Hollywood is well into the process of adapting just about every work of young adult fiction that exists. Many of them haven’t even been published yet, but they’re in the process of becoming movies, that’s how hungry studios are for the potential next big thing. The overarching logic appears to be to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. This strategy doesn’t have the greatest success rate. For every Hunger Games there is a Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments, or I Am Number Four that fails to gain traction. Next up on the YA release schedule is an adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and The Weinstein Company has released a trio of new photos from the film.
While The Giver does fit into this larger trend, it’s also a horse of a different color. First, it is a little bit older. Published in the early 1990s, people have been trying to bring it to the big screen for some time, including a failed attempt by Bill Cosby who used to own the rights. The book is a best seller, but it also collected a number of prestigious awards, including the 1993 Newberry Medal.
The most successful of the YA movie franchises seem to be the ones with rabid fan bases before the movies come out. Think of the big three in the field: The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Twilight. Each was already cultural phenomenon that transcended literature prior to being adapted, and except Harry Potter, the entire series were all complete before cameras started rolling. And we all remember the insanity of those Harry Potter midnight release parties, that doesn’t happen very often for a book. My point is that they were already established franchises. So many of these other titles have a book that’s pretty popular and the studio tends to overestimate the ticket buying power of this fan base. Veronica Roth’s Divergent books represent a kind of middle ground. The books are popular, but not as massive as these other three. Similarly, the movie was a big hit, but not nearly to the scale of its predecessors.
It will be interesting to see how The Giver performs. Though it is not a ubiquitous cultural figurehead, the book has the advantage of being widely read in schoolrooms across the country. A little late for my age group, there are entire generations that were compelled to read this as part of their curriculum, and I’m curious to see if that translates to box office numbers.
The story revolves around a young man named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites, Oculus, The Signal) who lives in what appears to be a peaceful, though bland, utopia. In fiction, situations like these are rarely what they appear to be on the surface, and when he receives his life job as the “Receiver of Memory” he discovers the truth. His job is to inherit the memories from the time before the harmonious “Sameness,” just in case people need to look back at their history. In the oral tradition, the Giver (Jeff Bridges) passes these stories down to his successor, and Jonas learns about the ugliness, hypocrisy, and lies that his world is built on. With this new knowledge, he must decide if he keep the peace or throw these harsh realities into the open for all to see.
Directed by Philip Noyce (Salt, Patriot Games), and all-star cast looks to elevate this above your standard YA adaptation. In addition to Bridges and Thwaites, the credits include names like Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, and Taylor Swift. Most of these famous faces, except for Streep, are featured in these photographs. The film opens everywhere August 15.