REVIEW: ‘Firestarter’ is a faulty King adaptation

Stephen King is an iconic writer but the adaptations of his work have a tendency to be hit or miss. This new “Firestarter” movie is definitely one of the latter.

Zac Efron and Sydney Lemmon play parents of a daughter with a unique ability in the film. Their child, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), has the ability to spontaneously create fire with her mind, although she can’t manage to fully control the power.

While her power is unique, though, her having an ability isn’t, as both her parents are also able to control things with their mind. This has put a target on the family by an organization set on controlling people with special powers. With Charlie’s powers more based on high emotions, it puts her family in a dangerous position, as their cover of being normal residents may be blown.

The premise of “Firestarter” is certainly an interesting one. As someone who didn’t read the book or watch the 1984 film, I can’t say whether the concept has worked in past media. It was clearly fumbled this time around, though.

“Firestarter” is a film where things happen, but very little is actually happening. Protagonists go on the run while the antagonists plot and scheme, yet it very rarely feels like any actual narrative development is taking place, as if there’s nothing the movie is building toward.

There’s a third act climax, sure. However, in terms of characterization and exploring theme such as morality and scientific ethics, the picture is remarkably empty.

The acting is also noticeably wooden. Both Efron and Lemmon seem woefully uninterested in what’s taking place. Their performances are lacking in personality and the way they act when interacting with Charlie makes it hard to believe they are her parents.

Firestarter
Courtesy Universal Pictures.

It’s understandable that their characters would have some bit of caution around their daughter considering her powers, but the audience is supposed to believe these two are dedicated parents who love their child, and that never comes across fully. Because of this, any scenes that should be emotional fall flat.

The same can be said for Gloria Reuben, who plays an absolutely forgettable villain. She never seems like she controls an inescapable organizations like she should.

The only one really deserving of credit is Armstrong, who really does her best as Charlie. She has some intense scenes and manages to be convincing in them, especially in the second half of the picture.

What’s a shame is that she, and the rest of the cast in all fairness to them, are let down by a poor script. Scott Teems, who penned the dreadful “Halloween Kills,” returns with another lackluster piece of writing.

A prime example of this is when Charlie says the words “liar liar, pants on fire” before using her powers. That line and the rest of the writing all felt completely contrived. At least the characters didn’t start a chant like “Evil Dies Tonight.”

“Firestarter” is a picture with very few, if any, redeeming qualities. One can at least enjoy the score, which is fairly well made, and the final action sequence offers some excitement. However, that’s not any reason to see this. 1.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

3 thoughts on “REVIEW: ‘Firestarter’ is a faulty King adaptation”

  1. I’ve not seen this film nor the original. I noticed the original film is now airing on Peacock. Probably going to give it a watch later. Seeing Zac Efron playing a father is amusing, remembering his high school musical days.

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