I’m going to do my very best to not bring up the novel on which this film is based. Released in 1984, Firestarter is one of the first films I remember from my childhood. Nostalgia is a big factor for me when it comes to this film, like many films adapted from King’s work. What I always remembered best was Drew Barrymore’s performance as Charlie. Which is regrettable as there’s much more that this film has to offer. Some of it… not so good, but the rest is acceptable to the very least.
Firestarter opens with Andy McGee (David Keith) fleeing agents of The Shop with his daughter Charlene “Charlie” McGee (Drew Barrymore) in New York. Andy along with his wife Vickey (Heather Locklear) took part in an experiment into psychic powers via the use of a drug named Lot-6. Both Andy and Vicky develop low level psychic powers, Andy to “Push” people, a power referred to as Mental Dominance, while Vicky retained low level telekinetic powers. Andy is on the run due to The Shop coming after his daughter who has significant Pyrotechnic abilities. Andy uses his powers on a cabbie for a ride to the airport, Andy dreams of his wife’s death at the hands of The Shop. He wakes up when they arrive at the airport and is partly incapacitated from using his powers. Inside after committing some petty larceny Charlie sets a soldiers boots on fire, in her defense he did have it coming. The pair flee the airport and get picked up hitching by a kindly old farmer, Irv Manders (Art Carney) who takes them back his farm for a meal. While at the farmer they’re beset by Shop Agents. After shooting Irv in the arm and trying to kill her father, Charlie turns her powers against the agents. Who quickly learn they done goofed and flee, giving Andy and Charlie the chance escape again. The Shops leader Cap (Martin Sheen) sends his most trusted agent John Rainbird (Gorge C. Scott). Rainbird hunts them to Andy’s fathers cabin and captures the pair, by tranquilizing Charlie from a distance. While captured, The Shop uses Andy believing he has lost his powers as leverage to get Charlie to submit to testing, while Rainbird fakes being a janitor to gain her trust. Andy uses his on Cap allowing him to chance to escape with Charlie…
First of all, Drew Barrymore is just OK and the praise that’s lauded upon her is a little bit unjustified. I found her more annoying than sympathetic. The performance that I found the most entertaining were ones I didn’t even remember as a kid. Those being David Keith and Martin Sheen, who both should get more praise for this film.
Here comes the point where I break and have to bring up the Novel. Overal,l I feel this film a solid adaptation and I understand the need to for changes to occur as literature and film are two vastly different mediums. But Gorge C. Scott as Rainbird, just didn’t fit for me in the slightest. The whole character became a jumbled mess in his transition to the screen and I wish Stanley Mann hand taken great care with the character.
Final thoughts, it’s OK, not the best Stephen King adaptation, that goes to the Green Mile in my opinion. Nor is it the worst adaptation, that goes to Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shinning. That said, if your a fan of King’s adaptations and somehow have yet to see Firestarter. Take the time, it won’t be wasted. 7/10