(from left) Andy (Zac Efron) and Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) in Firestarter, directed by Keith Thomas.

Since Stephen King’s novel, Firestarter, was first published in 1980, the acclaimed and popular story inspired one cinematic adaptation in 1984, and a straight-to-television sequel in 2002. Though I have never watched the sequel, I do recall getting frightened and disturbed by the first movie version which stars E.T.’s Drew Barrymore. Of course, at the impressionable age of 11, it probably didn’t take too much to make me quake in my Boy Scout hiking boots.

Many years would pass, and for some strange reason, I never ever revisited the film. That is, until recently, when I received an invitation to review this year’s remake. After revisiting a movie that certainly left an impression on 11 year-old me, I felt mostly disappointed that the movie came across as mostly dull and uninspired. Sure, the film had some disturbing moments, some entertaining performances by George C. Scott and Martin Sheen; however, director Mark L. Lester simply presented an intriguing and compelling story in some of the most boring ways possible.

Going into a remake, one can only hope that the new filmmakers, taking on the material, will bring some fresh life and excitement to the new version. Unfortunately, this new adaptation of Firestarter, has some different problems of its own. Because the filmmakers obviously had a limited budget, the visual effects used to depict the fire power of the protagonist are pretty damn bad. I can forgive lousy effects when a story and its characters are well-written and developed, and the direction involving the more dramatic and intimate scenes is top notch, but that just isn’t the case with this movie. Before, I get into more of the problems with this movie, it’s time for a synopsis, for those unfamiliar with the story.

During their college years, students Andrew McGee (Zac Efron) and his future wife Vicky Tomlinson (Sydney Lemmon) participate in a bizarre scientific research study that involve introducing undisclosed chemicals into their bodies. Several years later, after this bizarre experiment, Andy and Vicky (now McGee) have been trying to lie low and live a calm and peaceful life with their beloved daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). As a result of the experiment, Andy has been endowed with the power of controlling minds, while Vicky has the ability of telekinesis. As for Charlie, the young child has the power of pyrokinesis, the ability to create and control fire.

Andy and Vicky have managed to remain below the radar of the government agency that gave them their abilities, but have mostly lived on the run and in hiding to keep Charlie away from them, as they will want to exploit her. Government Agent Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben), who is desperate to get a hold of Charlie, sends tracker/assassin John Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) to collect her.

With an adapted screenplay by Scott Teems, director Keith Thomas has managed to deliver another disappointing adaptation of FIrestarter. While the movie has more style, panache, and gory images in its presentation, the film’s story and character development is absolutely terrible. I honestly expected more from screenwriter Teems, whose script for Halloween Kills is much better. The finished product is probably totally not his fault, because the overall cut of this movie also appears sloppily pieced together and definitely missing some important moments of character development.

The overall film comes across as rushed and is not, at all, a satisfying movie. Actors Zac Efron, Sydney Lemmons, and Ryan Kiera Armstrong are all fine in their roles, but this hatchet job of movie never truly allows them to shine. As for the antagonists in the movie, they fare even worse when it comes to their development, giving their actors very little do, without any dynamics at all.

It actually pains me to say that this remake of Firestarter is actually worse than the first one. While that movie had weak direction, it at least had better writing and felt more whole. This film, for all of its punch (except the weak effects), feels hollow and incomplete. The movie is getting released simultaneously in theaters and on the Peacock streaming channel. It is a movie I cannot recommend at all.

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