This one

This one’s worth checking out.

Jeff Bridges and Brenton Thwaites in 'The Giver'.

Jeff Bridges and Brenton Thwaites in ‘The Giver’.

Better visually than cerebrally

Better visually than    cerebrally

The Giver is a 2014 film that, in similarity with the also recent Divergent, has been accused of trying to cash in on the popularity of The Hunger Games, since all three of these films are based on novels that talk about a futuristic society that’s perceived as perfect and utopian until closer inspected. For the record, however: the source material for The Giver came first.

It’s a good book too, I’ve been told. I haven’t read it myself but the consensus seems to be the usual one that “the book is much better”, which isn’t shocking. As a film, The Giver is perhaps entertaining, but as thought-provoking science fiction, it isn’t anything special as not many thoughts are provoked.

The film is set in a future world, controlled even on climactic levels, where the rulers, called “Elders”, have eradicated people’s abilities of deceit, law-breaking and even feeling certain feelings, going as far as to erase everyone’s memories of the free world that once was. They’ve also ended racism and inequality by removing all colors and making the world perpetually grey, which was achieved… I dunno, somehow. The only one with any knowledge or memories of the old world is the Receiver of Memory, a title which our moderately likeable hero Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is assigned by the aformentioned Elders early on in the film.

The former Receiver, an old and tired man played by a grumbling Jeff Bridges, thus becomes The Giver, and Jonas must receive the old memories directly from him. The Giver transfers the memories to him bit by bit and Jonas is blown away by the things he sees, especially when he gets the perception of colors. It’s when he receives memories of unpleasant things from the past and starts to share memories with others around him that things go off the rails. The feelings triggered by these visions lead him to want humanity to get their memories back, which he thinks is only fair. As expected, the Elders eventually come to view the young man as dangerous.

giver-meryl-streep

Filling out the cast is Alexander Skarsgård and Katie Holmes as the “assigned” parents of Jonas, Odeya Rush as his not terribly interesting love interest, and Meryl Streep as the Cheif Elder; the one who’s truly in charge. There’s also Taylor Swift as Rosemary, the daughter of The Giver. She was assigned the role of Receiver before Jonas, but we’re told that things didn’t go too well.

Aside from a few cheesy moments and the fact that it does indeed feel like another Hunger Games wannabe at certain times, but not that many, I enjoyed The Giver. The character development of the protagonist makes for a fascinating arc and the performance by Thwaites is a great deal better than the one he gave in Maleficent. Better yet is our dear Jeff Bridges, even if he sounds like he needs to cough into a napkin.

The criticism that many have is that it doesn’t capture what the book was about well enough and you can almost tell whilst viewing it that there’s something even smarter hidden away behind all the pretty visual effects, neatly designed sets and atmospheric shots. For what it’s worth, this did make me interested in reading the source material at some point.

The film’s true success is in terms of its visuals, which are usually brilliant and accompanied by great music. The footage shown during Jonas’ exposure to the idea of colors is tremendously pretty and the design of the world in which the story takes place gave me pleasant Discworld flashbacks (minus the elephants and the giant turtle). It also features this classic trick where only one color in a monochrome shot is saturated while the rest of the image remains black-and-white. It was admittedly a nicer trick back when it was done in Pleasantville and Schindler’s List, being as today it’s a function built into digital cameras that any hobbyist photographer can buy for himself. I suddenly don’t feel too impressed.

As a whole, however, this film isn’t a bad one. It’s an entertaining one that just happens to feel like one that’s based on a much smarter book.

3/5 whatever

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