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RELEASED: 1984, Cert.15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 115 mins
DIRECTOR: Mark L Lester
PRODUCER: Frank Capra Jr.
SCREENPLAY: Stanley Mann
MUSIC: Tangerine Dream
Drew Barrymore as Charlie McGee
David Keith as Andy McGee
George C Scott as John
Martin Sheen as Cap Hollister
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Firestarter is a 1984 film which is based on Stephen King's novel of the same name.
When Andy volunteers to participate in an experiment, during which he and some of his fellow college students are given a dose of a hallucinogenic drug. As a result of this experiment, Andy is left with an ability where if he concentrates hard enough, he can make people do exactly what he wants them to and Vicky, another student, able to read people's minds. During the experiment, Alan and Vicky know what one another is thinking, make friends and later enter into a relationship.
The film leaps forward some years, and we see Andy and Vicky happily married with a 9-year-old daughter, Charlie. Charlie also has an ability to read minds, plus she can, if she focuses hard enough, start fires....having inherited such from her parents.
One day, Andy arrives home from work to find that Vicky has been murdered, and he suspects that a government agency were responsible as he is aware that his family have been under surveillance and the agency want charge of Charlie, with the view to using her firestarting powers for malevolent purposes.
Andy and Charlie go on the run, but can they escape the clutches of the government agents? Watch it to find out more.
Firstly, I must say that I've never read Stephen King's Firestarter novel, so am unable to make comparisons or judge how closely the film sticks to the book.
Secondly, I was amazed at the very strong resemblance between actor David Keith and Brad Davis, who played the lead role in the film Midnight Express.
I found the beginning part of Firestarter very good, right up until Charlie and Andy had managed to escape to his late father's house perched on the edge of a lake deep in the countryside, to be very gripping and absorbing. I was particularly fascinated by Andy's ability to make people do and think what he wants them to, but the film largely centres around Charlie's pyrokinesis....that as a syndrome I find less interesting.
The way the film and storyline progress onwards from that what I describe in my previous paragraph, didn't enthrall me quite as much as things then began to get a little bit over the top for my liking. However, my interest was held to a suitable level which was capable of seeing me through to the end.
The acting by each member of the main cast is very good, and it is difficult to pick out a favourite character, as for me they were all evenly matched. Bias probably steers me towards Martin Sheen as the very courteous but callous Captain (the man in charge of the government agency's mission) as he is one of my all-time favourite actors, and he delivered the goods in Firestarter as admirably as expected. He sure has an innate ability to pull some wonderfully convincing facial expressions, which to me is the hallmark of a very good actor. Drew Barrymore was very good as Charlie, and I was very impressed with David Keith's portrayal of Andy - for me he began on slightly shaky ground but improved dramatically as the film progressed. However, despite his increasingly good acting, I do feel that there was a lack of fatherliness towards his daughter, but this I see as having more to do with his physical appearance, simply due to the fact that he just doesn't look like a daddy type! Also, how could I not be impressed with George C Scott's laid-back performance as the quietly-spoken, yet extremely manipulative John...another of the government agents, who cleverly yet quietly crossed swords with Captain?
The music to Firestarter is pretty much what one would expect of Tangerine Dream...dreamy, eerie and more than a touch avant-garde, and it suits the film very well.
The special effects are quite good for 1984, but by today's standards they do seem mediocre, but that isn't a problem for me as I am able to accept technology for what it was during any given era.
Overall, Firestarter is a very watchable film, but for me there was something missing. It's difficult to ground exactly what was lacking for me, other than to say there was an important element of guts missing, and I felt there was far too much concentration on the government agency's activities. I'd like to have seen more character-building elements, and the creation of a tense atmosphere rather than a reliance on special effects. Also, I felt that although the story in itself is totally different, the basic framework of the film is too close to Carrie....and, out of the two for me, Carrie is far superior. My own impression is that comparing the two films, Firestarter has less depth than Carrie and even taking the fantasy elements of both into account, is far less realistic. Firestarter comes across to me as too sensation-seeking, and I'd like to have seen a stronger storyline. Of course, the book may be far more in-depth than the film and if that is so, such could be why the movie didn't hit my spot as hard as I'd hoped it would.
There's no doubt that Firestarter is quite entertaining and to watch it isn't a bad way of spending part of an evening, but its overall lacklustre prevents me from wanting to see it again. The acting is more than acceptable, but such isn't enough to make me want to slot the whole production into the category of great films. Firestarter is more for people who are drawn to action above character, and my own preferences steer towards the latter of those.
At the time of writing, Firestarter can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.46 to £19.99
Used: from 43p to £3.00
Collectible: Two copies currently available @ £5.99 and £39.99
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Stephen Kings novel has been gloriously adapted for film into a pyrotechnic extravaganza albeit 22 years ago now. Some of his books adapt into film pretty badly, but this along with a few others I may do reviews on is one of the better ones.
