James Canellos ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Films based on young adult dystopian novels have become such a hit trend lately that it’s understandable why the Weinstein Company is finally adapting Lois Lowry’s renowned novel The Giver. However, the recently released first trailer seems to imply that the filmmakers are trying too hard to one-up The Hunger Games films. But one thing that might set this movie apart is its incredible cast, spotlighting the huge talents of Jeff Bridges as The Giver and Meryl Streep as the dictator-like Chief Elder.
The trailer kicks off with a voice-over from the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep), talking about how this society is relinquishing the pain and trauma of the real world by making it so nobody can feel at all. The screen flashes from Vietnam-esque combat to a complete 180 of children playing peacefully. This peaceful location is “Where disorder became harmony.”
The next image shown is of Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) joining his family, and then of The Giver (Jeff Bridges). The whole concept of novel is that Jonas is chosen to be The Giver, a being that knows about the true pain and joy of the “real” world. The Giver says in a voice-over, “The way things look and the way things are are very different.” It’s funny that he says this because while Jonas is 11 in the novel, in the film he is an 11 year-old portrayed by a 24 year-old actor. The words of The Giver clearly have an impact on Jonas as he questions the injections he receives with another character, Fiona (Odeya Rush).
The next scene is probably the most accurate to what Lowry describes in the novel as The Giver shares with Jonas the memories of a time before everything was the same. When their hands meet for the first time, it’s supposed to feel like a cosmic event when Jonas’ innocence declines as his curiosity skyrockets.
Jonas’ new observations have clearly left a mark on Fiona as she begins to question the fabric of their society in what appears to be a futuristic psychiatric ward. Jonas’ Mother (Katie Holmes) glares down at her in disapproval.
We get a good glance at Bridges in the next sequence of shots, looking a lot less scruffy then originally detailed, but The Dude is making it work. Streep, the master of various hairpieces, is now putting on a grey bangs look, which is fitting to the Chief Elder specifically because it looks like a curtain. The reason for the bangs is revealed as she explains the reasoning behind her paranoia: “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong.”
The trailer concludes with a brief montage of all the futuristic gadgets the authority uses as they hunt for Jonas. It looks a little bit too similar to what has been seen in various other dystopian future films. There’s even a hint at a possible alternate ending based on the last image of Jonas being pulled up into a plane as he cares for a certain baby.
It has always been interesting to think about how this novel could be converted to the big screen, but it appears that director Phillip Noyce might be veering dangerously far away from the source material. What gave the book and the community such bleakness is how Lowry described the landscape as black and white. These people aren’t supposed to know what colors are, except for The Giver and the Receiver.
Also, the change in age feels like a plea to become the next young adult franchise. Although The Giver doesn’t have a direct sequel, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the studio was already considering a second cinematic installment. It’s understandable that they had to make some changes in order for the film to convert smoothly to film, supported by the fact that there were a few added scenes that didn’t involve Jonas (The novel is written as a first-person narrative). However, let’s hope that these changes don’t interfere with the legacy of this beloved classic story.