Plot: What’s it about?
I don’t know what it is exactly, but when I saw the previews for The Giver, nothing looked of interest to me. It might be the fact that the market has been so flooded lately with Hunger Games and Divergent that the YA (Young Adult) genre lately. Those two series are the more successful, but along with Giver, we’ve had The Maze Runner as well as several others. Those things aside, this just didn’t look like a film that I would enjoy. While it turned out to be more entertaining than my initial worries, that still isn’t saying a lot. Based on the Novel of the same name, The Giver stars Brenton Thwaites as Jonas. He’s a teenager graduating from High School who is more than a little anxious about his job. This anxiety comes from not knowing where he will be assigned. The year is 2048 and humans have built “The Communities.” Basically, this is something of a protected world that is big on conformity. The individuals who live in these communities have had their memories erased. This brings us to the title character of The Giver played by none other than Jeff Bridges. He brings along his Rooster Cogburn accent and informs Jonas of all the previously erased memories. The society leader is played by Meryl Streep, and Jonas ultimately convinces his friends to go against the norm and stand up for what the society feels is a threat. This sets the basic plot in motion. It’s essentially Jonas standing up to a society that wants containment and order.
Similarities to other films will likely come to mind when watching The Giver. There are traces of Pleasantville as well as Logan’s Run. The film often feels very heavy-handed and forced. As I mentioned, I enjoyed it a little more than I expected to, but that’s faint praise. It is mildly entertaining at times, but little else stuck with me. The acting seemed rather stiff as well and that became a problem for me. One big reason I feel the Hunger Games films have worked is the strong presence of Jennifer Lawrence in the lead. I also liked some of the more colorful characters there. Divergent also had a strong leading lady in Shailene Woodley. While neither of those series of films are perfect, I think they work much better than this. The story just doesn’t quite cut it. For those curious, a rental might be in order, but it did little for me.
Video: How’s it look?
This is an interesting-looking film, to say the least. The color palette used, when in actual “color” that is, is seemingly void of anything bold or bright. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but the 2.40:1 AVC HD image does seem a bit soft at times. There are all sorts of combinations used here, black and white, black and white with some color and then just…color. I’m all for a visually aggressive film, but it just seems kind of…odd. That said, the detail is spectacular, showing the lines in Jeff Bridges’ face and beard, some of the backgrounds are a bit blurred (though I’m sure it’s intentional) and contrast and black levels seem to work for the most part (I caught a few moments when I saw some movement in the shadows). While not “bad” by any means, this offering fell a bit short of what I thought it’d be.
Audio: How’s it sound?
This is a more subtle mix than I’d have thought, but it works. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack serves its purpose and does it well. Vocals (the film is heavily narrated) are very rich and pure, Bridges’ voice resonates though the center channel. Surrounds are used well, offering a bit more atmosphere in some selected scenes. What really impressed me were some of the discrete effects that took control. A door slamming, even the sound of someone walking sounded pretty good. Granted this won’t shake the walls, but it’s a nice, nuanced mix that’s sure to satisfy.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Anyone who knows the history of this film will certainly be impressed by some of these extras as some date back nearly two decades.
- Making The Giver: From Page to Screen – The book, two decades old, has finally hit screens due in no small part to other films like Divergent and The Hunger Games, but we get a pretty comprehensive look at the process and the names involved that finally got Lois Lowry’s novel to the big screen.
- Highlights from the Original Script Reading Featuring Lloyd Bridges – A 40 minute segment that features Lloyd Bridges of all people, reading segments from the novel. This is nearly two decades old and is the only supplement not in HD.
- Press Conference with Filmmakers & Cast – Pretty much just that. It’s a press conference that features most all the major players in the film as they answer questions from the press about the film. For reference, it took place on August 12, 2014.
- “Ordinary Human” Feature with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder – Tedder discusses his particular involvement in the film and its soundtrack.
- Author Lois Lowry on The Giver – An all too brief segment with the author of the novel and her personal investment in the novel.
- Extended Scene – Just one, but it runs nearly 10 minutes.
- Study Guide – Yes, really. This features a few selected scenes that has a breakdown, questions for a teacher and the like. It’s a pretty interesting use for a film and this is the first time I’ve seen a supplement like this.
- DVD/Digital HD Copy