Adaptations and remakes of films are held to such high standards. They need to bring something new to the table and provide us with nostalgia. Or give us something that makes us forget how terrible the original is. In some cases, these adaptations soar above and beyond our expectations while others crash and burn. In the case of director Keith Thomas, Blumhouse Productions and Universal’s remake of Stephen King‘s Firestarter – it falls into the crash and burn category. Blumhouse took risks in diverging from both the original movie and the novel. But in the end, they just didn’t pay off.
DISCLAIMER: There may be spoilers ahead for Firestarter.
The opening credits and backstory of Andy (Zac Efron) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) were promising in both story and style, but then Firestarter struggled to find its footing. It tried to balance the sci-fi, adventure and horror genres but could never find the sweet spot. In fact, it was so far from it that in the hour-and-a-half runtime, it barely touched fully into any of the genres. The first act leading up to Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) blowing up the school bathroom and triggering a chain of events that send her and her father Andy on the run had potential but instantly fell flat.
We are expected to feel devastated for Andy and Charlie over their losses and worried for their safety as Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben) and Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) pursue them. However, it is hard to feel any emotions when most of these issues are swept under the rug. The adaptation tossed away the multiple-month storyline from the original in favor of streamlining Charlie’s adventure into just a week. It essentially kills any chance for us to feel an emotional attachment to the characters.
Another struggle that befell Firestarter was its jump to rewrite the end of the film. Changes aren’t essentially bad, but they made absolutely no sense in some cases. The final moments, following some of the only action we see in the 90-minute runtime, left us questioning what was going through Charlie’s head. The audible “why?” could be heard throughout the nearly empty theater. Maybe, if more exposition and connection had been made throughout the film, it wouldn’t have been as bad. But the “out of left field” ending was extremely unsatisfying.
The only saving grace, if we can even see it that way, was the overall performances by Efron, Lemmon, Armstrong, Reuben, Greyeyes and John Beasley. They worked with the subpar script and pacing provided and tried to bring it to life. Any connection to the characters was thanks to the actors/actresses themselves. Even the small and inconsequential cameo by Kurtwood Smith faired better than the bulk of the other interactions in the film. But even a good performance wasn’t enough to keep Firestarter from burning out.
Firestarter hit theaters on May 13, 2022, alongside a release straight to Peacock. We suggest spending the night at home and watching it. Have you given Firestarter a chance? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and on social media!