When a government experiment goes wrong it results in two parents (Andy & Vicky McGee) producing a little girl called Charlie. The experiment was conducted with the consent of the parents when they were young and in need of a little extra money. Unbeknownst to them at the time, they were let with special powers. Andy could control things with his mind and Vicky became psychic. Little did they know they would pass on a power to their daughter. Charlie is the Firestarter; with just a little concentration she can summon the flames that will lead to her powerful and emotional story.
When Charlie is eight years old her mother is murdered by the same Government Agency that conducted the experiment and she goes on the run with her father, trying to escape the same fate.
Will the love of a father and daughter be strong enough to protect them from the powerful agency known as The Shop who wants to harness Charlies incredible talent and use her for their research or worse?
Drew Barrymore is Charlie McGee
As a nine year old when she filmed this she certainly captured the essence of the character. Charlie is a scared little girl who has access to incredibly strong powers. She doesnt always know when and hows best to use them but loves her dad and wants to protect him. The results are red hot. (sorry a bit cheesy I know!)
David Keith is Andy McGee
I cant see David Keith in a film without thinking about his character in An Officer and a Gentleman where he kills himself but he is fantastic in this film. He plays Charlies dad really well and does everything in his power, even though his power makes him ill, to protect his daughter. His emotions are raw through out the film and they come across as truly real.
Martin Sheen is Captain Hollister
Captain Hollister runs The Shop along with John Rainbird, (George C Scott), and they kidnap Andy and Charlie to try and research their powers. He plays the part really well and the way his personality changes when confronted with Charlie is brilliant acting. He tries to befriend her in order to get her on his side but Charlie will only trust her father. Its the two of them all the way as far as she is concerned. Captain Hollister is evil and will also stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Although this film does appear dated now when you watch it, that doesnt distract from the story and in a way it actually seems to make it more plausible. The acting is superb from Drew Barrymore and David Keith and you can get very engrossed in their plight.
The same guys who did Star Wars, ET & RAIDERS of the Lost Ark, did the special effects and they are pretty good for their time. All the fire scenes are excellent and the final showdown is brilliant to watch. I would recommend this film if you are King fan, as you wont be let down after reading the book.
Hope you enjoyed.
I have to say that a good number of Stephen King's books have not translated very well to the movie screen. Some have equally turned out to be superb movies and even excelled the novels(The Shawshank Redemption leaps to mind), so it seems you take pot luck when picking up one of his movies to rent. Firestarter is one of these adaptations, and one of those which I personally did not find too enthralling. The story itself sticks to the idea of the novel from which it comes relatively closely. The American government ask for volunteers to participate in a new experiment attracting a number of applicants. The experiments are based around exploring the mind and they inject the group with a serum which causes them to enhance their mental powers. This has a variety of effects on them but most develop telekinetic abilitites. Well, with the experiments over they all trundle back to their everyday lives but the telekinetic powers remain, and what the scientists hadn't bargained for was that two of the group would fall in love during the experiments and would eventually marry - and have a child. This child is the eponymous "Firestarter", a young girl with pyrokinetic abilities - the ability to start fires just by thinking about them. Naturally of course, the American goverment haven't just let their little test group go unwatched in the years following the experiment and when they find out about this girl Charlie(Drew Barrymore)they of course want to bring her in for experimentation - a human guinea pig. In steps Rainbird(George C. Scott) as an American Indian assassin who along with a bunch of US agents tries to capture Charlie and her father...with predictable results. Firestarter isn't a bad movie, but it tends to focus almost entirly on the pyrotechnic effects rather than anything else. So forget character development and the like because it simply isn't here.Charlie's bond with her father is almost non-existent
and other than the words "daddy" being mentioned occassionally you probably wouldn't realise they were meant to be related. George C. Scott too is completely miscast in his role as the American Indian assassin who works for the government(!), looking neither American Indian or particularly cold or menacing. In the novel he befriends Charlie in an attempt to get her to co operate wth the scientists but he basivcally doesn't look very friendly here and their is no chemistry between the two. In the novel he has an obsession about finding out where people go when they die, looking into their eyes on the time of death to see...but not here. His character is completely devoid of any devlopment as is Charlie's who is basically portrayed as a little girl with powers - nothing addded. In fact all the characters are particularly one dimensional and when the shit hits the fan and agents and scientists start dying left right and centre its difficult to even care - you'll just sit back and watch the pretty fires. That seems to be the basis of this movie, everything else which comes before is little more than a build up to the final spectacular climax. Yes the ending is good and fun to watch but the rest of the movie really drags along sometimes. probably then one to not bother with in fairness although of course if it gets another television release then by all means check it out because its not the worst movie in the world - just deeply lacking in substance and not a patch on the novel.
