Currently playing in cinemas, and streaming on Peacock in the US, is the sci-fi horror-thriller, Firestarter. The movie – based on the book of the same name by Stephen King – is directed by Keith Thomas, and stars Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, and Kurtwood Smith.
The movie follows the story of a family with unique skills. Father Andy is a telepath, mother Vicky is telekinetic, while daughter Charlie is a pre-teen with pyrokinetic powers.
Although Andy and Vicky are able to control their abilities, Charlie struggles to keep hers under wraps – something which is proving increasingly problematic when she causes a minor explosion at school. Not only is Charlie potentially dangerous to those around her, but she’s finding the development of her fire powers to be frustrating.
For a while the family manage to keep their secret under wraps, but when a shadowy agency orders Charlie’s termination, they are forced to confront a significant change in their living arrangement. What follows is a fight for survival, with Charlie having to learn how best to control her powers, while being hunted down by those who wish to do her harm.
If the above premise seems awfully familiar, it’s likely you have watched the previous adaptation of Firestarter. Yes, this movie has all been done before, back in 1984 no less, and it’s possible that over the past (almost) 40 years, you have caught this earlier version on television, VHS, DVD or Blu-ray.* (*Please delete as applicable)
But if you have watched the previous iteration, then you will know the ‘84 adaptation of Firestarter was a fairly boring affair, which is largely only remembered because it starred Drew Barrymore in the lead role. The film is not one of the good adaptations of a Stephen King novel, and if my memory serves me correctly, King hated it upon release.
Well, it gives me no pleasure to inform you that this 2022 take on Firestarter is no better, and if anything, it’s actually worse than what came before. Firestarter ’22 is an incredibly dull, painfully bland picture, which is devoid of any thrills, suspense, or originality.
It’s not the worst adaptation of a King novel, but it certainly isn’t very good. The film lacks any real spark, fails to raise even a flicker of excitement throughout its painfully slow runtime, and is likely to be forgotten in the fullness of time.
Firestarter suffers from a number of key problems, beginning with just how miserable the whole thing looks. The film is shot in a way that feels very sedate, and uninspiring, and it comes across as if the entire cast have been heavily medicated in order to get through the whole experience.
I should say that for legal reasons, I don’t believe that any of the cast were given drugs to help them complete the filming of this picture. However, I do think that Universal Pictures should probably hand out mind-altering drugs to those who choose to watch the film, as it is likely to be the only way audiences will come out of this thinking they had a happy experience.
In fact, had the studio spent money on medication, rather the reported $12 million this film cost to make, I could at least understand where the money went. How a film that looks this cheap, cost that much to produce, is anyone’s guess.
The cheapness of the movie is another one of the key problems. Firestarter comes across less like a big budget feature-film, and more like a television pilot, and this makes it seem all the more like a complete waste of time and money.
The only reason I can see why this film cost as much as it does, is because it includes Zac Efron amongst the cast. I expect a significant chunk of the budget went to Efron, to convince him to star in this dreck, and this swallowed up most of the money.
If this is the case, then well done to Efron for at least getting something out of this movie. However, he should probably think about firing his agent now, as he is a talented actor who deserves far better than to be in a film like this.
The other major issue with Firestarter is that it all feels incredibly dated. The premise of the movie centres around a collection of characters with super powers, some of which originate in the mind, and if this doesn’t sound like an X-Men movie to you, then I don’t know what does.
And herein lies the rub: After 13 X-Men pictures, as well as countless other comic book movies, a film involving super powered beings needs to work hard to offer something new. Firestarter doesn’t work hard, and there’s nothing in this movie that hasn’t been covered countless times before.
The only positive thing I can say about this entire movie is that the score, provided by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel Davies, is good. The music is worth listening to, and that’s about it.
As far as I’m concerned, Firestarter should be renamed ‘Nonstarter’, because that’s exactly what it is. The whole thing feels like an exercise in pointlessness, which offers very little in the way of entertainment, does nothing to enhance the sci-fi, horror, or thriller genres, and fails to serve up anything better than what was already presented in 1984.
Is it watchable? Yes – but then so are the contents of a microwave when they are on full rotation. But just because something can be watched, doesn’t mean it is advisable to do so.
I’d suggest skipping this film, and checking out something else instead. Listen to the score if you can, but don’t bother with the movie.