Firestarter opens Friday, May 13 in both theaters and streaming on Peacock.
Blumhouse’s new adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal 1980 scare book Firestarter features strong performances from Zac “He Plays Dads Now” Efron and young Ryan Kiera Armstrong, but the end product is a smooth retelling of a story that , here in 2022, needed an extra jolt to bring it back and make it stand out among today’s superpowered rabble.
Not only are superhero stories now the meat and potatoes of our conventional multiplex fabric, but “young people discovering powers” is its own overflowing well. Firestarter, as a King story, is naturally kinkier than other children’s fables, which tend to lean toward the family adventure, but remaking this story without adding anything particularly new or making it more terrifying just leaves it helpless and feels completely unoriginal on the face of it. the mutant landscape despite being one of the first stories of its kind.
Armstrong plays Charlie McGee, a girl born with tremendous powers thanks to government experiments inflicted on her parents (which gave them various telepathic/telekinetic abilities). On the run from “The Shop,” the shadowy group of scientific experts who ratted them out at the lab, Charlie’s abilities are far more dangerous than his mom and dad’s, as he not only has the gifts of both, but also the incineration skill. She can shoot out huge swaths of flame or, you know, just heat up a point until someone ignites. Armstrong is very good in the role, not only does he show deep emotion, but he also syncs up well with Charlie’s use of powers, the angry face, and the CGI effects involved with them.
Efron is also an important part of this story, as Charlie’s father Andy, who has the power to “push” people’s minds, causing them to bend to his will. Efron and Armstrong are believable as a loving duo and the best moments in the movie happen when they’re together, but the story itself is thin and doesn’t cater to them. So, despite Firestarter’s shortcomings, which also plague Gloria Reuben and Kurtwood Smith, who get the “Oh my God, it’s Jason Bourne” bad guys, Efron and Armstrong make their mark with a fine dramatic performance. .
On the bad guys front, Michael Greyeyes is not What short like the others, but still feels like a ghost of a presence rather than a full character. As Rainbird, a super-powered fixer sent after Charlie (played by George C. Scott in the 1984 film), Greyeyes has some notable confrontational moments, but his character’s final resolution makes little sense and just adds another meandering and confusing. thing to this story.
One change to the story here, a gentle reshaping of the book, is to give more screen time to Vicky McGee, Charlie’s mother (played by Sydney Lemmon). Instead of only appearing in flashbacks, we see Vicky and Andy as co-parents, and Vicky is the advocate for teaching Charlie how to use her powers. This slight change wasn’t quite the refresher the story needed to pop, but it does give us one of the best confrontations in the movie when Rainbird calls.
Okay, I’ve gotten this far without puns, but since I’m only human… Firestarter has no visual spark. The story feels dull and dry, as Charlie and Andy’s life on the run seems to last one day (and elements of the saga are boiled down to something that feels more like a short story), and the look of the movie is washed out. . outside, with the appeal and vibe of a TV movie. It’s such a yawn that one can’t wait for the barbecue brutality to play out at the end, but even that feels forced. Firestarter is 90 minutes of waiting for the water to come out hot, but it never goes lukewarm.