Hooptober 2022 #36: Firestarter (2022)

I am not averse to remakes. I’m also not averse to making new adaptations of books. I think it’s important to revisit texts and re-examine them. “New” is key word here though. Something has to be done that brings something to the table.

For better or for worse, we live in a new cycle of Stephen King adaptations. We live a generation removed from the original film adaptations. In terms of his work, Firestarter is something that probably can be revisited. The 1984 adaptation while faithful probably isn’t on a lot of folks list of best King adaptations. The book itself is a bit of a time capsule. It exists in reaction to the MK Ultra experiments and a post-Watergate distrust of the government, things not really explored in the previous adaptation. There is a lot of people set on fire though.

Calling this 2022 version an adaptation seems generous though. There are some elements still from the novel. Andy and Charlie McGee still go on the run to avoid “The Shop”, a secret government agency. Charlie remains gifted with pyrokinesis, the ability to start fires with her mind. There’s a bounty hunter named John Rainbird obsessed with Charlie.

However, like a current King adaptations, most of the elements in the story get remixed. So many elements from the novel get changed that it’s almost it’s own thing. This version seems more inspired by the current superhero boom. Charlie now doesn’t just have pyrokinesis but possesses a number of psychic powers. This child is practically a super soldier. Ryan Kiera Armstrong only mode of acting seems to be petulant. She seems more suited to being in a sitcom than a horror movie. An underlying element of the book is the fear various Shop operatives have of these strange abilities. There’s no fear in this film of what Charlie and her father can do. When Charlie blows up a cat, the filmmakers treat it more like a joke than a horrifying moment. A wildly miscast Zac Effron as Andy, who in the book feared what he could do to others with his power, seems more concerned with the physical toll on himself. They both seem like a characters out of a less interesting version of the movie Akira.

The only interesting wrinkle to this movie are changes made to the character John Rainbird. In the book, he’s simply a psychopathic bounty hunter. He sees Charlie as one more thing to hunt. In this film, ,Cast with an actual indigenous actor Michael Greyeyes, his character is closer to the spirit of the novel. He’s a victim of The Shop, an indigenous person experimented before tests were done on white people. It’s the only real political element in a film that’s almost apolitical.

In this new era of Stephen King adaptations, Firestarter will probably be quickly forgotten. The new elements it brings to this story don’t add much. It’s almost like the filmmakers were embarrassed by the source material. Seriously they should have set this script on fire.

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