It’s unclear whether or not a remake of the blistering 1984 Stephen King movie “Firestarter” is a burning concern for audiences, but here we are with a new version of an old story, in theatres now, about a young girl with pyrokinesis.
All parents think their child is special, but Andy (Zac Efron) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) truly know their daughter has a gift. “You’re going to change the world,” he tells her.
Years ago, Andy and Vicky were injected with an experimental serum whose side effect left them with telepathic abilities, which they passed down to the daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) along with the talent for conjuring up heat and fire when angry or in pain.
For a decade they have been on the run from a secret government agency who wants to kidnap Charlie and study her superhuman power. Up until now they have trained the preteen to control her fiery ability, but as she grows up it becomes harder and harder to manage. “I don’t want to hurt anyone,” Charlie says, “but it feels kind of good.”
When the family’s location is accidentally revealed, a mysterious government operative (Michael Greyeyes) is sent to bring her in as Andy and Charlie look for sanctuary.
The big question about “Firestarter 2.0” is whether or not it improves on the 1984 original. That movie was unfavorably compared to “The Fury,” a 1978 Brian De Palma film that treads, more successfully, similar ground. Looking back now, the original “Firestarter” isn’t a great movie but it does have George C. Scott in full-on menacing mode and a cool soundtrack from Tangerine Dream amid the flames and fire.
Does the new movie bring the heat?
In another cinematic multiverse (which is o-so-hip right now) Charlie could have been a member of the X-Men Jr. or the Preteen Fantastic Four, so it makes sense, particularly in today’s superhero happy market, that the new movie leans into the science fiction and allegorical aspects of the story over the horror. It’s just too bad it doesn’t do much with either approach. Charlie spits fire, and things burn but, cinematically, nothing really catches fire.
The paranoiac feel of government interference is gone, replaced by long boring stretches of exposition and Greyeyes’ underused villain. Set to an interesting score by legendary director John Carpenter (with Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies), who was supposed to helm the original film, the new version gets the soundtrack right, but most everything else feels like a backfire, rather than a “Firestarter.”