Saturday, August 13, 2022

Movie Reviews: Firestarter (2022)

Firestarter (2022)
directed by Keith Thomas

This is a remake of the 1984 movie Firestarter which was in turn based on the 1980 Stephen King novel. It has the updated special effects and gender/race switched characters common today. Firestarter's weakness is that the creators pandered to fans of the modern anti-hero (anti-heroine) character for whom morality is far less important than action, winning, and being a "bada$$". 

In HBO's Game of Thrones this tendency led people to cheer Daenerys Targaryen, a woman who wasn't a feminist avenger but a budding tyrant who saw her caprice as the only valid law. 

Daenerys' female identity immunized her to almost all criticism so even today some fans can't reconcile the casually murderous dragonlady with their fantasy of girl power. 

Like GRRM, King has written some downer endings and antihero protagonists, but the Firestarter novel lacked those. This film dramatically changed King's ending along with some major character motivations.

Although King can hide it quite well, I think that many of his books feature a strong delineation between Good and Evil. This adaptation/remake made that a lot murkier. The story was the worse for it.

Back in the day Andy McGee (Zac Efron) and his then girlfriend Vicky Tomlinson (Sydney Lemmon) are college students who have signed up for experimental drug tests run by a secret federal government agency.

Fast forward about twelve years or so and the now married couple have a daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). Charlie is a sweet looking child but is the victim of bullies for among other reasons, her family's peripatetic lifestyle and aversion to use of modern technology or even their real names.

But Charlie won't suffer aggression without well, exploding. Charlie can incinerate items just by thinking about them, or as she has a very bad temper, can burn things without even meaning to do so. 

Charlie has had this ability since birth. There may be no upper limit to Charlie's powers. Charlie's mother and father have the abilities of telekinesis and telepathy/mental domination but aren't as strong as Charlie.

Andy knows the government is still searching for them and considers the entire family its property. Andy counsels not using their powers very much, if at all, lest the government pick up their trail.

When Charlie loses her temper and almost burns down an entire school, the government project director, Jane Hollister (Gloria Reuben) tasks the agent Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) to find and capture Charlie. Andy and Vicky are nice to haves but Hollister really wants Charlie. 

After a tragic home encounter Andy and Charlie flee. Rainbird isn't fair behind. This movie needed more character development between Andy and Charlie. Charlie is far less sympathetic than she should be. 

The book makes you horrified at a government that treats people as property and would separate a father and daughter. This film makes you wonder if the government has a point.

The film's other flaws are inconsistent villains and a senseless ending. There are better stories about amoral government agencies and desperate citizens. The effects were good, so there's that.