Giving the The Giver a Chance

81cJChEQjSL(Warning. This review does contain some spoilers.) 

The giver is my favorite book. OF ALL TIME.

I find familiarity in the colorless world of Jonas, returning to it whenever I need an escape.

I have a tattered copy, name scratched into the inside cover with backwards e’s and s’s. Then I have a school copy – the one I’m allowed to highlight and write in. I bought the special edition copy with beautiful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline. I have copies of the other 3 in the series. I even have the hardbound Giver Quartet.

I integrated The Giver into my college classes, writing a philosophical paper and studying The Giver in the context of children’s literature and what Jonas’ story teaches them.

Okay, I just re-read all that, and it sounds creepier than it is. I might have a tiny obsession….but it’s not like I know the story by heart…

Okay, moving on. For those of you unfamiliar with the beauty of Lois Lowry’s novel, it’s surrounds a young boy named Jonas. He lives in an idilic world where they feel no pain or grief and they never want. But this also means they don’t see color, feel love, or make decisions, good or bad. But Jonas isn’t assigned a job like everyone else in the community, he’s singled out as the next Receiver, the person left to remember the forgotten memories. A great honor.

Jonas learns about the beauty of snow and the warmth of family. But he also learns about war and death and disease. Forgetting the past doesn’t make the problems of the past disappear.

When the movie came out, the trailers squelched any promise of a black and white movie. I didn’t see the comforting world of Jonas. Instead, I saw just another dystopian world.

I waited until it came out on DVD, hesitant to see it in theaters. I know every little detail of The Giver so well that I knew any little changes would irk me.

I was happy to see that film started in black and Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 9.48.35 PMwhite after the first trailer showed everything in color.
Katie: 0  Movie: 1

The majority of the book, and the conflict, takes place in Jonas’ head, something that’s challenging to translate on the screen. So in the movie this conflict is expressed outwardly, with Jonas openly defying the rules and corrupting those around him. I thought the internal struggle was very important, but it was nice to see Jonas challenging the people around him.
Katie: 0  Movie: 2

One thing that I expected in the movie was the relationship between Jonas and Fiona. In the book, Jonas has an intimate dream about Fiona, feeling love for her. But those dreams are sequestered by a daily pill. The movie exaggerated the relationship between them, Jonas sneaking away with her at one point, stealing a kiss.
Katie: 1  Movie: 2

The other thing I didn’t like was that Jonas kept going to his friends for help. What I really admire about the Jonas in the books is his strength to fight the system without help from anyone but The Giver. But, once again, all that internal conflict translates poorly on screen. Movie are bigger and better, right?
Katie: 2  Movie: 2

I will admit I didn’t watch the whole thing in one sitting. I got too frustrated sometimes.
Katie: 2  Movie: 3

I braced myself for the ending, my favorite part of the book. Jonas arrives at the top of a hill, Gabe on his shoulder. It’s cold and he’s tired. He sits on the sled and slides down the hill, sliding towards an uncertain future. Death? Another town? Lowry left the readers to fill in Jonas’ future themselves. And, surprisingly, the movie did the same thing.
Katie: 2  Movie: 4

In fact, I found the movie ending fairly satisfying. When Jonas leaves his community, all the memories he received are released back into the community. The memory montage resonated with me, memories of joy, happiness, love, sunlight, and family spreading across the screen.
Katie: 2  Movie: 5

The movie did surprise me and exceed my (low) expectations. I don’t think I’ll be purchasing the DVD anytime soon, but it wasn’t as large a flop as I thought. And who knows, I might watch it again.

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For you die-hard Giver fans, I also included the notes I jotted down while watching the movie. (I apologize in advance that for excessive the capital letters and overuse of punctuation marks.)
– The opening scene was the plane flying overhead. So why are we watching Jonas stare at the sun. That happens to be colored. Because we know he can’t see color yet.
– Oh many, I really wanted to see a flashback of Asher apologizing.
– I thought Jonas was 12……he looks like he’s 20…..
– holographic chief elder. That’s interesting. 
– Fiona likes OLD PEOPLE, not NEWBORNS. Really?! Lily likes newborns. Why does Hollywood have to make everything younger and more glamorous. Plus, then we don’t get back in the house of old.
– DRONES? Asher is supposed to be the Assistant Recreational Director. Because he’s young and whimsical…that’s a lot different from being a drone pilot. And why would they need drone planes? 
– What are those weird injection things?
– Why does it look like their city is floating on a cloud out in the middle of no where? 
– Not-so-suttle birthmarks on Jonas? And the Giver? And Gabe? If you’re going to include that, at least have more explanation than “they all can see beyond.” How? why?
– A bee sting?! I wanted to fall off the the sled. And what’s this boat ride thing?
– Hmm. No apple scene. That was one of the most iconic moments. And now apparently apples have the be theme for the rest of the movie. Great. Now I’m getting hungry, maybe I should go grab an apple…
– Also, The Giver wasn’t about the romance between him and Fiona….like at all. Why did they have to write that in?! Also, where are the stirrings? No awkward having “the talk” with his parents? Those are always golden. #awkward
– Still with this drone thing? That’s all I have to say…
– They don’t respect him in the community as much which is weird. The Giver/Receiver was supposed to have a lot of power, that’s why they don’t question Jonas. 
– The chief elder is turned into much more of a monster. She’s just clueless, like the rest of them. But they make her seem like she knows everything. 
– Jonas sucked up by a spaceship and dropped in a river. Because that totally happened in the book. Really?! 
– Yea, lets put all of the people Jonas’ cares about in jail. In little cell blocks.
– oh, how can we make it more intense? Let’s threaten to “release” Fiona, execution style. I appreciate this inside look, but it just seems a little much.
– Okay, that memory montage was pretty cool. You’ve won this round, Hollywood. 

 

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