Two decades. That's how long Jeff Bridges has been trying to make Lois Lowry's novel The Giver into a movie, and at the film's Hall H panel on Thursday we finally got to see some of the fruits of his labor.
Bridges, Lowry, producer Nikki Silver and stars Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush were all on hand for the presentation, although director Philip Noyce was not; still finishing the film, Noyce sent a video message instead. He also sent an extended look at footage from the picture, which takes place in a future post-apocalyptic society in which all emotions are suppressed, all memories of the past have been erased and conformity is the norm.
The movie starts off in black and white, to represent the gray, monochromatic nature of its setting, but color gradually seeps in as Jonas, played by Thwaites, begins to wake up to the nature of the world around him. He has been chosen to be the Receiver, who is the repository of all those blocked memories. He must obtain them from the Giver (Bridges), the previous recipient, but the Giver has other plans: He wants Jonas to incite a rebellion and expose the society for what it really is.
The footage is striking visually, and it's fascinating to see Meryl Streep playing the society's leader -- essentially the same role Kate Winslet played in Divergent. And that's the problem right there: If you didn't know The Giver was a Newbery Award-winning book that came out over 20 years ago, you might think this was meant to cash in on the success of Divergent (to be honest, I'm not sure why Lowry hasn't sued Divergent author Veronica Roth -- the setups for the stories are nearly identical) and The Hunger Games, both of which Noyce mentioned in his video.
I'm also not sure what changes the movie has made from the book (aside from the characters being aged from 12 to their teens), but Lowry herself -- who got most of the questions -- gave away the ending early in the discussion when she noted that (SPOILERS AHEAD) Jonas and a baby he saves are very much alive at the end of the movie, although readers of the book may have thought otherwise.
Bridges revealed that he originally wanted to direct The Giver, with his father Lloyd Bridges in the role he now plays, and that he even shot test footage with his dad and nephew that he hopes to find in his garage somewhere so that it can be put on the Blu-ray.
Will people who have read the book -- which is still taught in a lot of schools -- come out in droves to see the movie? Will mainstream audiences yawn and think it's just another young-adulty dystopian melodrama?
We'll find out on Aug. 15 when The Giver hits theaters.