You may remember having a strong emotional reaction to Lois Lowry’s chilling dystopian novel “The Giver” as a teenager and being extremely shaken by the thought of a future — allegedly perfect — world in which there’s no color, no memories, no feelings and everything is ruled by a powerful committee that outlaws original thought.
That wasn’t a universal experience? Okay then. Well, the book had a profound effect on some people, so that’s why it’s a little jarring to see it as a sci-fi action flick. In the 90-second trailer, needles are plunged into arms; evil planes shoot through the sky and snatch people off the ground; what look like guards in robot outfits make the rounds on speeding motorcycles. For such a sensitive story that combined the pain of adolescence with trying to save the soul of humanity, it’s a lot to take in.
Jeff Bridges stars as the titular Giver, who has the painful task of keeping all the world’s memories: The good (sledding, Christmas, sunshine) and the very, very bad (war, famine poverty). Brenton Thwaites is Jonas, the teen who is selected to become the Giver’s Receiver of Memories, and realizes what the world used to be like before people were stripped of their freedom of choice.
The all-star cast also includes Meryl Streep as the Chief Elder who helps make all the society’s rigid rules: “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong,” she warns in the trailer. Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgård play Jonas’s mother and father, while Odeya Rush stars as red-headed Fiona, Jonas’s crush. Taylor Swift has a small role as Rosemary, the previous Receiver who meets a tragic end; but she’s in the trailer for about a millisecond.
Other differences include the fact that the film, out Aug. 15, is decidedly not in black and white. Not shocking, but still, a major part of the story was about how Jonas learned to see various hues in his colorless world. Oh, and Jonas and Fiona definitely make out: Severely forbidden in the book, but a complete necessity in a big budget movie aimed at teens.