A slow burner that ultimately flames out
Heads up, folks. I’m going to be making a lot of bad fire related puns in this review but I won’t spoil the film.
Yesterday I visited the original Firestarter film from 1984. You can check out my thoughts on that film if you’d like in this post. Put briefly, I enjoyed the film but wasn’t really impressed by it in any way shape or form. I watched it in order to prepare myself for the 2022 film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel from 1980. After watching the 2022 version, I’m left with many of the same feelings for it that I had with the original.
In 2022’s Firestarter, Zac Efron takes on the role of Andy McGee and Ryan Kiera Armstrong portrays his daughter, Charlie. Both of them have amazing powers. Andy can “push” people mentally to make them believe and/or do whatever he wishes. Charlie has the power of pyrokinesis. She can set things on fire with her mind. She also has a combination of her father and mother’s abilities. Sydney Lemmon plays Charlie’s mom, Vicky McGee, who can move things with her mind, communicate telepathically, and has premonition abilities as well.
Andy and Vicky have been successfully hiding from “The Shop,” a government agency that ran tests on the couple as college students that resulted in them gaining their powers, for over a decade. When Charlie was born, agents for The Shop attempted to kidnap her so that she could be studied and, ultimately, weaponized. The McGees managed to get away and have been on the run ever since that time. As Charlie has grown older, her powers have increased and she finds it harder to control or suppress them. When she has an explosive accident at school, The Shop goes back on the hunt by bringing in an assassin named John Rainbird to eliminate the McGee adults and collect Charlie for the agency.
The original film focused primarily on the hunt for Charlie and Andy. It dismissed the character of Vicky early in the movie. Firestarter 2022 takes about an hour to establish the McGee family situation and to build up Andy, Vicky, and Charlie as characters. It’s a slow burner that simmers throughout the first hour and then heats up quickly once John Rainbird catches up to Andy and Charlie. Rainbird is a strange anomaly in this film, as his character arc takes a unique turn compared to what he did in both the original film and the novel. I won’t spoil what happens, but I didn’t really care for what his character ends up doing in the film. It’s kind of aggravating for me because I really like how sinister and cold Rainbird is for almost all of the movie.
The original film felt more like a science fiction adventure than a horror film in my opinion. The 2022 film turns up the heat on the horror. Charlie seems to enjoy burning things at times, even prior to the film’s climax. She also throws in a few line of dialogue that let you know that she’s not necessarily a fan of her daddy at times. She’s calculating and downright wicked at times as well. This makes her seem like much more of a threat than innocent little Drew Barrymore came across in the original film.
The film isn’t terrible, but it’s nothing special either. For a film about a kid that can make fire with her mind, the cinematography is decidedly dull and dark. Many scenes were extremely dark, possibly to hide any shortcomings of the CGI used in the film even though I thought that the CGI was done extremely well. Also, I’m okay with director Keith Thomas focusing on the family unit for the first hour of the film but I really wish that he hadn’t rushed the final half hour in order to end it all with a long and laborious climax. I wanted more of the chase, more development of Rainbird and blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Dr. Wanless (Kurtwood Smith). Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben) talked a good game but she wasn’t in the film long enough for me to care about her. The whole film just feels to rushed and too slow all at once. I willsay that the film’s score, done by legendary horror icon John Carpenter, his son, Cody, and Daniel Davies, is excellent. l might try to pick up a copy of it for myself.
As far as the cast is concerned, it’s a complete 180 from the original film. Where the first film had a nice litany of great actors, the acting overall was subpar. The 2022 film has lesser known actors in most of the roles but all of them turn in stellar performances. As already mentioned, Armstrong walks a fine line between innocent and sinister as Charlie. Michael Greyeyes, the first actual Indigenous actor to portray Rainbird, who is Cherokee in the book, knocks it out of the park. His performance was great, Kurtwood Smith wasn’t in the film long enough to do much and Gloria Reubens was a tad over the top as Captain Hollister. Sydney Lemmon did a great job as Vicky. Zac Efron, the only “major” star in the film, did a great job as Andy, Charlie’s overly cautious father who often finds himself at odds with both Vicky and Charlie. Efron continues to impress me with his versatility as an actor,
So is it worth checking out? If you have the Peacock streaming service, yes, it is. I recommend watching it on the streamer. I don’t know if I would plunk down any hard earned money to see it in a theater, though, as it comes across as more of a well done, nicely budgeted made-for-TV film than a major motion picture. It’s okay, but much like its predecessor, it’s nothing amazing.
Thanks for burning a little of your time with me by reading my post. See you again soon!