Eric Stoltz - Martin Brundle
Daphne Zuniga - Beth Logan
Lee Richardson - Anton Bartok
John Getz - Stathis Borans
Gary Chalk - Scorby
Frank C. Turner - Dr. Norman Shepard
Anne-Marie Lee - Dr. Jainway
Genre - Horror/Science Fiction
Running Time - 104 Minutes
Veronica Quaife, the girlfriend of late scientist/later fly Seth Brundle, gives birth in a closed medical center. Instead of a natural birth, a large larvae wiggles and writhes itself out of Veronica's stomach. She dies, but the doctors cut open the larvae to reveal a human looking baby boy.
Named Martin Brundle, the child is kept concealed in a laboratory disguised as a room. Led by Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson), the man who had funded Seth Brundle's teleportation experiment, a group of doctors and scientists constantly monitor Martin. They learn that his growth rate is a lot more accelerated than a normal human's [four times faster, to be precise], as his DNA is half fly. He's also highly intelligent for his age and very rebellious. Martin figures out a way to escape his containment chamber and search through the building. His freedom comes at a price, as he sees his dog being used in a teleportation experiment that fails, mutilating the pet. Traumatized, Martin begins to realize that the people he's surrounded by aren't all as they claim to be.
Bartok, wanting to figure out how those teleportation devices work in order to make money off of them, asks Martin to see if he can figure out the missing piece of the theory. Watching video tapes of his father and reading some of the journals he left behind for the experiment, Martin begins to complete the experiment. Now five years old, but looking like an adult, Martin (Eric Stoltz) spends long hours trying to get his father's project finished.
Distractions get in the way, however, as he meets an employee named Beth Logan (Daphne Zuniga), who he takes a liking to and flirts with. As their relationship grows, so does his obsession with his father's work. He figures out how to transport inanimate objects across the two pods, but has had bad luck with living objects. As he tries to figure it out, he starts to realize that he's mutating physically as aberrations start forming all over his body. Martin realizes that the teleportation device he's completing will stop his mutation if he's able to find a donor that will fix all his flawed cells.
- The special effects. THE FLY II is a sequel that really shouldn't exist, but it's an easy money grab for those who were fans of the 1986 David Cronenberg remake that many consider one of the best horror remakes of all time. Luckily, time has been pretty kind to this sequel and it really isn't as bad as many claim it to be. One of the reasons for that are the special effects used in the film. Not a surprise since director Chris Walas did the effects for Cronenberg's THE FLY [as well as other films], which were also great.
The gore effects by Walas and John Thomas are pretty cool in this sequel. We get several body parts getting melted by acid saliva, such as hand and even a face. A head gets crushed. Fingers get bit off. We also get a mutilated dog and a mutilated human being. Pretty sweet death scenes here.
As for the fly makeup, I like it but it's questionable about what the end result was supposed to be. I liked the slow progression that Martin's mutation took. Each scene, there would be more make up on Eric Stoltz to make emphasis on that, which I dug. I thought the cocoon was cool, and how gross it got once it was hatched, with yellow pus running out like it was a PHANTASM movie.
Then we get the giant fly creature itself. Well, I think it was a fly. Looked more like a Gremlin on steroids, but I'm not an expert on flies. Either way, I did like how it looked and how it was done with practical effects. I thought Walas and Thomas did a great job here.
- The direction for the most part. It must have been tough for Chris Walas to follow the impressive directorial work of David Cronenberg on the previous THE FLY film. And while he doesn't do as good of a job as Cronenberg [which really isn't a surprise], Walas does more than an admirable job behind the camera. I thought the action sequences in the last half of the film were well shot and paced really well. I thought the more dramatic scenes, with Christopher Young's score mixed in, worked really great. There were some nice angles, cool composition and framing, and good editing. I thought for his first film as director, Walas handled it like a champ. Was it perfect? No, and I'll get to that shortly. But the visuals are still pretty impressive.
- The acting. Again, not as good as the first THE FLY, but more than suitable for this sequel. Eric Stoltz is pretty good as Martin Brundle. He's a bit wooden at times and lacks the intensity Jeff Goldblum put in his role in the first film. But for what the film needs to get out of him, he's fine in the part. He's a good cryer, I'll say that. Daphne Zuniga is also pretty good as Beth, the stereotypical love interest for the film's monster. She isn't really given much to do but be the loyal girlfriend no matter what, which makes her instantly likeable. Lee Richardson is a bit better as the corporate villain, Anton Bartok. While it isn't a surprise that he's the film's bad guy, Richardson tries to give the character some depth by posing as a good guy for Martin to reveal a small level of vulnerability and humanity. But Richardson is also great at being a total scumbag, which makes his character a bit fun to watch. John Getz reprises his role from THE FLY to bring back Stathis. This time, Getz turns Stathis into a sarcastic, bitter asshole who becomes someone of an ally to Martin. It isn't a big role and Getz isn't in the film as much as one would like, but he steals any scene he's in. He's great. The other actors playing the scientists played their roles well, especially Anne-Marie Lee as the bitchy Dr. Jainway. It was a good cast who did what they needed to accomplish.
