In a visual sense, it’s definitely interesting (even somewhat stunning at times) and, thankfully, a large portion of the movie is in black and white. That’s the best part of The Giver: Watching the color slowly overtake more and more scenes as Jonas (Brenton Thwaites, who is either very good at playing bland or just very bland and bad at acting) learns more about the world’s history. Other times, however, the visuals are unintentionally hilarious.
Sometimes when the titular Giver (Jeff Bridges, one of the few highlights of the film) transmits his memories to Jonas, we’re treated to super-cheesy montages of stock footage and video clips that could’ve been culled from YouTube or lazily googling “inspirational events” and landing on a video from Tiananmen Square. Toward the end, The Giver feels like the Upworthy of movies: Jonas Was Picked To Be The Receiver — What Happens Next Will Warm Your Heart!
Then there’s that sort-of romance between Jonas and Fiona (Odeya Rush), which is utterly pointless and seems to be a result of the idea that people (teens) will not watch a movie unless there are characters to ship. There is also an underwritten conflict between Jonas and Asher (Cameron Monaghan, who deserves much better), as though the writers (Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide) knew that there is no logical way to create a love triangle but felt like they had to find something just to fit in.
The movie is less awful than it is disappointing. It’s disappointing to see such a great story — and one that was very important to many people, including me — sanitized to fit in with the glut of YA films. It’s especially disappointing because The Giver is what came before, and perhaps inspired, book series like The Hunger Games and Divergent. But the book’s inspirational legacy is the movie’s downfall. The Giver forgoes any originality to instead play copycat to those adaptations, falling victim to the sameness that the story tries to eradicate.