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“Firestarter” (2022) Review: The Good and The Bad

An amateur film review writer who likes pretty much every film genre.

Ryan Kiera Armstrong in "Firestarter" (2022)

Ryan Kiera Armstrong in "Firestarter" (2022)

Based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, Firestarter is directed by Keith Thomas (The Vigil) with a screenplay by Scott Teems (Halloween Kills). The movie stars the likes of Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, and others.

A couple tries all they can to keep their daughter, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), hidden from a secret federal agency that wants to use her rare ability to convert fire into a weapon of mass devastation. Her father, Andy (Zac Efron), taught her how to harness her ability, but as Charlie grows older, the fire becomes more difficult to control. When a mystery operative eventually locates the family, he attempts to apprehend Charlie for good, but she has other ideas.

The film has all the ingredients to be a decent Stephen King adaptation. They have star power, a decent film crew, and an interesting story to adapt. However, not everything came together properly, resulting in a full misfire (pun intended).

With that in mind, let us look at what works and what doesn’t.

The Good

1. The Score

The score is one of the most memorable aspects of the film, which comes as no surprise given who composed it. John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, and Daniel A. Davies have collaborated on soundtrack masterpieces for films including Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills (2021).

While the music for Firestarter isn't as memorable as their prior efforts, it is still a great aspect of the film. It effectively conveys the tone of the scenes on screen.

2. A Good Showcase of Inhuman Abilities

The finest part of the film is when those with special powers use them on others. Telekinesis, telepathy, and pyrokinesis are all demonstrated incredibly effectively in this film.

This is especially evident in the film's climactic minutes, when Charlie breaks free and begins utilizing her skills against anyone who stands in her way. It nearly seems like a moment from Carrie (a far better film adaptation of Stephen King's novel), which is always entertaining to watch.

Charlie and her pet Zippo

Charlie and her pet Zippo

The Bad

1. Three Unnecessary Opening Scenes

The movie includes three opening scenes before the actual story even begins. A flashback of Charlie as a new-born is seen before the scene shifts to her at the age of 11. After the two sequences, we get another scene with the background of her parents, Andy, and Vicky, playing alongside the movie's opening titles.

The issue here isn't the number of scenes; it's the reason for including them in the first place. One of the three sequences indicated above would be considerably more effective if it were shown after the opening credits. This will allow the viewer to focus on Charlie as the tale progressed.

It's not a big deal but putting scenes in the right order is crucial for a coherent plot.

2. Pacing Issue

With a 94-minute length, the plot and subplot beginning and ending in a matter of minutes is a certainty, and this is an issue that pulls this film down to the gutter.

Several sequences in the movie felt hurried and undeveloped due to the short timeframe. Things really do go from point A to point B in the blink of an eye without giving you, the audience, a chance to process what's going on. If only the movie had been 15 minutes longer.

Charlie about to put the hurt on some neighbor boys in "Firestarter" (2022)

Charlie about to put the hurt on some neighbor boys in "Firestarter" (2022)

3. Messy Tone

The movie is unsure of what it wants to be. The directors can't seem to make up their minds regarding the subject of the film. Stephen King is known for his ability to craft spine-chilling horror stories with both supernatural and grounded-in-reality aspects, and Firestarter is no exception.

However, the movie does not appear to desire to emphasize this point. With terrible editing and directing, numerous situations that may have been dramatic and exhilarating were cut short. Instead, it concentrates on the dramatic aspects of the situation. However, owing to scripting issues, this did not function either, bringing us to...

4. Underdeveloped Script

The script is severely underdeveloped. The problem might be due to the short runtime or poor writing. If it's the latter, it's no surprise given Scott Team’s past work in the critically panned Halloween Kills (2021).

Regardless of the origin, the consequence is clearly seen in this film. You can't be involved in the main characters' journey since the screenplay doesn't provide one. Then, there are antagonist forces who are just there to be evil just because.

This is such a pity since the plot might have been so much better with longer minutes (maybe a mini-series on any streaming platform) and better writing.

Charlie using her psychokinesis powers

Charlie using her psychokinesis powers

Final Opinion

Firestarter may have been a fantastic fit in the Stephen King novel to film adaptation universe, like The Mist (2007). Unfortunately, it falls short. The movie deservingly gets a 3/10.

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