Yes, I admit, yesterday evening I wasted two hours of my life watching a bad movie. With a good chunk of movies from recent years now trickling through onto free TV, I can at least catch up a little bit on things I missed, not being able to go to the cinema that much nor having the money to buy DVDs by the bucket. As it is, of course I always had a preference for somewhat odd sci-fi movies and The Giver seemed a natural fit.
First off, let me be honest – I didn’t expect miracles. Even reading reviews of the original book it was clear that this would be a wild mish-mash ripped off other books/ movies. The population kept docile with drugs (THX 1138, Equilibrium), the sterile “survivor” environment (The Island, Aeon Flux) people being assigned life allowance and a position in society (Logan’s Run, In Time) or even the forced ignoring of past history (Fahrenheit 451, Planet of the Apes, again Equilibrium) were well-known tropes, yet mixed up, shaken and stirred there would have been the potential for something at least mildly entertaining, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be despite having Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges in it even.
Where to begin? There’s just so much bad stuff. Perhaps we should start with the acting of the aforementioned two actors – plain and obvious paycheck jobs with neither one making a great effort. To boot, both look awful. If I was Meryl, I’d sue someone for that weird hairdo and man, did she look old in that one. The rest of the cast didn’t fare much better. Of course playing an emotionless robot goes against the very nature of most actors, but man, they could at least have tried harder to make this convincing. This is even true for the interactions between the group of friends. In addition, most people appeared more than slightly mis-cast in the “too pretty to be true sense”, further eroding any potential to add some interest, even if you consider the effect forced “selection” would have on a society. Weeding out “ugly” people strangely enough has a certain appeal, though, once you think about it… *lol*
The many flaws with this film don’t end there, of course owing a lot to the weak story in the first place. Plot holes abound quickly and after a while there’s simply too many to ever get out of this mess. The biggest one, and it really is as big as a volcano crater, is the ominous tower and the border of emotions. I could live with the idea of some electromagnetic field that influences your brain activity, but then clearly you would not place the antenna somewhere miles away in the wilderness? Just makes no sense. In fact even our main protagonist getting there after days travelling through deserts and cold ranges without food and a toddler on his arm makes zero sense, as much as you may try to suspend disbelief. The resolution at the end is just downright moronic and ridiculous.
Finally, if you want to be stylish, then you better go through with it and even in this department the production fails miserably. The general idea seems to have been “Let’s make everything white and grey and hire some design students on the cheap.” and it shows. Instead of being lavish, innovative and grounded in a reality, everything looks like those “what if” things that you see a lot on 3D related or concept art sites. That’s all fine and dandy for your personal projects, but barely enough to hold a movie together. This is even detrimental to the idea of using varying degrees of saturation to illustrate the emotional awareness. It’s too obvious that nobody involved seemed to have much of an idea of what works in black & white and what not.
They also could have made it more consistent by putting in some work and isolating colors, so not every shot is just one tone and shade. Dare I say lazy job on the color correction/ grading? Of course I could say the same for the overall FX work. On a 25 million budget you shouldn’t expect too much, naturally, but a lot of that stuff looked worse than the effects on television series 20 years ago. From the iffy drone jets to the simplistic radial “emotion wave” near the end I can’t even begin to describe. Oh my.
Overall this is a major dud. It’s really no surprise that this bombed massively at the box office even if you ignore the fact that it probably wasn’t the best book material to begin with (and which outside the US likely nobody ever heard of before). So be smart and avoid this movie unless you really have nothing better to do. I ended up regretting it and having Peter Jackson et al talking my ear of about The Hobbit‘s production would have been more enjoyable. Yes, it’s another of those weird hobbies of mine – I keep re-watching those lengthy making-ofs on movies. It’s strangely soothing and interesting even after the third time…