‘Firestarter’ Review – Modern Reimagining of Stephen King’s Novel Fails to Ignite

Bloody disgusting Fire starter the review is spoiler-free.

the Stephen King renaissance continues with a modern adaptation of his 1980 novel, Fire starter. Given the lackluster response to the 1984 adaptation, it’s probably long overdue. But the real question is whether there’s thematic depth or storytelling to tap into amid the current oversaturation and popularity of superhero cinema. While The Vigil director Keith Thomas gets Fire starter on an energetic and engaging start, this reimagining ultimately fails to ignite.

The exhibition of the Andy couple (Zac Efron) and Vicky (Sydney lemon) gained supernatural abilities, through an experiment, is relayed in the opening credits. A nightmarish sequence later, Fire starter jumps forward a decade, where Andy and Vicky attempt to raise their gifted daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) and avoid detection by the federal agency that would collect them. As if being perpetually on the run wasn’t exhausting enough, Charlie loses his fight to quell his growing powers. Cue an incendiary event that puts the family back on the agency’s radar, putting them all in danger.

(left to right) Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) and Andy (Zac Efron) in Fire starterdirected by Keith Thomas.

Written by halloween kills scribe Scott Teems, Fire starter breaks down into two very different halves. The first half builds character dynamics and establishes the emotional stakes. Andy and Vicky are doting parents, but with two distinct approaches to parenting a young child with immense fuel power. Complicating the conflicting ideals are the contrasting but similar ways in which their diminished abilities are ill-equipped to sustain and control Charlie’s tenuous restraint of his emotions, often resulting in disaster. Zac Efron brings a lot to his role, putting in a lot of big effort in the first half.

Once Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) fully enters the equation, prompting a more action-packed shift with the family on the run, the script goes off the rails. Early explorations of morality and consequence are abandoned in favor of pyrotechnic, choppy, bland action sequences and barely rendered archetypical villains in Captain Hollister (Gloria Ruben).

All of this is grossly underdeveloped. There’s a clear arc aimed at Rainbird, a significant departure from the source material, but Greyeyes is woefully underutilized. While Fire starter wants to make Rainbird a hulking central antagonist, his screen time is far too limited and the cringe-worthy dialogue too cryptic to fully capture motivations and identity.

Michael Greyeyes as Rainbird in Fire starterdirected by Keith Thomas.

The entire rear half is jostled. It eschews source material in favor of a streamlined narrative set in an indescribable concrete installation. A central internal struggle is neatly set with a simple edit. The set pieces, the major confrontations, the emotional wins and the climax happen so randomly that none of it lands. The goodwill accumulated in the front half is wasted on the odd narrative and stylistic choices.

This results in a disjoint adaptation that involves two very different characteristics at divergent levels of occupation. It feels like pieces of history have been removed, leaving behind remnants that hint at something more interesting. Its protagonists come out much stronger, all have a little more work and time to develop them. The antagonists are so blandly and vaguely written that Fire starter quickly crumbles once the narrative attempts to broaden the scope beyond the cozy bubble of family. Despite a solid performance from Zac Efron, some amusing charred corpses, John Charpentierthe top score of , and its fast pace, Fire starter ends up mirroring Charlie’s story a bit too much. A promising beginning unravels with the desire to burn it all down.

Fire starter released in theaters and on Peacock on May 13, 2022.

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