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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Firestarter (2022)

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Stephen King films have an unfortunately mixed history; some are great, but others are terrible.  For every Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, there is a Lawnmower Man and DreamcatcherFirestarter is the latest Stephen King film to be made. It is an adaptation of King’s 1980 novel of the same name, which was previously adapted in 1984.

This Firestarter is an all-new adaptation, keeping the core premise the same but offering a vastly different execution.  Unfortunately, this is where the problems start.

The Firestarter novel was written during the Cold War, in the wake of MK ULTRA and Watergate.  This naturally informed the premise, whereby a secret government research facility run drug trials on college students using ‘Lot Six’, giving them psychic abilities, before it is shutdown.  Years later, two of the students involved in the trials have a child together, whom they name Charlie. She later develops pyrokinetic abilities – the ability to create fire with the mind.

It is telling that the premise, explained during the title sequence using a series of grainy VHS-style video clips, is actually far more interesting than the film itself.  There is an almost lacklustre feel to the resulting film.  It is certainly not bad, but neither is it great.  For a film about fire, the most damning thing you can be is boring.

That said, this is not a film without some positive qualities.  The physical effects are impressive, with the burns being suitably gruesome, however there is a reliance on CGI which leaves the film lacking verisimilitude.

Likewise, the camera too often cuts away when the explosions start.  This should be a film that embraces the ferocity and carnage of pyrokinesis, rather than have the explosions happening in the background.  There is a moment when Charlie cuts loose, but it is too little too late.

The worst part is the writing.  The screenplay for Firestarter is credited to Scott Teems, who had previously written the script for Halloween Kills (reviewed here).  Characters are underused and insufficiently explored, whilst plot points are randomly introduced without any explanation or foreshadowing.

A prime example is how the people behind the drug trials developed contact lenses that protect them from mind-control.  We never learn how they were able to develop these contact lenses or how they can protect the wearers from telepathy.

The actors Zac Efron and Sydney Lemmon do what they can, but there is a lacklustre feel to their performances.  Ryan Kiera Armstrong is a fine actor, but lacks the burning rage that Drew Barrymore was able to channel as Charlie in the 1984 adaption.  However, Michael Greyeyes was suitably implacable as John Rainbird (and kudos to the studio for finally casting a native American in the role), but there is insufficient exploration of his character.

Ultimately, watching Firestarter is a bland and boring experience, which for a film about pyrokinesis and psychic powers is a damning inditement.

Peter Ray Allison
Peter Ray Allisonhttp://www.peterallison.net
Science Fiction: the final frontier. These are the articles of the freelance journalist Peter Ray Allison. His continuing mission: to explore strange new realms of fiction, to seek out new genres and new visions of the future, to boldly geek where no one has geeked before.

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Firestarter (2022) Stephen King films have an unfortunately mixed history; some are great, but others are terrible.  For every Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, there is a Lawnmower Man and Dreamcatcher.  Firestarter is the latest Stephen King film to be made. It is an...