"Twisted Firestarter" For Stewert Gray - from Shetland My friend Stewert Gray denies he's a fire starter. he also denies he's a Fire extinquisher. it's impossible, are we all not firestarters? are we all not fire extinquishers? he's a smart arse!!! he denies to me and the boys that he is a consumer. if he is eating and i ask him: "Stewert are you a consumer?" he says "at the moment, yes" but if he isn't eating then he says no!!! Do you not consume air, dipshit? are you not using the chair you're sitting on? "Depends which way you look at it" Stewert says. we asked him if he was a 'Coathanger' - "no" he said. ah, but Stewert, have you never hung a coat up? yes, he says, but i'm not doing it at the moment!!!! the only thing he appears to be is a complete Smart Arse!!! Stewert is a great guy though, and a great laugh, even if he turns into a pchycho when he's drunk. heehee. zeroned
As some of you may, or may not, be aware of I am a bit of a Stephen King fan, having nearly all of his books and meeting him in person. Such is the case now that whenever I hear of a new or old film that has been adapted from one his novels, I make it a point to try to watch it. Unfortunately this usually backfires on me as I end up watching the film, comparing it to the excellent book that it has been grafted from, and decide that the director should have just left it alone. So with this uncertainty in my mind I nervously decided to watch 'Firestarter', a book of King's that I had thoroughly enjoyed. However, before this I had watched the television movie adaptation of IT, and was still recovering from the visual and verbal torture that this film had achieved. Was I ready for some director to have the audacity to ruin another one of this mans great novels?! The story itself revolves around a young girl (played by a very young, and at that time, innocent Drew Barrymore) who has the ability to start fires by literally thinking about. The only problem is, is that she is unable to control this ability, and emotional changes in her can trigger of a fire in the house, or set someone’s hair on fire! This strange ability is not however due to a freak of nature. Once again it is the good old US Government and their genetic tests and altered drug tests that led to our Drew being how she is. Her mother and father both got involved in a medical survey, it was promoted as being completely harmless. But little did they know the Government was manufacturing the drugs that they were taking in an attempt to awaken the inert parts of the human brain that lead to ESP and extra abilities. Individually the Government were not worried about the results as they would monitor from a distance all of the people who participated. What they did not count on was two of the subjects to fall in love, get married and have little Drew. The fat
her develops the ability of mental suggestion and persuasion. He can literally tell you do something and you will succumb to his will. However, every time he does this it damages his brain a little more, and he knows that eventually it will lead to him having a massive brain haemorrhage, and dying. The mother’s talent is less active, and as a result she hardly knows that it is there at all. She has a small amount of telekinetic energy, which she uses to move objects with her mind. Once they realise what these tests have done to them, and what they have conceived in Drew, they fear for the safety of their beloved daughter. They try to train her to focus her ability, and to keep her feelings locked up inside. That way if she doesn't appear to have any special powers, or abilities, the Government won't take her away to do tests on her. Realistically this is a movie adapted from a Stephen King model; yep you guessed it, the Government find out that their little girl is a walking flame-thrower. And in true US Government tradition they instantly think of her as the ultimate weapon and how to clone her ability and incorporate into others, creating an army of 'Firestarters'. Like any good father would, he takes little Drew away when he discovers that the Government now knows everything about her. As we however know, you can not run from the US Military for long, and eventually catch up with the two run aways. What happens next? Well if you have the ability to light a Barbecue at 90 paces what do you think happens?!? But that’s as far as I go, the last half of the film more than makes up for the dull character and story building beginning. And the performance from Barrymore, who is maybe two or three years older in this than she was in her appearance in ET, is fantastic. I have to admit that watching this film restored a sense of relief in my heart that yet another great story had not been flogged to
death just to make a profit. If you are a fan of Stephen King I suggest you watch this film. If you however are not, then I still suggest that you watch this film, because it doesn't make a difference if you have read the book or not, the build up of the storyline explains what has happened in the past, and what is taking place in their present time. A very good conversion of a superb novel.
Stephen King wasn't exactly in peak form when he wrote Firestarter, so this 1984 movie adaptation was at a disadvantage even before the cameras rolled. There were so many King movies being made at the time the weaknesses of this one became even more apparent. In her first film role after her memorable appearance in E.T., Drew Barrymore stars as a little girl whose parents acquired strange mental powers after participating in a secret government experiment. From this genetic background she has developed the mysterious ability to set anything on fire at will, especially when she's angry. That makes her very interesting to government officials seeking to exploit her skill as a secret weapon. Her father tries to protect her by using his powers of mind-control, while George C. Scott plays an Indian who believes the girl must be destroyed. There is a routine climax involving a lot of impressive pyrotechnics, but none of this is grounded in a dramatically solid foundation, and none of the characters are developed enough for us to care about them. Director Mark L. Lester, who the following year made Commando with Schwarzenegger, keeps the pace cracking along, but nevertheless the movie gradually turns into a laughable thriller with no suspense whatsoever. It's a movie only a pyromaniac could love. --Jeff ShannonOn the DVD: This is a largely no-frills presentation, albeit with a decent anamorphic print. The only extras are the original theatrical trailer and a nicely presented menu. A fold-out booklet has informative liner notes and a reproduction of the film poster.