The Giver: The Movie Review

August 25, 2014     erinbook     Page to Screen

So I read the book a couple of days ago in preparation for this movie, because I believe in reading the book before watching the film adaptation. I wanted to believe that the people who were saying “forget everything you know about the book” were exaggerating. Boy, did I get my hopes dashed. If you haven’t read the book, don’t read this review because I’m about to get into some of the major differences between them that contain spoilers.

The Good:

Before I get into all of the things that bugged me, let me talk about what I loved. It really boils down to two things: Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. Of all the changes that they made in this adaptation, expanding the Chief Elder’s part was one of the less terrible ones. Getting Meryl Streep to play her was fantastic! I love Meryl, she always brings such depth of emotion to every character she plays. Here, her character has no emotion, but even in that she gives her a little something extra to make her stand out.

As for the things the filmmakers got exactly right? The Giver himself. Jeff Bridges knocks this part out of the park, working through bits of lazy writing and rushed exposition. He lets The Giver’s passion take center stage, whether that be love or loss. That is what makes the Giver who he is, both love and loss, the only person until Jonas who understands those things. Hats off to you, Jeff Bridges!

The Bad:

I apologize if this gets a little ranty *waits for the readers to say that they accept my apology*. I have a lot to say. When a book is translated into film there are certainly things that must be changed to make it more cinematic. Changing this much, however, will not make loyal readers very happy. I will say that as a movie for people who have never read the source material it mostly works. Mostly.

From a filmmaking standpoint there are a few major problems. Here’s a hint: do not gloss over a major emotional reveal. “Oh hey, this girl we’ve been talking about for a third of the movie? She’s my daughter. Ok, moving on!” No, this is an emotional moment, or it should be. The Giver has lived with loss of his own for ten years, don’t you dare cheapen this moment, movie! Maybe take out a few minutes from the half hour made up crap at the end and put a bit more time into The Giver’s feelings.

One thing that many movie adaptations do that always irritates me is changing who the characters are. This is seen most obviously in Asher, but also in Fiona. By changing their jobs you change a lot about them. Making Asher a pilot? No, whose idea was that? Asher stopped being Asher 10 minutes into the movie. He would never turn in to such a goodie-goodie. Poor Asher, what have they done to you? And all of this for a silly. made up action scene near the end. No. Stop.

Some changes, like aging the characters up, I can understand. Even I sometimes found it hard to believe that a 12 year old could do everything Jonas does in the book. But do we really need to add in a romance? I could write an entire post on my feelings about this ridiculousness, but I won’t. Unless you want me to. Why in the name of all that is holy does everything HAVE to have a romance? Everything that Jonas has seen, and his bond with Gabe, is plenty motivation. Why do we have to bring a girl into it?

While I understand making some changes, a movie called The Giver should be more than about 30% source material. A friend of mine phrased it like this, “Whoever wrote the screenplay apparently read the book while drunk, then fell asleep watching [insert sci-fi dystopian movie here], and couldn’t remember which plot belonged to which thing. Also, was it really necessary to fill up approximately twenty minutes of the film with close ups of Jonas bicycling with his derp face on?” I think that’s a pretty accurate description, and it makes me sad.

The Conclusion: While this may make a decent movie for someone who hasn’t read the book, it is a very poor adaptation of the source material. If you loved the book you may be disappointed. Sorry, folks.

10 responses to “The Giver: The Movie Review

  1. You should totally write a post about unnecessary romances. But seriously, what the hell happened with this adaptation? It's been almost 24 hours, and I am still baffled as to what we even watched! It should have been so easy to make this book into a movie that was entertaining and stayed true to the source material, and yet…

    • At least we got a couple of hours worth of tearing it to shreds out of the damn thing. The Giver himself was decent, I just can't understand why they did some of the things they did. That whole last 45 minutes or so was a complete mess.

  2. Yeah, I'm not going to watch it. My son has also made up his mind that he loved the book too much to have the movie in his head. The producers said they had to change the storyline drastically to make it box office ready, but if you have to change it that much, why even make a movie based on the book?

    • It was not necessary to change a lot of what they did. They're just making excuses because you didn't need to do that much to make the book cinematic. Always with the excuses with Hollywood.

  3. Oh dear, this sounds pretty horrific. I am planning to reread the book before seeing this, so the changes are really going to stand out and bug me so much. I also hate the fact that they aged him up, mostly so they can add in a pointless romance that's not needed at all.

    • I read it a couple days before I say it and, yeah, the changes really stand out. But they do that regardless, the person I saw it with hadn't read it in a few years and still hated it as much as I did. As adaptations go this one fails pretty badly. Don't even get me started on the romance, I could rant for days!

  4. The essence of The Giver was really captured in the movie.  This was the first dystopian book that I remember reading.  The essence of the utopia was captured. The world is seemingly perfect.  Everyone is equal. 

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