Firestarter Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
This new adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name is not the explosive horror we hoped for, instead being more of a tiresome dud. A wasted opportunity!
Genre: Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi
Director: Keith Thomas
Cast: Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Zac Efron, Sydney Lemmon, Michael Greyeyes, Gloria Reuben, Tina Jung, John Beasley & Kurtwood Smith.
Run Time: 94 min.
US Release: 12 May 2022
UK Release: 13 May 2022
German Release: 12 May 2022
Another year, another Stephen King adaptation, or in this case another reboot of an 80s King adaptation. To say the truth, I’ve never really been a big fan of the 1984 original, which starred a young Drew Berrymore in the lead role; in fact, I don’t even remember when I saw it last. However, I tried to find it on streaming services to watch, to have a review for that one up before the new Firestarter came out. Sadly, I couldn’t find it on any platform. Having said that, this remake is even less engaging than its predecessor and I am disappointed at having wasted money on it for theatre tickets… So let’s talk about Firestarter!
When a government agency disturbs the peaceful life of a family, forcing them to run off into hiding, the young daughter must come to terms with her powers and learn where she obtained them from, all while trying to keep her parents safe.
The first criticism right from the get-go; it is too short! The audience has no time to connect emotionally with any of the characters until the plot reaches a pivot point, thus we don’t care what happens to them. There is also the fact, that the screenplay and direction have little to no motivation, it feels as if the project was forced upon the writers. The novel’s story is watered down to its plain basics. For instance, Charlie’s progression to control her powers is sped up to a few hours or minutes, in contrast to the amount of time for practice she had in the book. All of this makes for a forgettable experience at the cinema.
Then we have the depiction of a government agency, acting as a villainous institution but written most bluntly. We don’t get any motivation or real explanation on why they are hunting Charlie and her parents, other than her powers. The opening credits’ quick cuts are also used as a lazy form of exposition, on how the main character obtained their powers. Finally, to all who are sensitive to animal cruelty, here is a fair warning! There is a scene that doesn’t hold back on showing a gruesome death of a cat, supposed to serve as a learning lesson for a later segment, however, it doesn’t feel earned or right then either.
That said, there are a few nice, little moments sprinkled throughout its runtime, not enough to elevate the quality of this light horror flick, but sufficient to make one care somewhat about the fate of father and daughter. It is sad to see how little time was spent on characterization and more on speeding up the narrative to its conclusion.
Dialogues are as shallow as the rest of the script, feeling unengaging and empty. Meaningless sentences are just stringed together, while discussions between characters feel at times unnatural. There were also a few onliners wroth an eye roll.
Child-actress Ryan Kiera Armstrong, who plays the lead Charlie, might have given it her best, though given the weak screenplay, was fairly unconvincing as the ten-year-old firestarter. Instead of making the viewers feel pity and warmth, Armstrong gave off disturbing, near psychopathic vibes, which killed most sympathy points, Other than that, her character hasn’t much more to go with. She had good chemistry with Zac Efron, making for a short but sweet father-daughter moment.
Zac Effron as Andrew McGee, was convincing enough, however, just as with most of the cast, it felt like he was just going through the motions to cash his check by the end of the day. His performance was mostly drained of emotions, acting more like a robot than a human being. The character of McGee is portrayed as a caring father, who makes the dumbest decisions to protect his family.
Sydney Lemmon, who portrays Charlie’s mother Victoria Tomlinson McGee, gives the best-rounded performance, even though she is on screen only for a short while. Vicky, just like Andy, cares a lot about her daughter and would do anything for her. Contrary to her husband, however, she believes they should be training their daughter to use her powers. This could have made for an interesting conflict between the spouses, but it doesn’t lead anywhere.
Gloria Reuben as Captain Jane Hollister, the government's lead agent, is a laughable bad villain. Her motives are unclear and she constantly has this threatening undertone when she speaks. It’s honestly no wonder that she can’t convince even the dumbest person, that she means no harm. Finally, the casting of Kurtwood Smith was a slap in the face. Kurtwood is on screen for one scene and then falls off the face of the earth, never to be heard again.
The camera work is passable, with cinematography being pretty much standard and nothing out of the ordinary, the effects are not too shabby, though also nothing spectacular. The colour palette used, however, is overly depressing, as well as boring. The grey, sanitised colours suck out the least bit of warmth, giving the whole picture an unrealistic look. It is puzzling why this was never corrected in post-edit.
The soundtrack was the one part that stood out positively and having looked at who the composer was after the screening, made it very clear why it sounded special. John Carpenter himself, who not only understands the horror but the music for that genre, wrote composed the music for the film.
Verdict: I am baffled how this was greenlit; the writing, acting even the cinematography is lazy. No one seems motivated, instead, it feels much more like this project was forced upon the director and writers, than being a passion project, concluding that this remake has no real reason to exist, because nobody cared for it. It is simply a waste of time and money. Having said that, it is not as if someone went out to ruin the legacy of Firestarter, it has competent camera work, Zac Effron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong do have chemistry as the father-daughter runaways, yet it is all emotionless! It also isn’t really scary, there are two or three scenes that are gruesome to look at but that is it! There are worse horror pictures out there for sure! This one is simply uninspired, fully deserving of that 4.0 out of 10.
So what did you think of the new Firestarter? Agree with my review, or did you enjoy it? Leave a comment to let me know. Thank you very much for reading!