Ryan Kiera Armstrong - Charlie McGee
Zac Efron - Andy McGee
Sydney Lemmon - Vicky Tomilnson-McGee
Kurtwood Smith - Dr. Joseph Wanless
Michael Greyeyes - John Rainbird
Gloria Reuben - Captain Jane Hollister
Running Time: 94 Minutes
A girl with extraordinary pyrokinetic powers fights to protect her family and herself from sinister forces that seek to capture and control her.
When I first saw the trailer to 2022’s new adaptation of Stephen King’s Firestarter, I was mostly puzzled that Universal decided to waste money on a new version of a novel when no one asked for one. While the novel itself is quite good, the 1984 adaptation had a lot to be desired when it came to transferring the words onto the big screen. That being said, it was a childhood staple of mine and it’s not a bad movie. It has cool effects and some nice performances [in particular Drew Barrymore and George C. Scott] that elevates it into something kind of memorable. The less said about the 2002 mini-series sequel because that was so bad, that I never bothered to go back and finish it after 20 years. So maybe a different adaptation could erase the stink of that, right?
2022’s FIRESTARTER is, without a doubt, my worst film of the year so far. There’s no heart and soul in recreating Stephen King’s text, as this is obviously a cash grab to create a new franchise for the studio. This version is 20 minutes shorter than the 1984 version, eliminating a lot of depth and character development - especially when it comes to the villains, who barely get any screen time and are not at all interesting in the slightest. And I get that when you do an adaptation, you want to change things to make it stand on its own two feet. But this movie butchers what Stephen King presented to his audience in 1980. It’s so lazy and beyond generic that it makes the slightly above average 1984 adaptation look like a masterpiece of filmmaking in comparison. I’m all for changing the narrative to reflect the time period it’s being made for and to possibly expand it if you do want to create some kind of movie universe out of it. But the changes here are terrible and never click in terms of creating tension or anticipation for what could possibly come next. I was honestly glad when the film ended because it just left me cold and disappointed. There’s a good movie in here somewhere, but for whatever reason, the filmmakers half-assed it. And for what? Low box office receipts? To alienate a horror audience wanting something good? I don’t get it.
Is there anything good? The special effects are pretty cool, with the fire scenes and the after effects the fire leaves looking convincing. The music score by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies is really good, making me wish it was part of a much better movie. And the actors aren’t terrible - in particular Zac Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong who carry the film as the father-daughter duo running away from the evil scientists wanting to control them and their powers. In fact, the first 25 minutes of the film focusing on the protagonists and their family dynamic was the best part of the movie for me, with Efron and Armstrong doing some damn good acting. Gloria Reuben, Kurtwood Smith and Michael Greyeyes do what they can with the roles they’re given, but aren’t given enough time to really give depth to their characters.
THE FINAL HOWL
2022’s FIRESTARTER could have been an improvement over the 1984 adaptation, but ends up wasting its potential of being a modern Stephen King adaptation worth investing in. The actors do the best they can with what they’re given [Zac Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong are the best of the lot as the father-daughter protagonists]. The music score by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies is really good stuff. The special effects are done well enough. And while the first 25 minutes of the film focusing on the McGee family was well-written and structured, the rest of the film just takes a deep dive in its narrative just to make it to the finish line as quickly as possible. No tension. No depth given to the villains. And while I respect the producers for trying to deviate from the novel in preparations for future installments, the changes made aren’t necessarily all that interesting or well executed enough for me to care about any potential universe this film is trying to establish. The original isn’t the best adaptation either, but it’s a masterpiece compared to this version.
(3 out of 10)