I am familiar with dystopia, but I have read and watched very few works in this genre. Knowing that the film adaptation starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep would open in theaters on Friday, I decided to read Lois Lowry’s The Giver (1993). It is a clear precursor to novels like Divergent (2011), but it took twenty years for an adaptation to appear on screen.
I rarely watch films in theaters, preferring to see DVDs at home. I still decided to see The Giver trailer, and I was disappointed. It reminded me of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. C. S. Lewis’s third Narnia novel (1952) is lyrical and has little conflict, but Walden Media’s adaptation (2010) is filled with it. The main conflict is unnecessary and absurd. They ruined an excellent children’s book. Likewise, The Giver has mostly internal conflict; Jonas’ world does not feel like a dystopia until he meets the Giver. Yet dystopia and external conflict pervade the trailer. I also disliked the changes in Streep’s character, since her role in the novel was not threatening. So I hesitate to watch this film, even on DVD.
I wish a British producer had adapted Lowry’s novel. Americans often focus on action, to the detriment of character and atmosphere. The Giver (2014) is just the latest example.