2014 may not be a great year for movies so far but in a year with lots of Dystopian / Utopian movies, it’s definitely starting to become a standout. Earlier this year, we saw Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, an Apocalyptic Dystopian drama set in the titular train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine. A few months ago, Divergent starring Shailene Woodley was released the same day as the release of The Hunger Games two years ago. And then on the last quarter of the year, we’ll see the part one of Mockingjay wherein Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role as the ever brave Katniss Everdeen. This month, we’ve seen The Giver — another film we can gladly add to the roster of Dystopian / Utopian movies of 2014.
Based on the children’s novel by Lois Lowry, The Giver follows a boy named Jonas played by Brenton Thwaites living in a Utopian society where pain, hunger, poverty and even love were eliminated. A society wherein every member has an assignment for their community. It’s basically like other futuristic films wherein there are factions, or districts, or people are separated into class but in no way The Giver is repetitive or too familiar.
The Giver is notably far from being perfect. The film struggled on enduring the highly imaginative creation of Lowry. But still, it ended up being highly entertaining. The line between utopia and dystopia in The Giver is very interesting and becomes a little grey by the end of the movie. But in the beginning, everything was good and fun to follow. How the words ‘family’, ‘terrified’ and ‘love’ are offensive and how kisses, colors and music are taboo. Weirdly enough, it’s also quite a joy to listen to the phrases — ‘Thank you for your childhood‘, ‘precision of language‘ and ‘I accept your apology‘ being repeatedly spoken by the manipulated community. The characters are also eminently engaging may it be the heroes, the villains and the innocents. Everything is amusing.
Another highlight is Marco Beltrami’s mesmerizing score that multiplies the beauty and intensity of the scenes. He gave Taylor Swift something to sing and play with the piano.
Like Life of Pi, The Giver is considered as one of the hardest books to adapt into a film. But unlike the former, Noyce’s The Giver wasn’t backed up by stunning visual effects. Bad visual effects especially for a 3D IMAX movie. It had to rely on other resources for some of its visuals and it didn’t gel well to the visual quality of the film. Although the visuals that they borrowed are magnificent, it would probably been much better if they made their own ‘realities’. Then again it’s doubtful if they would be successful in creating their own ones because it was obvious the visuals is not the film’s strongest suit.
Brenton Thwaites is a commendable lead actor that he may not be the Jonas every fan of the book has envisioned, it’s easy to overlook the miscasting when he did a great job in portraying ‘The Receiver of Memory’. It doesn’t hurt that he has great chemistry with the young and beautiful Odeya Rush. Their veteran co-stars Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges are also effective here with their respective roles. Streep being the main antagonist was perfect and she has proved yet again that she’s an efficient villain. It’s definitely not one of her best but despite having a distracting Anjelica Huston inspired wig, her undeniable talent shined in this.
What’s a futuristic film without its share of philosophy? After all, the book it was adapted on is known for it. The Giver is not devoid in thought provoking philosophical concepts. It clearly captivated the importance of knowledge, feelings and other aspects that form an imperfect community that somehow, this imperfection makes us all human beings.
The Giver is a pleasant surprise and could end up being one of my favorites by the end of the year.
Director: Phillip Noyce
With: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Odeya Rush, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift