21 May 2007 | mstomaso
One of the more accessible King adaptations, but best if you enjoyed the book
Firestarter is the story of Charlie (Drew Barrymore at age 8) and Andy, her dad (David Keith), and the people who are trying to imprison, control and/or kill them (Martin Sheen, George C. Scott, Moses Gunn, and others). Charlie is a mutant. Her father and mother were part of an experiment on mutagenic substances performed on college students in the 1960s by The Shop. The experiment gave Andy the ability to control others minds, but the mutation, apparently dormant in his wife, was passed on through the sex chromosome to his daughter. Charlie, quite plainly, can combust virtually anything with her mind.
Though all the acting in this film is good, Barrymore and Scott are truly awesome. Scott plays a brilliant sociopath, and can go from a kindly old Viet Nam vet to a ruthless killer with one quick change of facial expression. And Barrymore (at the age of 8, if you didn't pick up on that the first time I said it) gives her character a fully believable person-hood with great depth.
Like the novel, this is more of a horror-thriller than classic King ghost stories - like The Shining. It is also less classic King horror - like Carrie. And its also not a great drama like Dolores Claiborne, Misery and Stand By Me. Though it fits into roughly the same category as Hearts in Atlantis, it is not a literary as this much later King work and the characters are not as well developed. Although the book could be said to be one of King's earlier experiments with what would become a formula for his lesser works, King's writing is so lucid, and his characters are so interesting, believable and nicely examined, that his 'B fiction' is still somewhat above the average best-seller. The film follows the book very closely, and, like the book, is sort of a prototype for the more formulaic films in the King portfolio.
The directing is very good, the cinematography (especially the effects) is excellent, and the film is, as a whole entertaining. But, for those who have not read the book, the film will likely come off as 'no big deal.' As with many of the more formulaic King-derived films, this is best seen as a cathartic summary of the original work (like Dreamcatchers, Running Man, The Stand, Maximum Overdrive, The Mangler and others).