I have a new standard for cinema: If a film dropping in theaters also drops on Peacock the same day for no extra charge? Then it means the film is a piece of shit. And make no mistake, the new Firestarter adaptation is a piece of shit.
The novel Firestarter was written by Stephen King in 1980 and is clearly a product of King’s ingestion of alcohol and cocaine. The plot is very simple: A top secret US government division only known as The Shop uses an experimental form of LSD known as Lot 6 on college students with tragic results. A couple manage to survive with enhanced metahuman powers. They run away and have a child named Charlie who develops the power to set anything on fire that makes her basically an X-Men-style mutant.
Needless to say, The Shop wants her to understand her powers and exploit her as a weapon of mass destruction. An assassin who works for The Shop sees her as the threat she is, and is determined to not only capture her, but to put her in a false sense of security only to kill her. Of course, this all fails and wacky fire-filled hijinks ensue. This is a very wackadoodle, basic-as-all-get-out summary of the incredible novel, but you get the jist of the plot. The story seems perfect for a film adaptation. And it is.
The first attempt of such was in 1984, from the same people who gave us such films as Commando and Roller Boogie. Producer Dino De Laurentiis hired Mark L Lester to direct an adaptation featuring a script by Damien: Omen II screenplay writer Stanley Mann. Hot off of the success of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Drew Barrymore led an all-star cast including the likes of Academy Award winners George C. Scott, Art Carney and Louis Fletcher, along with Emmy winner Martin Sheen, plus Heather Locklear, because why not?
The original film was boasted to be a big-budget practical effects fest for the ages. Instead, it gave us a lackluster meh of a film which with age has grown into an accidental camp cinema schlocktopalooza. Talk of a remake gathered for years, especially after the Sci Fi Channel produced a sequel to that failed harder than the Green Lantern film. After several years and further attempts, Blumhouse finally got the rights and brought the long-awaited remake.
It should have stayed in development hell. This new Firestarter not only makes the 1984 effort look good by comparison – it is also a solid contender for worst film of 2022.
Zach Effron leads the new cast, in the role of Charlie’s father. (Let the fact that Zach Effron is now old enough to play daddy roles sink in, kids.) The rest of the cast seem like they went to audition for a role in the latest Asylum mockbuster and instead landed a role in this film. None of the acting in this film seems to have developed beyond a table-read performance. No effort is made to make us care for any of the characters in this film. Even the death of a cat by fireblast is greeted with a sense of meh, or possibly unintentional giggles for how stupid that scene is.
The film also commits a major cinema film adaptation cardinal sin, deviating so far from the source material in an attempt to create something fresh and bold that the end result is as refreshing and delicious as a can of flat Tab soda. At least the 1984 film was true to the original novel. This remake gives a Cliff Notes retelling of the first third of the novel and then throws out the rest, presenting a hot mess that attempts to make Charlie into another version of Eleven from Stranger Things.
This is absolutely the fault of both director Keith Thomas and screenplay writer Scott Teems. The script is an ill-fated attempt at trying to be hip and edgy while simultaneously holding mass appeal. It’s the cinematic equivalent of Kids Bop’s version of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s W.A.P.
The director of the film may have been trying his hardest to work with the material given, but the lazy acting and dull pacing of the finished film suggest he was just there for the paycheck and didn’t care. I feel that is how we should also approach this film: not caring it exists
If you do intend on seeing this film, be it in theaters or on Peacock, caveat emptor.