For a moment in the 2000s, it seemed as Hollywood had the intentions of remaking every film ever. There was no franchise they wouldn’t touch, or try to put a new spin on it. Sometimes, a new spin was not even in the mix. They just would remake the same film all over again with no difference whatsoever other than, new visual effects and different actors.
However, in the same way as the remake boom began, it faded it away when it became clear people didn’t want remakes, they wanted superhero movies, and thus the remake output slowed down considerably. Now in the 2020s we are lucky if we see one pop out, and when a new one gets announced the first reaction is often rolling eyes, and moans about how Hollywood cannot let anything die.
Recently, even the new Matrix film, The Matrix Resurrections, dedicated a lot of its thematic reach to comment about remakes and rehashes as one of the few ways Hollywood has to keep the machine going. Many people disliked Resurrections, but its truths are more relevant than ever. And so, here we are in 2022, with a new remake, in this case Firestarter, whose original film was released in 1984.
After the success of Carrie, Stephen King became a Hollywood commodity, an endless well of stories, characters, and ideas from where to make films, and TV shows. The 80s and 90s were an amazing time for King, who would see almost the entirety of his oeuvre adapted to television and cinema. Things also slowed down in the 2000s, with only the Carrie remake making its way to cinemas, but lately the work of King has found new glory both in cinemas and TV with great success.
So, why not go back to that well? Blumhouse, one of the most successful studios when it comes to low budget productions, certainly thought it was worthy going back to. And while the new Firestarter is functional as a 90 minutes film, it feels useless in comparison to most of the content out there.
This new Firestarter isn’t a bad film. It is actually quite watchable. The film is directed by Keith Thomas and stars Zac Efron, and Ryan Kiera Armstrong, as a father and a daughter trying to escape the government after being part of an experiment that gave them telekinetic and pyrokinetic powers. The film is the third adaptation of the novel of the same by Stephen King that was published in 1980.
Keith Thomas isn’t a well known name, but he does a functional job a director in this film. He and his team adapt the book in the best way they can and the result is a movie that feels cheap, because it is, but also a movie that goes by really quickly and never overstays its welcome. By the time the credits roll, you might feel like you watch a special episode of the Twilight Zone.
There is nothing in the film that feels really cinematic or impressive. The cinematography by Karim Hussaim feels very movie quality level and the visual effects feel mostly practical, but they don’t really have the punch needed to make this story impressive in today’s day and age. Having a girl going around to make things burn with her mind should be the source of great visual sequences, but the filmmaker don’t really have the necessary resources to go full out with this concept.
It is really a conundrum, what is the real reason films like this are made? They are probably just a way to cash in some money really quickly, but it would be nice if there were some more meaningful ambitions behind it. The concept of a remake should be in any case, just like in video games, use the new technologies to enhance and retell stories in a more impressive way. It is a difficult thing to do, especially when you choose stories that have been so well before.
The original Firestarter isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but this new version doesn’t really go above her and thus feels like a wasted opportunity. More like a waste of time than anything else. Young people who haven’t read the book or seen the original might find something here thanks to novelty. However, even that seems like a long stretch, because the original King story has inspired so many other stories that this could feel more like a ripoff at this time.
Talking about ripoffs, or at least, taking inspirations too close to home, the soundtrack by John Carpenter and Cody Carpenter feels too much close to the one from Stranger Things. This sound is, of course, a Carpenter staple, and it basically influenced how Stranger Things sounds in the first place, but in retrospect it would have been nice to make the movie sound in any other way. Nevertheless, the soundtrack is very good.
Performances are fine, Efron is charismatic as always and Armstrong does a good job in the role of Charlie. The young actress has already amassed a good resume of movies in a very short time. She will definitely be a talent to look out for in the future. The rest of the cast works fine as well, but there is nothing here for any of the actors to chew on.
Firestarter is not bad. It is just bland and takes no risk at adapting the novel or serving as a remake of the original. There doesn’t have to be change for change’s sake, but bringing new things to the table when starting the production on a remake should be the number one priority. If not, then why make the film in the first place? This movie might not be awful, but it is certainly forgettable.