I was excited to see this new version of Firestarter. I love the book, and I liked the 1984 version as well, which followed the book fairly faithfully with Drew Barrymore as Charlie. The trailer looked intriguing, but unfortunately, the film didn’t deliver as I had hoped. While I found this version competent, with solid performances by the actors and a couple of interesting changes, the 2022 rendition’s story is slow and flat, leaving the plot feeling stale.
Firestarter is a science fiction horror film directed by Keith Thomas, with the screenplay written by Scott Teems, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King; it is a reboot of the 1984 film adaptation. In the film, Andy (Zac Efron) and Vicky McGhee (Sydney Lemmon) are on the run from The Shop after being experimented on while in college. The pair have a daughter, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), who has developed pyrokinetic abilities and is even more sought after by their enemies. The Shop leader, Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben), hires a bounty hunter John Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes), to capture her. When he seeks them out, Andy and Charlie end up on the run, but The Shop and Rainbird will stop at nothing to hunt Charlie down and use her powers for sinister purposes. The film also features Kurtwood Smith and John Beasley.
Some of the changes in the film are interesting. Any adaptation wants to stand out and will have some differences. In this version, they’ve shown the abilities with an intriguing style, and as a viewer, you get a solid presentation of how those abilities would work in real life. Charlie seems more powerful than in the original, and I liked the development of John Rainbird. His character is a touch more complex and has a much more interesting ending than in the 1984 film. I also really liked how the movie’s beginning shows us how Andy and Vicky are experimented on without having a ton of exposition from the characters. The viewers know from the start that this is not a normal family.
The performances are solid. Zac Efron, as Andy, does a credible job providing us with the emotional weight of taking care of a daughter with powers and the effects of his own abilities. His performance is impassioned, especially once the pair are on the run. He and Sydney Lemmon have a good dynamic. While they don’t have sparkling chemistry, their relationship is secondary to taking a backseat to the development of Charlie’s powers and their escape from The Shop. Young Ryan Kiera Armstrong exudes the same talent as Drew Barrymore, even looking eerily similar, and she is powerful as Charlie, emotional and spooky at the same time. Her presentation of Charlie is the most creepy aspect of the film, as she presents a character that enjoys her abilities and has few inhibitions about using them.
The story itself is similar to the book but cuts out a lot of the details, shortening up the time Andy and Charlie are on the run and leaving out parts of the chase. Unfortunately, that also leaves us with half the complexity and excitement of the book or the previous film. The story presents more of Charlie’s abilities in the beginning, but the pace of the story is super slow, lacking a lot of action despite the moments Charlie cuts loose with her fire. The story cuts so much plot that it strips the movie of all excitement. In addition, instead of showing us how scary Charlie is, which they do a great job of, the dialogue insists on sharing that fact and giving dire warnings about what her powers could do. It kills the suspense, and the ending feels inevitable rather than scary or interesting. Plus, there is never enough action to immerse you in the film with the pace so slow.
If you love the book, you might take a chance on this film. The actors have done a good job with the material, especially Zac Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong. They are interesting characters trapped in a slow movie. I do like the changes the film makes to Charlie’s abilities, and the actor playing Raintree is authentic and foreboding. While I still enjoyed the film, it wasn’t as engaging as I’d hoped. But if you do like the book, you might want to watch this to compare and see the differences between the two. And then, when you get done, you might want to watch the original 1984 film.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Fires.
In a new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic thriller from the producers of THE INVISIBLE MAN, a girl with extraordinary pyrokinetic powers fights to protect her family and herself from sinister forces that seek to capture and control her.
For more than a decade, parents Andy (Zac Efron; EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE; THE GREATEST SHOWMAN) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon; FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, SUCCESSION) have been on the run, desperate to hide their daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong; AMERICAN HORROR STORY: DOUBLE FEATURE, THE TOMORROW WAR) from a shadowy federal agency that wants to harness her unprecedented gift for creating fire into a weapon of mass destruction. FIRESTARTER is in theaters and streaming only on the Peacock App.
ONE-LINER: A young girl tries to understand how she mysteriously gained the power to set things on fire with her mind.