⭐½ (1½ stars out of 5)
Firestarter (2022) Directed by Keith Thomas
It seems that Firestarter simply resists being adaptable to the big screen. The disastrous 1984 version confirmed that, and now this new 2022 version not only reconfirms the argument but makes it an objective fact. One might say that having empirical elements from the past this time a more insightful production could have brought back this iconic Stephen King novel with significant improvements to film, but no, this one is axiomatically more ruinous than the 1984 version. Firestarter is one of the most sinuous novels in genre diversity within Stephen King’s oeuvre, and is surely one of the ones that could have the most potential within this versatile medium, yet this dispassionate and unskillful production leaves such a bland and unproductive feel that I’m more inclined to specify that Firestarter is unadaptable to film.
No matter how many failed attempts, I think it is time to abandon any project that focuses on this novel. Interpreting this calamitous film is like having to strain to read and comprehend something unintelligible, the writing is lifeless as a dry desert and the direction has an exaggerated lack of commitment that prevents you from even getting anything effective out of this dull film. Unlike the 1984 version this film opts for a more linear narrative, with starting points and acts that follow a certain pattern, yet it makes the same obvious mistakes. Filmically, the atmosphere of suffocating danger and lack of control that the protagonists experience because of their extraordinary powers never blends with the soporific interplay of family drama with coming-of-age ingredients. It is a formula that never synthesizes absolutely nothing, it is a film fragmented into heterogeneous genres that lead the narrative nowhere intriguing.
As an overall production it fails miserably, but if we focus more on distinct sections of this jittery production we can better determine what the origins of this crappy result are. Throughout the history of cinema, bad movies have taught us that there are also categories in that spectrum of failed productions, there are bad movies that can be just as enjoyable and entertaining as any other competent blockbuster. This one of course, falls into the category of bad movies that are painfully flat-out boring in many ways. Firestarter contains a whole dynamic of boredom that seems to push the boundaries of that word; and that’s because even the devastatingly shoddy performances seem to be more ennui than us watching this flawed film.
An athletic, bumbling Zac Efron leads this cast who explicitly suggest to us that they haven’t the slightest idea what they’re doing. The committed and resourceful little Ryan Kiera Armstrong has more professionalism than any of the other inept people who made up the production of this film, and it’s unfortunate that this talented girl put so much effort into deepening her character while the rest sluggishly did nothing. Working a character with no dramatic characteristics and atrociously written is difficult enough, but to do it around so many drowsy performances is an accomplishment.
As a consequence of the scant dramatic introspection that a film like this cries out for, the narrative ends up moving on autopilot into nothingness and abruptly causes filmic accidents that are very amateurish. This would be a passable schlock of a movie if it were a basic episode of some sci-fi series, yet it is a feature film and as such leaves much to be desired, even leaving me in doubt if I am watching a film produced by qualified people.
The plot has platitudinous ideas to develop a story that is based mainly on the psychic powers of a character, although it is worth saying that this time the catastrophic possibilities of this supernatural power are explored with more interest in different ways. Zac Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong play the main characters, and they are the ones who possess these unbridled and dangerous telekinetic abilities. Almost as a metaphorical reflex, the film tries to intermingle the fantastic essence with the conflicts of the family drama, something that could have justifiably worked if it had had the decency to give personality to the characters. One of the great banalities that slow down the minuscule effective functions that the script can have, is not having clear priorities; and I emphatically believe that this is where the genesis of all the erratic moments of this fascinating but exhausting story stems from. It is a great irony to mention that novelistically such a riveting story is so slumberous within the conventions of cinema, but ultimately that is what this film proves to us with aggressive veracity.
Overflowing with superfluous characters, some of the most plastic and annoying villains ever put on film; it is certainly a film that generates nothing but discomfort, it is cyclical and tedious. What more can be said about Firestarter that hasn’t already been said?
It is filmed with an opaque design that makes everything even more irritating to watch, which is another frustrating blemish of this film that willfully looks for flaws in an obstreperous manner, thus making it impossible to discern the microscopically good from the bad. Another trashy movie to join the long list of substandard Stephen King film adaptations.