When the gang gathered the other day to chat FIRESTARTER, I could not make the recording, and from the sound of things, that may have been a good thing. Like most of the rest of the movie reviewing world – it was pretty much despised – and I am certainly not here to refute the craftsmanship of the film – I’ll leave that to folks much more educated in the process than myself – I do however know the work of Stephen King, and I know what I like to see when I watch an adaptation of his work. So, my comments are going to be based more on how I feel this film represents King’s version of the tale as opposed to the 1984 version which was a Drew Berrymore vehicle more than it was an attempt at telling the story of young Charlie McGee
This new film, while still not totally following the groundwork laid in King’s 1980 novel does do a much better job of bringing the plight, flight, and ultimate life or death fight of Charlie and her dad. One of my biggest issues with the Mark L. Lester directed 1984 original was the representation of John Rainbird, played by a horribly cast, George C. Scott as the Cherokee, Vietnam Vet. In this 2022 version, Rainbird is much more realistically portrayed by Michael Greyeyes. The script this time around, while still not completely following the character arc of the novel, does do a much better job of relating the relationship that Rainbird and Charlie share. An important part of King’s story that the first film botched horribly.
I’ve always seen FIRESTARTER as King’s second swing at CARRIE – the stories actually share many similarities. Teenage girl, coming of age – supernatural powers that have been suppressed by family – a social awkwardness that has resulted from the aforementioned family keeping the protagonist lead in the dark about their actual situation, which causes them to become the antagonist resulting in mayhem, death, and destruction. Fire plays an important part in both tales – yeah, like I said, many similarities. Firestarter was King’s 8th novel, released roughly six years after Carrie – the first film was released in 1984 – four years after the novel’s debut, and as I stated, the film really seemed to be built around its star Drew Berrymore with little regard to King’s original story. They hit just enough high notes so you could recognize what the story was but overall – the 1984 version has always fallen flat – as far as I’m concerned.
So, I was actually rather excited to see where this 2022 retelling might take me – and as the entire online world has already screamed – this is not a great film. But, (yeah, there is a but) I found myself rather enjoying the fact that this time around they at least made an attempt to actually tell the story that King had in mind. They most certainly sway from the original timeline of the tale but – they do manage to rebuild that Rainbird / Charlie storyline that I personally found so important to King’s prose. They take it in a different direction than originally envisioned but – at least it exists this time around. I also enjoyed the representation of Charlie’s “gift” and how violent things get when she loses control.
The ending of the film is cheesy and actually pretty horrible – as I said, this is far from the perfect film but for a lifelong King fan, it was fun to revisit this truly classic Stephen King tale and at least see a glimpse of the characters I loved from the novel.
FIRESTARTER is an “aim for the fences” swing that falls far short of its mark but for “constant readers” like myself – it is nice to see the attempt to breathe accurate life into the characters that have been with us our entire lives.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that great score constructed by John Carpenter for the film – I really enjoy the way that Carpenter Is able to construct a sound that is instantly recognizable but completely different every time.
Overall I give FIRESTARTER 4 out of 10 fire extinguishers but – I have a feeling this is one of those films that I will find it easy to overlook the flaws because I appreciate some of the small improvements storywise.
You can check out FIRESTARTER now at your local multiplex or if you subscribe to Peacock, you can watch it in the privacy of your own home.