Stephen King’s 1980 novel first was adapted as a 1984 cult classic. Now, the film has been remade for a new generation courtesy of Blumhouse.
Since becoming a father, Andy McGee has always been worried of his now 11-year-old daughter Charlie. With he and his wife Vickie taking part in an experiment during their college days, both he and Vicky have gained supernatural powers involving the mind. Charlie also has powers and in moments of anger, unleashes them. When a bullying incident at school leads to Charlie unleashing her power in the bathroom, Andy and Vicky realize that they now must Charlie the truth about what she is.
Andy knows a covert government operative force, the DSI, wants to take Charlie away and study her but he will go to great lengths to protect her. When Vickie is killed by hired gun Rainbird, Andy and Charlie go on the road. Captain Jane Holiister, the newly appointed head of the DSI, will do anything to make sure she has Charlie in her grasp. When the father-daughter duo meets farmer Irv Madders, he welcomes them into his home, but things go awry when he sees on the news Andy’s story and after a shocking discovery involving his disabled wife, Irv decides to help them out. However, it may be too late as when Andy is kidnapped and Charlie goes on the run, she is determined to get her dad back.
The 1980 Stephen King novel about a young girl with pyrokinetic powers originally was adapted into a 1984 film by Mark L. Lester that would end up doing modestly, but even King wasn’t impressed with the film. With this being a new age and where remakes of so many things are popping up, Blumhouse thought it would be a good idea to attempt to adapt the novel but of course, change a few things here and there. So how does the new film stand?
Ultimately, the film has quite the build-up. Ryan Kiera Armstrong, who has been in another King adaptation, It: Chapter Two, is the best thing about the film in the role of the titular “Firestarter”, Charlie McGee. She displays a varying range of emotions, mostly fear and anger due to bullying at school. When Armstrong unleashes her full powers with a scream, it’s reminiscent of something expected in X-Men or even in some form, Scanners (minus the head explosions of course). It seems at times, Armstrong has to be the one to carry a scene because at times, characters around her seem a bit sleepy or non-convincing.
Which leads us to Zac Efron as Andy, Charlie’s father. Coming a heck of a long way from his Disney Channel days, Efron’s take on the father character is a bit of a mixed bag. At times, he is very concerned and gives a sense of emotion while at other times, he sees somewhat a bit “sleepy” with his performance. If compared to original film star David Keith, Keith does a little bit better when compared to the two. In a gender reversal of the antagonist, Gloria Reuben is salaciously evil as Jane Hollister, the new head of the DSI determined to get Charlie any way possible. Kudos also goes out to Michael Greyeyes in the role of Rainbird, the hired assassin as not only does he have a sense of power himself, but after killing Vicky, played by Sydney Lemmon, begins to feel a sense of regret yet he must stay loyal to his job.
If there is one major flaw in the film, it’s the finale. It has this great build-up, but the finale is somewhat anticlimactic. It doesn’t make an impact as one would consider. It just gives off a “meh” vibe despite the fact there is quite a twist to the story that may have looked to one way but goes another. However, ultimately, the build-up seems wasted here due to this “meh” finale.
The new Firestarter starts out promising, thanks to Ryan Kiera Armstrong’s amazing performance. However, between Zac Efron’s sometimes wooden performance and the build-up leading to a “meh” style finale that leaves a bit of a bad taste even with the twist., this is a mixed bag of a remake.
WFG RATING: B-
Universal Pictures presents a Blumhouse Pictures production in association with Weed Road Pictures, BoulderLight Pictures, and Angry Adam Productions. Director: Keith Thomas. Producers: Jason Blum and Akiva Goldsman. Writer: Scott Teems; based on the novel by Stephen King. Cinematography: Karim Hussain. Editing: Tim Alverson.
Cast: Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, Gloria Reuben, Michael Greyeyes, Kurtwood Smith, John Beasley.
Now in theaters and streaming on Peacock.