Bloody Disgusting’s Firestarter review is spoiler-free.
The Stephen King renaissance continues with a modern adaptation of his 1980 novel, Firestarter. Considering the lackluster response to the 1984 adaptation, it’s likely long overdue. But the real question is whether there’s any thematic depth or storytelling to mine amidst superhero cinema’s current oversaturation and popularity. While The Vigil director Keith Thomas does get Firestarter off to an energetic and engaging start, this reimaging ultimately fails to ignite.
The exposition of how couple Andy (Zac Efron) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) gained supernatural abilities, courtesy of an experiment, gets relayed over the opening credits. One nightmare sequence later, Firestarter jumps a decade ahead, where Andy and Vicky attempt to raise their gifted daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) and avoid detection by the federal agency that would reclaim them. As if being perpetually on the run isn’t draining enough, Charlie is losing her struggle to repress her mounting powers. Cue an incendiary event that places the family back on the agency’s radar, putting them all in danger.
(from left) Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) and Andy (Zac Efron) in Firestarter, directed by Keith Thomas.
Written by Halloween Kills scribe Scott Teems, Firestarter breaks down into two vastly different halves. The first half builds character dynamics and establishes the emotional stakes. Andy and Vicky are doting parents but with two distinctly different approaches to parenting a young child with immense combustible power. Complicating the conflicting ideals are the contrasting yet similar ways their diminished abilities are ill-equipped to support and control Charlie’s tenuous restraint of her emotions, often resulting in catastrophe. Zac Efron brings a lot to his role, doing a lot of heavy lifting in the front half.
Once Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) enters the equation fully, prompting a more action-heavy shift with the family on the run, the script derails. Early explorations of morality and consequences get dropped in favor of pyrotechnics, choppy and bland action sequences, and thinly rendered archetypical baddies in Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben).
It’s all significantly underdeveloped. There’s a clear arc intended for Rainbird, a significant departure from the source material, but Greyeyes is woefully underutilized. While Firestarter wants to make Rainbird an imposing central antagonist, his screen time is far too limited and cringe dialogue too cryptic to grasp motivations and identity fully.
Michael Greyeyes as Rainbird in Firestarter, directed by Keith Thomas.
The entire back half gets rushed. It eschews the source material in favor of a streamlined narrative set in a nondescript concrete facility. A central internal struggle gets tidily squared away with a simple montage. Set pieces, major confrontations, emotional payoffs, and the climax come across so haphazardly that none of it lands. The goodwill built up in the front half gets squandered by the strange narrative and stylistic choices.
It results in a disjointed adaptation that entails two very different features at diverging levels of craft. It feels like chunks of story were excised, leaving behind remnants that hint toward something more interesting. Its protagonists fare much stronger, all given a bit more to work with and time to develop them. The antagonists are so blandly and vaguely written that Firestarter collapses quickly once the narrative attempts to widen the scope beyond the family’s cozy bubble. Despite a strong performance by Zac Efron, a few fun charred corpses, John Carpenter‘s superior score, and brisk pacing, Firestarter winds up mirroring Charlie’s story a little too closely. A promising beginning comes unraveled by the desire to burn it all down.
Firestarter releases in theaters and on Peacock on May 13, 2022.
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Add one more reason to keep hope alive for a sequel to Adam Wingard’s The Guest: actor Dan Stevens will join the director for the sequel to Godzilla vs. Kong.
Per Deadline, Stevens is set to star as the lead of the next feature film installment of the Legendary’s Monsterverse franchise, a direct follow up to 2020’s Godzilla vs. Kong.
The actor previously teamed up with Wingard on 2014’s horror thriller The Guest, where he proved his action hero mettle as the eponymous character. Stevens should more than hold his own against the larger-than-life titans.
Plot details, of course, remain under wraps for now.
The final moments of Godzilla vs. Kong suggested that we could soon be seeing the continuing adventures of Kong, who has found himself a new home in the Hollow Earth. More interestingly, the movie ended in a truce between the titular monsters. Who or what will bring that to an end?
That it’s getting a sequel so soon isn’t surprising, considering that made it made $468 million at the global box office last year and was the first film to cross the $100 million marker at the domestic box office. What makes it all the more impressive is that it debuted day-and-date on HBO Max.
The MonsterVerse is only growing. In addition to this sequel, there’s a live-action series for Apple TV+ that will feature Godzilla and several other monsters. We had also learned back in April 2021 that Godzilla vs. Kong director Adam Wingard was in talks to direct another MonsterVerse movie, which was potentially (at the time) a Son of Kong movie.
Godzilla vs. Kong was the fourth film in the MonsterVerse, which kicked off with Godzilla in 2014 and continued with Kong: Skull Island in 2017 and Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019.
Production of the Godzilla vs. Kong sequel is set to begin this summer in Australia.