HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Giver
HTS Overall Score:82
A Dystopian future is nothing new. We’ve contemplated how far mankind can fall for many years. We have the post-apocalyptic theory, the dystopian government theory and many others to chronicle and put into words we feel COULD happen someday if we allow our negative qualities to dominate. It’s a fear that humans have had for as long as we can remember it, always worried about Doom and creating fantastic pieces of fiction on the subject. Lois Lowry’s book “The Giver” was one such piece of fiction that was able to effortlessly court both young adults and full grown adults equally and satisfy both audiences. The film tends to court the young adult audience mainly, as has become the norm recently with these book to film adaptations, and compresses some of the information that was so beautiful in the novel. Taken on its own, the film still manages to do quite well in expressing the intent of the novel and makes for some compelling watching. It tends to be more metaphorical and filled with copious amounts of symbolism, so for those expecting a literal explanation for everything that happens in the story, you may be a bit disappointed. However, for those of you who can flow with the symbolism shown within the film you may be able to see something deeper.
As with all dystopian settings, mankind has undergone some incredibly painful changes in his life and now we live in a world that closely resembles utopia. People are living in peace, no more wars, no more fighting, no more emotions like love, nothing that makes a person “better” than another, or even that much different than each other. Everything unique about a person has been stripped away through conditioning, and the liberal use of “medication” to stem the human spirit from budding forth into its own. Everyone is given a purpose, or job for their life based upon the innate qualities they possess. Some people become caregivers, others pilots and engineers, and others become farmers. Now it is time for Jonas (Brendan Thwaites) to be awarded his position in society. While he’s not sure what to expect in life, he never expected what happens next. He is awarded the unique position of standing guard over all the memories of the past. You see, no one knows what happened before this perfect society of stepford wives came in to being. The top brass realized that knowledge is power and that if mankind NEW about love, emotion, freedom, etc they would gravitate towards it, but with all the negative choices mankind had made they decided to erase all of it. The good with the bad. Now they can only go so far in this emotionally and spiritually castrated state of being, and they need some guidance from someone who knows all of these forbidden fruits. That is where the keeper of memories comes in. This man/woman is given responsibility for all of the knowledge of the old world, memories transferred from one generation to the next, books, art, the whole gambit. Now this person’s gift is also his curse. He has to bear the pain of knowing all these things and giving guidance to the leaders and never being able to be a part of life, just remembering it and knowing the rest of humanity inside the walls of this utopia is destined for a life of forced tranquility.
Newly appointed as the next keeper of memories, Jonas must take guidance and training from the old keeper of memories (played by Jeff Bridges) who must give all of his knowledge and wisdom to over the course of several years. Once Jonas has all of this new found knowledge, he becomes disillusioned with the life they are living. He sees things that he didn’t before, he misses his medication and becomes cognizant of all the beautiful things in life they have given up, just so that people can live in safety and peace. A life that really isn’t a life at all, but one that has been repurposed and guided by unseen hands seeking to do just what they tried to fix. To control and subjugate under the guise of helping hands. Jonas’ friends, Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (Odeya Rush) don’t understand the changes he’s going through, and even the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) starts to see cracks in his demeanor. When all is said and done we realize that this choosing of Jonas, this desire to break free from captivity had been set in motion many years before, and one outcome had already been chosen…..by the Giver.
I had heard mixed reviews from the theatrical world, and was wondering just how I would take to “The Giver”. Not everything is explained in detail. The giant net that keeps the memories from returning makes little sense in a real life scenario, the baby’s survival during the trek, etc can be a bit farfetched, but when viewed as symbolism the story starts to evolve more, and each of these inconsistencies start to make sense. Or rather you come to realize that they are not MEANT to make complete sense, as symbols aren’t always literal. I ended up really enjoying the movie, even though the glut of dystopian teen novels has been saturating the market as of late. Since it’s based off of a single novel instead of a series there is a nice sense of closure that has always felt missing from many of the other movies being released in the same genre. Most of which are trying to tell a story but still leave room for the inevitable sequels ala “The Hunger Games” and “Insurgent”.
There is still some things left out of the movie for those of you familiar with the novel by Lois Lowry. The ending was especially rushed in comparison and certain moments were truncated or smooshed together to make room for the 97 minute runtime. Still, if evaluating it as a movie itself, it has its flaws, mostly pacing issues, but it makes for fun drama. Especially if you can handle symbolism and metaphors being the main headliner hear. The actors did a great job given the material. Jeff Bridges chewed up the scenery as his “grumbling old man” persona, but if fit the setting here and didn’t feel cheesy or out of place. Meryl Streep just oozed nasty old oppressive lady here and Katie Holmes was given so little to do that her acting deficiencies were easily masked. I was really surprised to see Taylor Swift make a cameo as Rosemary, the previous keeper of memories disciple.
Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=33953[/img]“The Giver” is shot in a very stylized way. Filmed on Arri Alexa cameras it was given a mixture of desaturated black and white imagery interspersed with splashes of color that expand into full color during different scenes. Symbolizing Jonas’ view on life, the shooting style would change as his point of reference changed. The more knowledge he gained the more color was applied to the film, and later on, there would be whole sections of the movie that reverted back to black and white when dealing with the uninitiated and back to full color when around Jonas. The black and white imagery of course is devoid of color, but still retains an impressive amount of details and texture to the environment around it. Black levels looked impeccable and show no signs of crush or washing out. The colored sequences are also highly stylized and show burnished reds, bright primaries that pop off the screen in an effort to accentuate their importance. Contrasts are good and facial tones are excellent. The Arri Alexa cameras used give a slightly soft touch to the film, but still don’t get in the way of the detail and textures of the film.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=33961[/img]The English 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is the only audio choice available on the disc besides subtitles, and it sounds impressive for sure. It’s not a wild action track, so there is not a whole lot of LFE in the film, but there is a good amount of low end that adds some weight and depth to the audio experience. The sequence with Asher chasing down Jonas with the drone is powerful and deep with incredible output, but the rest of the movie keeps a much lower profile LFE wise. Dialogue is crisp and clear, never getting out of balance with the effects and sporting some nice directionality. There is some solid surround usage, and this helps bring to life some of the landscape as Jonas begins to realize that his surroundings are more than just an object to be ignored. A waterfall rushes with falling water, the splashes made known throughout those back channels. It’s a very good track to be sure, but falls short of reference.
• Highlights from the Original Script Reading Featuring Lloyd Bridges
• Making "The Giver": From Page to Screen
• Extended Scene
• Press Conference with Filmmakers & Cast
• "Ordinary Human" Feature with OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder
• Study Guide
• Author Lois Lowry on "The Giver"
“The Giver” is a bit flawed in its translation from book to film, but I still ended up enjoying the movie immensely. It differentiated itself enough from the glut of action oriented movies like “The Hunger Games” and “Insurgent” and gave itself a very creepy “Stepford Wives” feel to itself. The symbolism runs rampant throughout the movie, including the highly stylized shooting method blends seamlessly with the slightly opaque, yet vivid storytelling method. The audio and video look and sound amazing and the disc even has a solid amount of extras (which is rare these days). It almost has an acquired taste to it so I definitely recommend watching it for yourself. Recommended
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Written by: Michael Mitnick, Robert B. Weide
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Starz/Anchor Bay
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 25th 2014
Buy The Giver Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
More about Mike