Monday, October 10, 2011
FIRESTARTER: REKINDLED (2002)
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *psychological*
By the time the Sci-Fi Channel rebranded itself as "Syfy," I thought their new name should have read, "ShiFi," for "Shitty Films."
Now in 2002 the Channel hadn't garnered quite so bad a reputation, at least as far as my memory goes. However, I must have had low expectations for this 2-part telefilm, since I copied it and squirreled it away for some future date.
My low expectations may've sprung from a disinterest in the original theatrical film. I've never read the Stephen King novel on which the 1984 FIRESTARTER was based, but I didn't find the film all that compelling, and have never watched it a second time. Now that I've watched the telefilm, I'm free to dis REKINDLED for its own lack of ambition rather than its failing to live up to the original's pattern. .
FIRESTARTER: REKINDLED (no "2" in the broadcast title) is technically not a strict sequel to FIRESTARTER, but more of a "soft reboot." In this reboot pyrokinetic Charlie McGee still has a childhood encounter with the mad Amerindian secret agent John Rainbird. However, in the reboot she does not kill Rainbird as a result of that encounter, but escapes his influence and that of his secret organization. She grows to young womanhood but sadly can't lose her virginity, since every time she tries to do so she risks giving the guy a much "hotter" time than he expects.
I'm not exactly sure what master maneuvers Charlie performed to keep Rainbird's organization from finding her, but one day Vincent, a young accountant working for the secret society, picks up Charlie's trail. Before you can say "Richard Kimble," Rainbird's people are on Charlie's trail. In the meantime, Vincent falls in love with Charlie and joins her. In addition to his regular cadre of killers, Rainbird also unleashes on Charlie a small team of super-powered boy children. I can't help but wonder if the scriptwriter had given the 2000 X-MEN film a watch and then opted to steal a march on the X-sequel with this brood of "new mutants." Be that as it may, the two fights that fire-powered Charlie has with the superkids are easily the best parts of the film.
Despite the length of the film, none of the characters are given much attention. Even mad Rainbird comes off as fairly dull despite the efforts of Malcolm McDowell. Dennis Hopper has a more minor role in the film, which seems to be little more than plot-padding. This is even more true of a peculiar vignette-that-goes-nowhere involving another psychic-talented young woman, Deborah Van Valkenburgh.
For what she's given to work with, Marguerite Moran does a creditable job as the tormented pyro-girl. But even the 1984 Drew Barrymore film flirts with a sort of "bad father/innocent daughter" vibe between Charlie and Rainbird. The climax touches on that dynamic but doesn't really build logically to that conclusion. So in terms of the psychological potential of the telefilm, REKINDLED never-- what else-- catches fire.