Living in modern-day Munich, Mara Lobeer is a Cool Sad Teen(tm) struggling to cope with the animal-themed bullies at school, her semi-attentive Wiccan mother, and painful visions of viking invasions. After befriending friendly university professor Weissman, they discover that Mara is the Spaukona, a mythical seeress able to communicate with the Norse Gods. Which is handy, because the god Loki’s wife just got kidnapped, and only Mara can find her before Loki destroys the whole world trying.
The film is written and directed by Tommy Krappweis, and based on the first book of a young adult trilogy also written by Krappweis, which makes sense, because it simultaneously spends too little and too much time explaining things.
For example, a very long early scene consists of Mara and Weissman arguing over a particular character’s hairstyle. Which might be fine if it’s all setup for the rest of the trilogy, but I watched this entire film not knowing a) who the bad guy was, b) why he was bad, and c) how he was defeated.
Trying to fit as many of a novel’s plot points as possible into a film is commendable, but Firebringer is so bloated, there’s not enough time to adequately emphasise the story’s emotional beats, in particular Mara’s fears about being corrupted by her new powers. The audience is told a lot of things they should’ve been able to see.
But this is all nitpicking under the light of “THIS IS CLEARLY NOT A FILM FOR ADULTS”. Lilian Prent, who plays Mara, makes excellent work of what little she’s given, and the film makes the smart choice of the characters having boring, expository conversations under backdrops of beautiful architecture and scenery.
As one of hundreds of films trying to reignite the Harry Potter spark, Mara and the Firebringer doesn’t do much to stand out. But if you’re a pre-teen, you’ll probably love it. If you’re older, at the very, very least, you’ll think it’s fine.
By Pedro Cooray
This review is a part of SWINE Magazine’s Melbourne International Film Festival coverage.