Beware of Sparks
Stars: Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, Kurtwood Smith, John Beasley, Gloria Reuben and Michael Greyeyes
Director: Keith Thomas
Scriptwriter: Scott Teems based on Stephen Kings’ novel “Firestarter”
Composer: John Carpenter
Cinematography: Karim Hussain
Blumhouse Productions/Universal Pictures
Running Length: 95 Minutes
Rating: R with violence, themed material and children in danger
“Firestarter” is one of author Stephen King’s more popular novels. Having kinetic powers is one thing, but a child having them is another. This brings strong meaning to the word “control.” An example of a kinetic child was in an early “Twilight Zone” episode with Billy Mumy playing a boy who held a town captive to his will by his power. The first film from King’s novel was in 1984 and starred Drew Barrymore in the leading role. Her curly blonde hair and cherub face put people at ease, only to discover what she was really made of. In the 2022 version, newcomer Ryan Kiera Armstrong has the role of “Charlie,” who, through no fault of her own, is kinetic and there is always a price to pay. In the first "Firestarter," David Keith had the role of Charlie’s father, while Heather Locklear was her mother, Art Carney was the friendly neighbor, and George C. Scott was Rainbird. Today, Zac Efron ("The Greatest Showman") is Charlie’s father, Sydney Lemmon ("Fear The Living Dead") is her mother, John Beasley ("The Mandolorian") as the friendly neighbor, Irv, and Michael Greyeyes ("Home Before Dark") is Rainbird. Away we go.
Andy (Efron) and his wife Vicki (Lemmon) are college students and participate in enhanced ability research. Later, when they have a child named Charlie (Armstrong) they realize their abilities gained through research, are still with them and have transferred to Charlie. What to do with a precocious child and the family moves and moves. Charlie is now a pre-teen and trying to control her powers, though things happen when she can’t control her temper and she is definitely noticed by students and teachers and, eventually, the government. Ah, they want to use Charlie and her powers as a weapon (what else?) and this is where violence comes in and Charlie and Andy are on the run with friend Irv to help them and a bounty hunter, (Greyeyes) right behind them. Government vs people – who will win?
What stands out in this film is the soundtrack by John Carpenter. Remember his soundtrack from the second,
“The Thing” with Kirk Russell? Carpenter’s theme there, slowly winding down, is classic. The music for “Firestarter” is fine work and raises the film from remake to remake with benefits. In the second "The Thing" time was ticking away with special effects, as people sought what-to-do in this special situation. In "Firestarter," time is also ticking away and you can sense it throughout the music.
Director Keith Thomas (“The Vigil”) does put on a good show with special effects. What bothered me is Ryan Kiera Armstrong’s a bit over the top performance. Granted Charlie has special powers, but one too many shouts in dialogue. Zac Efron is fine as the father who really has his hands full with this special child. Efron’s facial expressions are well done. John Beasley's Irv is kindness. Kurtwood Smith (“That 70’s Show”) is a familiar face and has another villain role. Remember him from the first “Robocop” film. It is Michael Greyeyes as Rainbird, who steals his scenes as he tries to decide just what to do in special situations. Who is his boss, anyway?
“Firestarter” was a favorite novel of mine and though a remake was not necessary, this version is comfortable. By the way, Tangerine Dream did the soundtrack for the first “Firestarter.” That was good, too.
Copyright 2022 Marie Asner