Trailer Reaction: “The Giver”

Childhood is a delicate time. Every person who’s a fan of reading has that one book from when they were a kid that opened them up to the idea that books weren’t just for school. One such book is The Giver, Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel which follows twelve-year-old Jonas as he takes on the role of the “Receiver of Memory” and discovers some harsh truths about the supposedly utopian society he lives in. Though it’s a kid’s book, Lowry doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to the rough stuff, as she paints Jonas’ discovery of war and death and other terrible things in an honest light. The story is simple and strong, a tale of growing up and the difficult decisions one has to make, and the Newbury Medal award-winning book is a classic for a reason. That’s why the new trailer for the film version of The Giver is so disappointing. Take a look at clip here ( and read below for our reaction:

Directed by Phillip Noyce (Salt), it’s clear from the trailer that The Giver is being dressed up as Divergent by a different name; it has the makings of yet another cookie-cutter dystopian teen drama. In the book, the Community (the tightly run society Jonas lives in) is an organization that exists in our future, but it is by no means futuristic. In the trailer, robo-motorcycles and sleek hovercrafts are seen zooming about, and everyone is clad in form-fitting, attractive clothing instead of the moderate technology and plain dress that exist in the novel. It’s as if the Community exists in one of the more posh districts within the Hunger Games universe. This is just the first on a laundry list of discrepancies. Jonas is supposed to have just turned twelve in the book, but is played here by twenty-four year-old Brenton Thwaites (Prince Phillip in the upcoming Maleficent), who seems to be going for a more sixteen-year-old vibe; fair enough, it’d probably impede sales of Hot Topic’s inevitable “Team Jonas” t-shirts if he were any younger.

Perhaps the gravest error committed by the trailer is the extreme use of color. Jonas is chosen as the new Receiver because he is different than everyone else, special. In a world that looks to be a drab grey to everyone else, Jonas is the only one who can see color, a skill that heightens with each chunk of information passed to him by The Giver. This metaphor for having knowledge in a sea of ignorance is one of the points at the heart of the book and it’s a little frustrating to see such a big aspect like that shirked right out of the gate.

But all hope isn’t lost for The Giver, as it has itself a cast of accomplished actors: Meryl Streep as the Community’s sharp and controlling Chief Elder, Jeff Bridges as the titular Giver himself, and Alexander Skarsgård as Jonas’ father. Oh, and Katie Holmes is in it too. Stranger still, Taylor Swift (yes, that Taylor Swift) has a role as Rosemary, who held the doomed role of Receiver before Jonas. Hopefully some solid performances by these power players can make up for any generic YA film devices that may dig its hooks into the movie.

YA dystopian fiction is basically the house that The Giver built, and I would hate to see that reputation tarnished by a sub-par film. But that’s getting ahead of everything, because a few changes doesn’t necessarily mean that the moral and intellectual struggle at the center of the book won’t find its way into the movie. Come August 15th, we’ll really get to see what The Giver has to offer.

What are your thoughts on the first trailer for The Giver?

Article by Nia Howe-Smith


2 thoughts on “Trailer Reaction: “The Giver”

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful article pointing out the potential pitfalls of the movie. I remember reading The Giver when it first came out and thought to myself: this is a book that really cannot be made into a movie easily, given the gray-world, a flash of oddness of the apple and the hair before Jonas even knows what COLORS even mean. I wondered about how any filmmaker could tackle this book and preserve its integrity without betraying those pieces of information too early to the audience. I guess this director didn’t even bother!

  2. Pingback: Rainbow Rowell To Adapt Bestelling Novel “Eleanor & Park” For DreamWorks | Reel Reactions

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