Students give The Giver a review YA movie adaptations, and whether or not they work.

Ava Neumaier, Staff Writer

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Recently, the sixth grade, after finishing Lois Lowry’s The Giver, went down to the auditorium to watch its movie adaptation. Released in 2014, the movie The Giver gained mixed reactions from students on whether or not it did justice to the book.

 

Both versions of the story center on a boy named Jonas, who lives in a meticulously ordered society, awaiting his graduation, when he, along with his other classmates, will be given a new job in the community. He is assigned the job “Receiver of Memory,” and visits an old man called the Giver, who holds all the memories of the time before the Community. Jonas receives memories of things he’s never seen before–snow, colors, emotions–and as he begins to see color and feelings all around him, he realizes that his Community has to be changed. At this point the two plots differed. In the book, Jonas takes a baby who was to be Released (a ceremony in which the baby would be killed because it didn’t sleep quietly at night) and ventures into Elsewhere, a mysterious place beyond the Community, quietly one night. In the movie, it’s an action-packed scene with his love, Fiona, and evil Elders chasing him through the town, trying to keep him from leaving with baby Gabriel.

 

Sixth grader Elizabeth Distefano enjoyed the movie’s amped-up plot developments. “I saw that scene as very exciting and powerful, and I think that it gave some excitement to the audience. I really liked it.” Others, like Fiona Joslin, commented that, “In the book, Jonas just takes Gabriel and leaves, but in the movie, it’s less on point. It’s the movie trying to target action-loving audiences.”

 

In all, most of the grade displayed a mixed reaction concerning The Giver, varying from loving the movie to disliking it. All agreed that the book was better.

 

But is that true of all book-to-movie adaptations? Will they constantly be in the shadow of their book, or will their book be in the shadow of them?

Language and Literature teacher Mr. Feller, who has expressed a dislike concerning the Percy Jackson movies, opined to me what it’s failure had to do with movie adaptations as a whole. “Movies are about making money, and you’re certainly going to get a wider range of moviegoers if you make the movie directed toward teenagers, not adolescents, as the book may have been intended for.” This results in including and cutting out specific scenes that may have been important in the book.

 

Percy Jackson and the Olympians; the Lightning Thief came out in 2010, trying to recreate the story of a young boy who discovers he’s a demigod, in a different medium. Though the plot stayed intact, there were many criticisms regarding cut scenes and minimized characters. Though some audience-appealing scenes were added to the movie, many disapproved of the actors chosen and resolved to think of the book as the best of the two.

 

Another serious problem with movie adaptations is that the viewer may assume the book is just a recap, and won’t read it, not realizing that the book might have just as much–even more–excitement. Even worse, if the movie adaptation is weak, the viewer may assume the book is the same way, resulting in a preconceived notion that the plot is just as poor. “When I know that there’s a movie coming out that’s based off a popular teen book, and my kids were interested in seeing it, I would suggest that they would read the book first,” Feller recalled. This tactic is good for two reasons: one, in order for a young reader to appreciate the story without the movie and it’s visuals hanging over them, and two, so the kid can know the plot, scenes, and characters that they will recognize once they go see the film.

 

One of the only cases when the scenario is switched — the movie itself is better than the book — is the movie The Hunger Games, released in 2012. The art direction, performance, and visual storytelling is more engaging and exciting than in the book. Even though the book The Hunger Games is a fantastic read, the movie somehow takes the plot to a new level, with dystopic heroine Katniss fighting to win the twisted reality TV show orchestrated by the malevolent government. This is an example of a successful movie adaptation, one that actually surpasses the success of the book.
So was The Giver better or worse than the book? If the book didn’t exist, would we give the movie a thumbs up because we had nothing to compare it with? Or are books truly the supreme form of entertainment, movies only the feeble visual copycat, trying to make money? Everybody has a different opinion, but as Mr. Feller said; “Get the juicer, thicker, and more adept story versus the Hollywood remake.” Typically, the book is better; you just have to read it to know that.

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Students give The Giver a review YA movie adaptations, and whether or not they work.