An audacious experiment in social justice and identity.
I had brushed past The Giver a number of occasions, and it was only after watching the movie did I bother to give this title a go. While I enjoyed the book, it wasn’t one of my favourites, and felt like it was an echo of Divergent (actually the other way around since Divergent was written later – but that happened to be the order I read/watched them in). There are many distinct differences between the written and film adaptation; the most notable is that of character development and the passage of time…
Where the movie embraces a more sci-fi element to make the story more visually stimulating, the book focused more on human rights, identity of self, and right to choose. With the advances in VFX, it certainly adds an eye-popping dynamic to any story, and the scenes produced in the film of the drones and technology woven into day to day living enhanced my enjoyment. However, I would have liked to see the film tackle a stronger sense of the more serious topics presented in the book. With that said, I feel that the social aspects weren’t discussed properly in the novel either – merely topics introduced for discussion without truly being explored. Quite possibly they are themes that are carried through in the subsequent instalments of The Giver quartet, but with not addressing them enough in this debut, it felt a little wishy-washy for me.
I noticed how in the movie they completely ignored the fact that all Giver/Receivers had blue eyes, signifying that it was a genetic trait that enabled the person to assume the position, (because the entire community is engineered). I guess they overlooked that to embrace a more diverse cast, but I think it had the viewer confused (it certainly didn’t sit right with me)… the community is supposed to be more sterile and monoethnic.
Jonas in the book was very young when it came to assuming the position of a Keeper of Memory, and I had issue with this. The narrative sounded and felt too old for someone of that age. Plus the responsibilities and tasks felt way too important to be entrusted with someone so young. The passage of time in the book took years through the storyline, which added credence for me, like Jonas was undertaking a real apprenticeship. The film failed to convey this passage of time, leaving me questioning how Jonas (played by Brenton Thwaites) sufficiently developed in the story. But I liked the representation of his age in the film – it felt more appropriate.
There were other distinct differences I’d like to discuss, but in wanting to avoid spoilers, I’ll paraphrase… Jonas’s turning point in the film was much more satisfying – it created a culmination of action and tension – and involved more of the cast, where in comparison to the novel, eluded more to Jonas’s character development than an acceleration of blockbuster effects.
Having Asher (played by Cameron Monaghan) become a Drone Pilot instead of a Recreational Director added a different dynamic in the film version. Within in the book it was to illustrate the naivety of war, but in the film it was a tool to expose the landscape in and around the community and it Big Brother-esque governmental control and inject some action and pacing.
I found the book more satisfying, its underlying commentary on identity and community as handled well for a young adult market. The book overall, however felt unfinished and not fully discovered. The Film, comparatively was entertaining but lacked the clout of a social conscious you garner from the book, which left it a little wishy-washy. So it’s the book for the win!
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