Cennamology Chief Editor
You know the feeling you get when one of your favorite books that you always wanted to be made into a movie finally comes to the big screen? It's very exciting, right? Well that's happening to me, as a film based on Lois Lowry's book "The Giver" is set to hit theaters on August 15.
I have been waiting for this movie to come out for a very long time now. An IMDB page has existed for a movie version of "The Giver" for over a decade now, with the movie originally supposed to come out in 2007. IMDB kept pushing and pushing back the release date, so eventually I gave up hope and figured this movie would never be made.
Naturally, I was surprised when I came across an article in the Washington Post yesterday discussing the book and the movie adaptation. I was very, very, very excited! I was relieved that Hollywood did not give up on this wonderful opportunity for a movie. So, I went back to the IMDB page, vastly different from the last time I saw it, and watched the trailer. And the first thing I saw on the trailer........irritated me a bit.
I bring this up because the biggest movie credit the guy playing Jonas, 24-year-old Australian actor Brandon Thwaites, has is Prince Philip from "Maleficent." For those of you who have not seen the movie, Prince Philip got about two minutes of screen time and his presence in the movie was completely pointless.
The inexperience of the lead actor is not the biggest problem I have with him (although it certainly doesn't help), it is his age. As I mentioned, Jonas is 12 in the book. The youngest they can get away with for this actor is 18. The fact that they aged up the main character so much bothers me because one of the things that made "The Giver" such a profound book was that all the secrets and memories of the utopian society are being revealed to a child, and it will be his responsibility, and solely his responsibility, to be the member of the society to keep those memories.
The fact that the main character will be an adult in the movie takes away this element - because instead of the memories being passed from an old man to a child, it will be passed from an old man to an adult. An 18-year-old is already pretty responsible, so the pressure on Jonas to grow up so much faster than his friends in the book will not be a problem in the movie.
Plus, it was more unique for a 12-year-old to go through an interior moral struggle of great magnitude, especially like the one that is the plot of "The Giver," than it is for an older teenager to go through the same thing. The struggle is not just a piece of character development it IS the whole plot. I can see a movie about an 18-year-old going through a moral struggle anytime, especially since "The Hunger Games" is on Netflix.
Speaking of "The Hunger Games," it probably would not even exist if it was not for "The Giver." Lowry's book, which was published in 1993, pushed the boundaries in terms of what was acceptable in children's literature. The book deals with topics like euthanasia, infanticide, war, and authoritarianism. These topics were unheard of in children's literature at the time. The fact that the book is still widely read in middle schools throughout the country proves that children can handle these topics and they can learn from stories that involve these types of situations. It also was the book that proved that it was acceptable to make children's literature with actual children going through situations of this gravity. It's because of this that I am surprised that it took so long for the book to be made into a movie.
I think, in the long run, aging up the main character will actually lead to less box office returns rather than more because children at the age where they are about to begin reading the book will be uninterested. I do not see why the casting director could not have found a 14 or 15 year old (heck, in today's movies, even 16-year-olds have gotten away with playing 12-year-olds) to play Jonas as the age he is in the book. Decent child actors are not all that hard to find, unless you're M. Night Shayamalan.
I think they probably chose to cast a man in his mid-20s for the role of Jonas because they want to make the movie a movie for adults and young adults, as "The Giver" is often labelled as a children's book. To be true to the book, they could not hope for anything less than a PG-13 rating, so maybe they felt uncomfortable making a 12-year-old the main character of a PG-13 movie. I do not think they needed to cast someone older to get an older audience. They did not need to cast a 25-year-old for the first Harry Potter movie to get both kids and adults to the theaters. "The Giver" would not have needed to do it either.
Despite the odd casting of an actor who's most famous role prior to this was as a generic Disney prince with five lines, the rest of the actors make me excited about the movie. Jeff Bridges is perfect casting for The Giver. Meryl Streep is playing the Chief Elder, the main antagonist, and she is magnificent in almost every role she does. This seems to be the year that Streep focuses on playing antagonists, as she will be starring as the witch in "Into the Woods," which is to be released on Christmas Day (another movie I'm very excited about).
Taylor Swift was also cast in a minor, but important role. I usually have a big problem with singers trying to be actors in recent years, unless they are playing other singers. When a singer plays a non-singer in a movie, it usually does not end well. For proof, just see any movie Jennifer Lopez was in, or witness Rihanna's Razzie-winning performance in "Battleship." The role that Swift is in only has like one line in the book, so I am not too worried here, but she should really stick to singing.
"The Giver" is definitely one of my favorite books of all time, and I will certainly see this movie. If you have not read the book, buy it now and read it. If you have, go see the movie. I really hope they do this movie right, because if they do it could surely be an Oscar contender. If not, it will be one of the biggest missed opportunities in cinematic history.