elemental powers and Stephen King make the perfect cocktail for a sci-fi horror film. Long before Blumhouse Productions started work on the 2022 remake, the original Firestarter from 1984 set the stage for Charlie McGee’s story.
Four years after Stephen King’s novel of the same name hit bookshelves in 1980, Firestarter was released in theaters. The film was directed by Mark L Lesterwho also directed Commando and Class of 1984. The film follows Andrew McGee and his girlfriend, Vicky, as they undergo a scientific experiment as college students. The mysterious drug they take leaves them with supernatural abilities, which their daughter, Charlie, inherits. When government forces realize Charlie’s exceptional power from her, they take extreme–and deadly–measures to ensure her power from her becomes their own.
David Keithwho would later play Jack Murdock in the 2003 Daredevilis Andrew McGee in Firestarter. The experiment grants him mind-controlling powers that come at a cost. He plays a protective father and guardian of Charlie as the agency that turned him into a superpower, known as the Shop, comes after his family from him. Heather Locklear of The Return of the Swamp Thing is his wife, the mind-reading Vicky McGee. Starring as the young girl with a spark is a 9-year-old drew Barrymore, who steals the screen with her captivating gaze and chilling, destructive powers. The head of the original experiment is Dr. Joseph Wanless, played by Freddie Jones. Jones is also known for his work on him on the 1984 dunes and the 1980 drama The Elephant Man.
Now with Universal set to release a new Firestarter movie, it’s a good time to revisit this cult classic. Here’s how you can watch the 1984 Firestarter.
Is Firestarter (1984) Streaming Online?
The Stephen King classic is currently available for streaming via Max Go. Additionally, the film is also available to rent for $3.99 on Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, Microsoft, Google Play, RedBox, and YouTube.
How Are the Reviews of Firestarter (1984)?
Despite having its own following of horror and sci-fi fans, Firestarter received largely negative reviews upon its release. While the film received a 53% audience score, it got a low 37% on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. Individual, renowned viewers had their own thoughts on the film, including Stephen King.
Pulitzer Prize-winning American film critic Roger Ebert gave Firestarter only two stars. He described the movie as “boring.” I have also criticized the portrayal of the characters. Although acknowledging the cast as fully capable, he admitted “there’s not a character in this movie that is convincing.” Here is an excerpt of his closing thoughts on Firestarter:
The film’s crucial flaw is the lack of a strong point in the story. A little girl has her dangerous power, some government agents want to examine her, others want to destroy her, and things catch on fire. That’s about it.
Gary Arnold of Washington Post provided his own thoughts on the film adaptation in his review, titled “Wholly Smoke.” He criticized how director Lester made the fiery Charlie into a victim, Keith’s performance as Andrew McGee, and the brashly stereotypical portrayal of George C Scott‘s Native American assassin. Below is his take on why the flames of Firestarter aren’t all they’re cracked up to be:
The only persuasive illusion is that certain stuntmen are being engulfed in flames in the line of duty, a situation that seems more compelling than the little heroine’s alleged need to defend herself by launching a special-effects holocaust… at any rate, Lester is incapable of coaxing a persuasive approximation of fury out of her.
Most starting of all is Stephen King‘s reaction to the film. american-film magazine published an interview with him in 1986 in which he discussed his ongoing film at the time, maximum overdriveand other adaptations of his books. Firestarter did come up, but not favourably:
Firestarter is one of the worst of the bunch, even though in terms of story it’s very close to the original. But it’s flavorless; it’s like cafeteria mashed potatoes. There are things that happen in terms of special effects in that movie that make no sense to me whatsoever.
He like Washington Post, spoke poorly of Keith’s performance. I have also criticized Martin Sheen‘s delivery of Captain Hollister’s character. In this same interview, King also expressed his opinions of him on other movies based on his books of him, such as The Shining, The Dead Zoneand carrie.
How Will the 2022 Firestarter Compare to the Original?
The 2022 Blumhouse Productions’ Firestarter will release on May 13, 2022. You can watch the trailer below.
The remake returns with the same roster of main characters, but they are markedly different from the original. Zack Efronwho recently starred in Gold and the Netflix crime thriller Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, assumes Keith’s role as Andrew McGee. The trailer depicts him as a man who is well-prepared to deal with his daughter’s developing abilities. He and Vicky (sydney lemon) are smart protectors of their daughter, fearful for her safety and determined to keep her safe from the Shop. Already these parents seem far more capable and proactive than those in the 1984 film.
Twelve-year-old Ryan Kiera Armstrongwho is known for The Tomorrow War and American Horror Story, is Charlie. The young firestarter struggles to cope with her explosive powers from her in the modern world. Just in the trailer, she expresses heightened emotions, nearing that fury that leads to horror more than Barrymore’s Charlie ever did. Screaming as she sets enemies ablaze, and admitting she even takes a sort of pleasure from harming others, audiences see a Charlie who has agency–the kind that gives goosebumps.
Replacing Freddie Jones is Kurtwood Smith as Dr. Joseph Wanless. Smith has experience playing sketchy figures, from a crime lord in the 1987 Robocop to a corrupt politician in Agent Carterequipping him for the role of an unethical scientist.
Captain Hollister is now a Black woman, played by Gloria Reuben. Her recent work by her includes the hit show mr robotthe Marvel series Cloak & Daggerand the NBC show blind spot. Refreshing the power-hungry military official, and thereby diversifying the cast, is sure to give fans a new and invigorating take on Captain Hollister.
Another significant change in the cast is that of the Native assassin, John Rainbird. Previously played in the 1984 Firestarter by a white man, Nêhiyaw actor Michael Greyeyes is taking over, authenticating the role. He recently played a conflicted man with secrets in Wild Indian. Now playing an assassin, he seems fit and ready for the part, actively pursuing the McGees in the trailer and hunting them slowly.
The 1984 Firestarter may have garnered lackluster reviews, but it remained true to the written tale. The 2022 remake has a sinister and foreboding mood, matching the horror genre King is famous for. As for how far it will stray from the plot of King’s masterpiece, we’ll find out on May 13.
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