Releasing a film adaptation of The Giver in 2014 was always going to be tricky.
Why? Because Lois Lowry’s kid-lit classic, first published in 1993, helped to invent the tropes of dystopian young adult fiction. (Even though, as its Newbery Medal would attest, it’s actually meant for middle-grade readers; yes, young adult and middle-grade are different.) The Hunger Games, Divergent, Delirium, Matched, The Maze Runner — they’re all indebted to Lowry, even if each of those later books is less lyrical and more literal than Lowry’s original.
But now that there’s a glut of dystopian YA fiction — both on bookshelves and at multiplexes — a film version of The Giver runs the risk of seeming both generic and derivative… even though its story was written long before Katniss was even a twinkle in Suzanne Collins’s eye. Thankfully, a faithful adaptation of Lowry’s story would help to curb those accusations, since the book is really pretty different from the works it inspired: The Giver has no real action sequences. Its main character is a thoughtful 12-year-old boy, not a brooding, badass teenage warrior. The entire narrative takes place in fewer than 200 pages — a far cry from the increasingly bloated tomes being churned out by present-day YA authors.
The Weinstein Company’s new Giver movie is… not that faithful adaptation. How do we know? Because of the film’s first trailer: