How in the name of Cronenberg do you possibly top The Fly?
The smart money says you don’t, but Hollywood lays ridiculous amounts of cash on the line everyday and so it was inevitable that David Cronenberg’s peerless reworking of the 50’s classic was going to get some sort of sequel sooner or later – I mean, it was the 80’s after all and if Freddy Krueger could score a bunch of follow-ups, why couldn’t Seth Brundel’s mutant fly child get one too?
However, with none of the major players deciding to return – apart from Oscar winning effects wizard Chris Walas who had now ascended to the director’s chair, was this latest case of insect insanity a case of no Cronenberg, no Goldblum, no Davis, no point – or would something new emerge from those fateful telepods that would do justice to it’s noticable legacy?
After being born from a Veronica Quaife who suspiciously looks only vaguely like Geena Davis, the son of Seth Brundle is expelled in the form of a lumpy cocoon that causes its mother to expire during the extraordinarily tough childbirth, however, once the fleshy lump is cut open, the scientists at Bartok Industries find that inside is a perfectly healthy looking baby boy. The child, named Martin, isn’t exactly what you’d call normal though and as well as advanced intelligence, the bug born baby come complete with some accelerated aging to contend with that causes him to grow into Eric Stolz within five years.
But before then he’s sort of raised by the seemingly benevolent Anton Bartok who is grooming the lad to take over his late father’s work and crack the mysteries of the matter transporting telepod which could literally change the world overnight. When he’s “old” enough to begin work, Martin runs into Beth Logan, another Bartok employee and he bonds with her to the point that he invites her in on his top secret project and love begins to blossom.
Martin’s relatively short life takes a massive hit when he finds out that (shock, horror) that the wealthy head of a massive company has been lying to him for his own gain (imagine that…) and that the injections he’s been getting to slow his his aging from Bartok’s stern staff have merely been water. The “aging” is actually his father’s fly genes kicking into high gear and triggering a metamorphosis that going to be much more stickier and gnarlier than puberty could ever hope to be.
As Beth tries to help Martin escape the clutches of Bartok, there’s a very real danger that his transformation into what is essentially Brundlefly II may be as violent and bloody as the coming out of Brundlefly I.
So, not to point out the obvious, but I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that The Fly II is mere shadow of the original; however, despite a couple of failings in plot and character, it proves to be quite a decent little sci-fi creature feature with a rather cool final act.
First to the negative and the reason the first movie resonated so much is that it framed the whole science fiction stuff within the borders of a insightful, indie-esque look at a fracturing relationship which took in falling in love, addiction, illness and death while dropping in such Cronenbergian sights as acidic vomit and the degenerating human form. The Fly II, on the other hand, puts the science first, which leaves both Eric Stoltz and Daphne Zuniga feeling a little bland in comparison to the powerhouse charisma combo of Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. Also the plot feels fairly by the numbers which is surprising that both Mick Garris and Frank Darabont had a hand in the script and at moments is also amusingly unsubtle. The supporting cast of Bartok employees are so mean to little Martin they might as well be twirling their big metaphorical villains moustaches while delivering every line. The scientists are hollow cheeked prudes that can’t see the boy beyond a scientific experiment and the security team are all misogynistic bullies and if they weren’t all blatantly the kind of people who would mangle a dog in a botched teleporter accident and then keep it alive in a cell for two years (something that happens to Martin’s childhood pet) then the inevitable twist might not have felt quite so inevitable. Also, there’s an inherent issue with the central love story that no one seemed to pick up on during production and that’s essentially the fact that Martin’s still technically five years old meaning all Bartok really had to do to get her out of the picture is to report her to the authorities the moment he and Beth consummated their relationship. Apart from that disturbing plot hole, Martin’s transformation into an acid vomiting fly-beast seemingly happens overnight, sort of missing the point of the questioning ones humanity as they become simultaneously less and more human that’s a running thread in the entire franchise.
However, once Martin has fully transformed and busted out of his cocoon to crack the skulls of some egg head scum, the film finally upshifts into a monster on the loose movie that sees this new Brundlefly (which while admittedly looking fucking cool, slightly resembles a four armed crocodile more than a fly) snapping spines and choking nerds left, right and centre. In fact, during the finale, Walas actually almost tops the gore highlights from the previous movie by matching a vicious compound fracture and limb dissolved in fly vomit and raising them by featuring an insanely satisfying head crushing by elevator and a truly horrific fly vomit facial which goes precisely the way you’d expect.
So, in the zero hour, The Fly II manages to pull it back, but even then the ending seems remarkably convenient (Brundlefly hops into a telepod with an unwilling participant and comes out slimy, but basically good as new? C’mon…), but it’s still fun. It’s just a shame the movie has one too many bugs that need ironing out to be taken seriously.