the trailer, the more I realized that it wasn’t even being turned into a good copy of recent YA dystopias and I became extremely disappointed. After slogging through a torturous 94 minutes, I’ve come out the other side a broken and sad man. As I walked home I wanted to pop in to every store I passed, ask the cashier if they read The Giver and proceed to inform them that it’s not Michael Bay that’s the nemesis of their childhood but the creative team behind The Giver adaptation.

This movie is the inverse of its source material. It’s boring, filled with senseless plodding action, charmless, and spells out every plot point so obnoxiously that I actually became nauseous. I don’t want to watch it again, I don’t want to even think about it because it doesn’t make me angry like Lucy did or make me wonder how it can paradoxically contain both good and bad like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did. The Giver just made me sad.

I could go on. I mean, dumb choices just abound throughout the whole thing. Like, what is that voice Jeff Bridges is doing? Why is he doing it? Why did the screenwriters feel the need to insert a motorcycle chase? Why did they think it was a good idea to spell out everything when the book left it explicitly vague? What drove the director to insert blurry out of focus scenes that made me question whether or not there was something wrong with the projector at seemingly random points in the runtime? Could they seriously not find any handsome teenage male actors that could emote?

But ultimately, what’s the point?

The Giver made me sad.


From → Movies

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