‘Firestarter 2: Rekindled’ – Unearthing the Remains of a Long-Ago Stephen King Sequel.
Charlie McGee, the youngest of Stephen King’s children, is one of his most beloved. She is the main character in his 1980 novel Firestarter, and she may be considered his most powerful protagonist. Charlie was the product of a government agency’s secret research on children known as The Shop. Charlie inherited the unusual ability to start fires with her thoughts from his parents, who were participants in the experiment. Her parents, wanting to make money quickly, agreed to have Lot 6 injections, a serum meant to boost or even create psy powers in human test subjects. The family’s genetic modifications passed down to their daughter, resulting in her remarkable ability. The Shop would go to any length to obtain their hands on it.
However, while King’s novel is solely set in her youth years, one character muses on how her abilities will progress as she gets older. Dr. Wanless, the inventor of Lot 6, speculates that Charlie may one day possess the strength to create a nuclear explosion simply by using her will. It’s a fascinating notion, and while King has written about several of his child characters, including Danny Torrance (The Shining) and Jack Sawyer (The Talisman), he has never explored Charlie as an adult. Dr. Wanless’ ideas were addressed in the sci-fi series Firestarter 2: Rekindled in 2002. Robert Iscove directed this two-part miniseries, which features an adult Charlie (Marguerite Moreau) hunted by the Shop and still trying to live a normal life while also managing her amazing abilities.
Firestarter 2 catches up with Charlie ten years after she set fire to The Shop in March 2002, airing on back-to-back nights. A woman near the end of her twenties now works alone as a scientist in an isolated location, studying Dr. Wanless’s discoveries. Her sleep is frequently disrupted by fiery dreams in which she relives her escape from the Shop and the murders of her parents. However, the sinister organization, now known as Systems Operations, is still looking for her. A youthful office drone named Vincent (Danny Nucci) is dispatched to track her down under the guise of a class action lawsuit, turning her into malevolent John Rainbird (Malcolm McDowell). He was the man who betrayed Charlie’s faith as a youngster and suffered severe burns as a result. Rainbird has spent the last ten years nursing his wounds and obsessing over the female he thinks of as a daughter. He’s also been working on a new generation of firestarters. The Lot 6 experiments have continued with batch 23 culminating in a flock of young boys endowed with frightening abilities of their own. Charlie must return to the place of her origin and confront Rainbird once and for all in order to save Vincent.
It’s an intriguing notion, and the tale of a fire-wielding adult pyrokinetic with an axe to grind promises to be exciting. Firestarter 2, on the other hand, is anything but. Despite a promising cast delivering their all, the franchise is a failure in nearly every sense. Iscove’s episodes competed against popular series like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and E.R., as well as the birth of reality TV, when they aired in the early days of TV’s golden age. The year 2002 was dominated by reality shows like American Idol, Survivor, and Joe Millionaire, leaving little room for a science fiction film with a TV Movie style. Both episodes are full of bad dialogue, uninteresting settings, and high-pitched musical cues that mirror the worst aspects of Network Television. A series of flashbacks disrupts the flow of the story. Some of these sepia-toned reminiscences are so shoddy that they’re nearly unwatchable. In comparison to other historic pieces such as The Sopranos and The Wire, Firestarter 2 appears like a dinosaur.
Christine provides a powerful performance as Charlie, although her emotional journey is frequently unclear and disorienting. King’s original character was a precocious little girl who struggled with issues far beyond her nine years. She is pushed around and persuaded by almost everyone she encounters, trusting people only to have their faithes betrayed time after time until she finally unleashes her destructive potential. Between the Shop, moving from place to place, occasionally starting fires that burn out of control, and suppressing her need for human companionship for fear that revealing her real identity to anybody will put them in danger, it’s easy enough to infer why she had so much trouble.
However, it is handled significantly less effectively. Charlie’s issues with his spouse would be fascinating to examine, but the complicated emotional journey is poorly handled. In perhaps the most egregious bungling, Iscove drops her trust difficulties for a while before returning to focus on other aspects of the plot. She is again a pawn for the male characters, this time being hunted by Rainbird and his psychic boy posse who see her as more of an object of desire than a real person. However, there is little evidence in the plot to back up Charlie’s statement that she has overcome her issues at the conclusion of the final episode. The final line of the novel, “I suppose you could say he taught me to trust again,” is embarrassingly blatant and an unsatisfactory way to conclude what might have been a rich emotional experience.
The Rainbird wanted to murder her and absorb her power, but Iscove’s version implies that he wants to kill her, adopt her, recruit her into his psychic team, or allow her to execute him in a convoluted means to “generate god.” Whether or not his intentions are known, the ick factor is obvious. The fact that Charlie kills him by putting her fire into his body through a kiss is just the cringeworthy icing on the cake. That said, McDowell appears to be having a lot of fun playing such an odd part.
King’s father figure is found in Richardson (Dennis Hopper), another king. He was a participant in the Lot 6 experiment, along with King’s parents, and has been monitoring the girl since her birth. The unknown serum gave him the ability to see all three time periods at once, which sounds fascinating but mostly just leads to him deadpanning things like, “You’re about to get everything you’ve ever wanted. I feel sorry for you, Hopper. Intended to be profound, Hopper is given little to do throughout the film and might simply be removed from it. However, unlike McDowell, he performs this duty with stony resolve, a potential that might be fascinating if the character were more compelling. He’s just used as expository and plot device, shamefully squandering a wonderful actor.
Directed by: Keith Thomas
Screenplay by: Scott Teems
Based on: Firestarter
by Stephen King
Ryan Kiera Armstrong
Country: United States