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Film Review: ‘The Giver’: An Orwellian Distraction

Movie: The Giver

Release date: August 15, 2014 (USA)

Director: Phillip Noyce

Adapted from: The Giver

Story by: Lois Lowry

Screenplay: Michael Mitnick

Producers: Nicole Silver, Jeff Bridges, Orly Wiseman, Neil Koenigsberg

Americans are addicted to tyranny.

Our liberty and our system of government by representation demands that citizens always be diligent and hold their elected officials accountable, but there is a danger that the people become so distracted by the fight against a Big Brother nightmare that the tyranny of the majority or political correctness saps the virtue which makes a free people free in the first place.

The dystopian genre and films in which a hero fights against a clandestine government power have grown increasingly popular in recent years.

Young adult franchises like Divergent or The Hunger Games tie into this fear, and ten years ago, the Bourne trilogy was thriving at the box office. The legacy of writers like George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, or Ray Bradbury should be preserved, but Hollywood has shown a concerning draw to films with tyrannical figures. Sometimes they add them where there wasn’t one originally.

Walden Media’s trailer for their August release The Giver shows major rewrites to the screenplay from what author Lois Lowry included in her original children’s story.giver-623x1024

In the footage shown, the kids receive a daily injection to suppress emotions like the populace of the 2002 film Equilibrium. On the other hand, the book describes Jonas (the protagonist) and his friends receiving a daily pill only to suppress the typical hormonal effects of puberty.

The families share their other emotions openly at the dinner table, but trivialize them in the process. Jonas receives experiences like love, rainbows, winter, war, and suffering. The Giver’s complaint is not that someone represses the people from these memories of the past, but that the people are incapable of comprehending deep and meaningful things.

 This social desire for sameness and consent to abandon intrinsic human qualities serves as the real tyrant in Lowry’s book. But for mainstream theater audiences, tyranny must have a face.

The film introduces Meryl Streep as the civic leader and anticipated villain behind this oppression. The screenwriters incorporate elements like the absence of color, but they also include Jonas telling his friends to skip their morning injections. The film is already on course for a showdown between revolutionary youth and the oppressive ideology of their elders before it hits theaters.

It makes sense that the filmmakers would want to spice up the plot. Most summer blockbusters don’t end with the exile of a young man for his knowledge of the past and depth of feeling, after all. Viewers should question, though, why it is that audiences demand stories follow this format.

Media critic Neil Postman reiterated what Aldous Huxley had observed before: man’s “almost infinite appetite for distractions.” Without recognition of the other threats to liberty, perhaps George Orwell and his legacy of dystopian writers will become just another one of those distractions.

Michael Kreuz

Michael Kreuz is a media production specialist, film and literature connoisseur, and Hillsdale College alum. Twitter: @mskreuz.

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Categories: Movie Review, Opinion
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