Firestarter, yet another Stephen King adaptation, arrives with very little fanfare and no wonder – it’s shockingly bad.
There’s no pleasure in calling a film bad. You always hope for a film to be excellent. Good or even mediocre will do in some cases, but you never actively wish for a work of art, on which hundreds of people worked on, to be bad.
Yet, that is exactly what Firestarter is. Keith Thomas’ adaptation of the Stephen King novel is a film with so few redeeming qualities that it hurts.
Firestarter is the story of Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), a young child with a terrifying power. When Charlie gets emotional, things tend to either go boom or up in flames and Charlie can’t control it. Her dad Andy (Zac Efron) does his best to protect her daughter but there are people after Charlie and even Daddy Efron might not be able to save her. But perhaps Charlie is the real villain here.
If there’s something commendable in Firestarter, it’s that it at least follows a very tight and neat 3-act structure. The story has clear turning points every half an hour and it’s only 94 minutes long. And the score over the end credits, by none other than John Carpenter, is a bit of a banger.
The film is shot as if there’s a slight hazy filter over the camera lens. Perhaps it was an intentional artistic decision, meant to emulate smoke, but unfortunately it just makes Firestarter look dull and grey. The shot compositions are basic and the film lacks any kind of flavour, style or anything to make it memorable.
The best kind of films aren’t the ones where you wait for something to happen. They’re the ones where you enjoy the moments in between the action and events, but also eagerly wait for what might happen next. With Firestarter, you’re constantly waiting. Waiting for something to happen, for the plot to properly kick in (it never really does) or just for someone to act like a real human being. The end result just isn’t worth the wait.
It’s hard to say exactly how Zac Efron got here. Once the biggest thing in Hollywood with a promising future, he’s utterly lost here in the role of a dad. He is still very charismatic, but the script just isn’t there. Firestarter never really digs into Charlie and her powers and, despite Ryan Kiera Armstrong’s best efforts, the character isn’t as captivating as she should be.
There’s at least three or four different films stuffed into Firestarter. It wants to be a superhero film, a quiet family drama and a horror film but it’s also keen on doing some neat action sequences. Thomas’ direction is erratic and uninspired, but the most disappointing thing about Firestarter is that it’s not fun.
Fun is what we’re always after with films like this. Even mediocre films can be entertaining (sometimes in silly ways), but Firestarter is so boring that when my screening room’s door opened for the cinema employee to come check that everything was in order, that was more exciting than anything happening on screen.
Firestarter is now in cinemas.