Two years ago, I wrote a post about the movie version of The Giver, which was based on the book of the same name by Lois Lowry that is on (or should be on) the required reading lists of every middle school in the country. So here are my thoughts on the movie after actually seeing it:
- They got the casting absolutely correct. All the characters were more or less as I pictured them while reading the book, although I could not for the life of me understand why they cast vapid Taylor Swift as Rosemary, who (at least in the book) was a character with great depth of emotion and wisdom. Fortunately, she did not have a huge role.
- The romance between Jonas and Fiona was overdone in the movie, as I feared. I liked the book’s take on it, where Jonas had this hopeless crush on Fiona that could never have been reciprocated because Fiona had zero capacity to receive memories or emotions and was completely a product of her dystopian society. The movie made it into a typical gratuitous romance that would occur in any other action movie.
- The action was overdone. I believe the book made a small mention of planes searching for Jonas while he was escaping from the Community with Gabriel, but this was turned into an action sequence in which Jonas’s friend Asher piloted one of the planes. Did not care for it.
- The settings were done well, and the atmosphere of the movie was suitably creepy in a way the book was not. I liked how in quite a few scenes, the camera cut to the surveillance cameras turning overhead, and all that security footage came together at the end of the movie to indict Jonas and Fiona in disobeying the Community’s rules.
- I’m not sure what I thought about Meryl Streep’s character (the Chief Elder). I don’t remember the Chief Elder having a huge role in the book, so I was kind of perplexed that Streep kept appearing. I guess it’s because the movie needed a more visible antagonist, and in the book, it was easy to see that there was no true antagonist: everyone in the Community was equally blameless because they did not fully realize the depth of what they were perpetrating. So the antagonist was a Community structure that had been set up long ago, before any of the characters were born (presumably).
- Oh, and the ending was not good. It was far too “action movie” to have much to do with the book, which as I recall did not have tons of action toward the end. I was more used to the book’s ending, which was open to interpretation: did Jonas and Gabriel die? Did they really get to the house in the snow, or was it just a hallucination? What happened to the Community after Jonas escaped? But the movie gave the book a much more concrete ending that had color and memories returning to all the Community members and Jonas and Gabriel reaching the house in the snow. (But I suppose that one could still make the argument that Jonas and Gabriel passed out in the snow and the entire ending was all a hallucination.)
Anyway, the movie was as I figured it would be: typical Hollywood reincarnation that did the book almost no justice. I just hope that future middle schoolers who are assigned the book actually read the book and don’t just see the movie in an attempt to get easy answers. They will miss out on quite a bit.