Firestarter – Film Review

Director: Keith Thomas

Writer: Scott Teems

Starring: Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, Kurtwood Smith, John Beasley, Michael Greyeyes, Gloria Reuben

Rating: ★★

The new Firestarter film is the latest in a long line of adaptations of Stephen King’s work that just doesn’t live up to expectations. It’s a real shame that the story hasn’t gotten the film it deserves, especially when you can see the elements of a really good King story on screen here, instead it’s a poorly written and acted mess that feels very rushed.

Charlene McGee (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) has a secret ability where she is able to create fire in her surroundings, which she is unable to control. While growing up in hiding with her parents Andrew (Zac Efron) and Victoria (Sydney Lemmon), Charlene has to force her abilities deep down without ever learning how to control them. After an incident in school, where a teacher witnesses her power, the McGee family have to go on the run.

You can tell while watching this film that the book is better. Like a lot of King’s novels, it just doesn’t fit into a ninety-minute film. There are so many interesting moments that feel rushed and diluted just to move the plot on as quickly as possible. It’s such a shame that more time wasn’t given to the story to let it be interesting and because of that you’re never fully invested. the characters don’t feel like real people with really awful dialogue that’s so clunky. There’s a big development moment for Charlene when she uses her powers reactionary to a cat attacking her, that comes across like something out of a parody and is a lot funnier than it should be. To top it all off, the film somehow feels a lot longer than ninety minutes, even with its quick pace. Any excitement burns out quickly.

Everything feels one-dimensional with some really poor performances, even from Zac Efron, who is normally pretty good. The characters aren’t developed at all and you don’t really get a sense of who they are. At the same time there is the members of the McGee family don’t feel like a family at all, it just feels forced. The film really assumes you’re going to care about them, just because they are the ‘good guys’. Even the grey area in their characters isn’t explored in any meaningful way, it’s just there to give a feeling of depth when there isn’t any.

The best thing about the film is the score from John Carpenter. It feels like the score from one of his classic horrors, with a retro synth vibe to it. It deserves to be attached to a lot better film, but a new John Carpenter score is never a bad thing (it’ll probably become background noise to future writing projects for me at least). Overall Firestarter feels like a cash-grab, something put out there only because it’s based on a King book. A real shame. Maybe one day we will get an adaptation that does the book justice.   

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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