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Review: ‘Firestarter’ is a Stephen King Adaptation for the ‘Stranger Things’ Generation

May 13, 2022Ben MK

Stephen King has given book readers some of the most chilling tales of terror ever put on the page, and with critically acclaimed film adaptations like The Shining, Misery and The Mist, filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Rob Reiner and Frank Darabont have ensured that King's legacy continues to live on for moviegoers. Now, nearly half a century into his writing career, it would appear that King's popularity is at an all-time high. And with an astounding two dozen movie and television projects based on his novels currently in the works, it's clear that audiences have much to look forward to from the Master of Horror.

Enter Firestarter, a remake based on King's 1980 sci-fi thriller of the same name, which tells the story of Charlie McGee (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), an 11-year-old girl struggling to control the extraordinary abilities passed onto her from her parents, Andy and Vicky (Zac Efron and Sydney Lemmon). The unwitting subjects of top secret chemical experiments by a corporation called DSI, conducted on people possessing telekinetic traits, Charlie's parents know all too well the danger their daughter is in. As a result, they've been in hiding for all of her life, a fact that has finally caught up to them now that Charlie's powers are beginning to grow stronger. However, when a bullying incident at school exposes Charlie's ability to trigger fiery explosions with her mind and it becomes apparent that they are no longer safe in their community, Andy decides that it's time to pack their bags and go on the run.

Pursued by Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben), a high-ranking DSI official who has enlisted the services of a mysterious and extremely lethal mercenary named Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes), Charlie and her family find themselves headed for Boston, where they hope to start life anew. Hollister, on the other hand, has plans to bring Charlie back to DSI's fortress-like waterfront facility so they can imprison and study her. And when she has Rainbird capture Andy with the intent of using him to lure Charlie into a trap, it sets the stage for a fiery and climactic showdown — one that will see the young girl finally figuring out how to harness and direct her destructive powers, as she unleashes the full extent of her pre-pubescent rage on her unsuspecting attackers.

Directed by Keith Thomas and written by Scott Teems, what follows is a decent but predictable tale about individuals with superhuman abilities fleeing shadowy organizations, evoking shades of films like Push and TV shows like Stranger Things. But while those stories may have somehow been influenced by some of the plot points and themes in King's original novel, Firestarter brings little that is new and innovative to the sub-genre, instead falling back on the occasional jump scare and well-worn genre tropes, not to mention its fair share of scenes involving Efron using his piercing blue eyes to "push" other people into doing his bidding.

On the plus side, though, Armstrong holds her own in the title role, the synth-influenced score by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies sets the appropriate mood, and the movie certainly doesn't hold back too much when it comes to showing the devastating — and oftentimes gruesome — effects of Charlie's powers, especially during the action-packed final act. For the most part, however, Firestarter is mostly forgettable, proving that while King's stories may still hold ample potential for the big screen, it's just as easy for audiences to get burned.

Firestarter releases May 13th, 2022 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for violent content. Its runtime is 1 hr. 34 min.

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