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Review Roundup: Is Phillip Noyce's Dystopian 'The Giver' Too Late to the YA Franchise Party?

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! August 12, 2014 at 2:45PM

Reviews are out for Phillip Noyce's Lois Lowry adaptation "The Giver," and early consensus suggests that this YA dystopian sci-fi, while handsomely directed, may not be franchise material.
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'The Giver'
'The Giver'

Reviews are out for Phillip Noyce's Lois Lowry adaptation "The Giver," and early consensus suggests that this YA dystopian sci-fi, while handsomely directed, may not be franchise material.

We were worried at Comic-Con when The Weinstein Company previewed the film, which turns on a vaguely post-apocalyptic society founded on uniformity and sameness a la George Orwell and, obviously, Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." A longtime labor-of-love for producer and star Jeff Bridges, "The Giver" features Aussie newcomer Brenton Thwaites as Jonas, the young hero of this uncomfortably numb community. And, of course, Meryl Streep costars, which will be a draw for audiences.

While The Hollywood Reporter, Film School Rejects and Washington Post are kinder to "The Giver," Variety and The Wrap are not in love. More reviews to come. Also, listen to our Screen Talk podcast, which covers what we saw at Comic-Con and more. "The Giver" goes wide August 15.

Trailer after the jump.

The Hollywood Reporter:

"The changes, which include making the book's 12 year-old hero old enough to make tween viewers swoon (he's played by 25 year-old Aussie Brenton Thwaites), surely enhance marketability, even if they sand some edges off a tale that has won many hearts over the years. The presence of Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep in supporting roles will help draw some attention from grown-ups who don't know the book, but while the film may see enough success to justify follow-ups (Lowry has written three sequels), this franchise won't come close to competing with 'The Hunger Games' and other more epic series."

Variety:

"Sameness, the conformist plague that afflicts the futuristic citizens of Lois Lowry’s celebrated and scorned YA novel, 'The Giver,' might also be the name given to what ails the movie adaptation -- the latest in a seemingly endless line of teen-centric dystopian fantasies that have become all but indistinguishable from one another. A longtime passion project for producer/star Jeff Bridges, 'The Giver' reaches the screen in a version that captures the essence of Lowry’s affecting allegory but little of its mythic pull -- a recipe likely to disappoint fans while leaving others to wonder what all the fuss was about. Any hopes by co-producers the Weinstein Co. and Walden Media that they might have the next 'Hunger Games' (or even 'Divergent') on their hands look to be dashed by lackluster late-summer box office."

This article is related to: The Giver, Reviews, Phillip Noyce, Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.