- A fun narrative. A lot of people give THE FLY II flack because of the narrative. Yes, it's not as well written or as well structured as THE FLY. Yes, the dramatic moments don't resonate as much as they did in THE FLY. Yes, the sequel is more focused on turning Martin into a giant fly creature so he can kill people during the final act. So it takes some things from the first film and doesn't use them quite as effectively. Still, the story is still a fun, entertaining one even with its flaws and inconsistencies.
So what if the love story is cliche and the transformation scene isn't as metaphorical as in THE FLY [although I do feel Walas, Frank Darabont, Mick Garris, and Jim & Ken Wheat were using the transformation to comment on adolesence - almost as if Martin is going through puberty in an abnormal way]? Walas, instead of trying to make what David Cronenberg made [which was a film about mortality, playing God, and the positives and negatives of science], just wanted to make a simple and fun monster movie like the ones he grew up on. And with that direction, THE FLY II succeeds.
The story builds up to the transformation and Martin's distrust of Bartok. At first, Martin sees Bartok as a father because he's given him a home [even if it is a "cell"], food, and things to do. Martin believes Bartok is fond of him, but Bartok just wants to experiment on him to see how long he'll have to transform like his father. When he lets Martin live on his own, Martin doesn't realize that there are hidden cameras destroying his privacy. Martin is in a bubble that he's dying to get out of. That doesn't happen until he meets Beth, who's the first person to treat Martin like a normal human being without some sort of agenda. Obviously, this doesn't please Bartok, so he tries to separate them. Martin realizes that Bartok isn't the man he says he is, which builds his distrust. Bartok hurt his dog [in one of the best dramatic moments of the film - just a great scene in which Martin puts the dog out of its misery], tries to separate him from his lady, and realizes he was kept alive just to see how his mutation would play out as some sort of sick business deal. Then when Martin transforms, he still has enough humanity left to realize that Bartok and his men are the enemy and they need to be punished for what they did to him and to his father in a sense.
It's not a deep narrative and it's pretty predictable in its direction. But I can understand why the characters behave how they do. I can understand what the story is building to in a logical sense. While stereotypes, I can somewhat understand who these characters are and what roles they need to play in order for the story to work. And the conclusion doesn't disappoint and is pretty satisfying. It's not the greatest script in the world, but it moves at a good pace and is more than watchable. If you want to think and get something more out of a film, watch THE FLY. If you want a popcorn flick with a giant fly thing vomiting acid on people, watch THE FLY II. Will it resonate as strongly as Cronenberg's film? Absolutely not. But the narrative won't bore you, which is a positive as far as I'm concerned.
- Disjointed storytelling. While I don't mind the narrative due to its entertainment content, I do feel that THE FLY II does feel like two different movies at times. This is because the two halves of this sequel are really different from each other. The first half is the more dramatic and character-driven portion of the film. We watch Martin grow up and become a man. We also watch Bartok use Martin to complete the teleporation device so Martin can "finish his father's destiny and be closer to him". Martin meets Beth and they fall in love. Then Bartok tries to stop Martin from being with Beth so he can finish the project. The dramatic moments sometimes work and sometimes they feel cliche, but at least the script builds up the characters somewhat and sets up what's to come.
The separation happens the moment Martin realizes he's mutating. With Beth trying to help Martin escape Bartok, especially after they both find out that he's been watching them and plans to use the both of them in his evil plan, THE FLY II officially becomes a chase movie. While it's done well enough, the tone just dramatically shifts in a way that you feel as if you're watching a different film. Then before you can get used to the chase portion of the film, THE FLY II turns into a straight up slasher/monster movie. Again, it's done well [maybe the stalk sequences are a bit long], but the sequel just turns into a different film.
- Lack of atmosphere. I think what keeps people going to Cronenberg's version of THE FLY is its atmosphere and mood. Most of the film is bleak, dim, and not really upbeat at all. It's a very serious film that builds with dread. THE FLY II has trouble maintaining a certain mood or atmosphere because of its disjointed script structure.
My main issue is that the film is way too bright for me. Even during the darker moments, like the entire final act, there's just too much light in each scene. I wish there was more shadow - more smoke and mirrors - to really create this sense of horror and mystery. I never felt a sense of dread in this sequel. I'm not saying everything is happy-go-lucky, but I never felt that things for these characters would be really bleak to the point where there would not be a happy ending [unlike the first film, the ending here is a bit more upbeat]. The film wants to be an action film rather than a film built on character tension and thought-provoking themes. That's fine, but it's hard to accept after such a powerful film like the one that precedes it.
I also felt that the characters, especially the corporate characters, don't have a shade a grey to them at all. They're either good or they're either bad. There's nothing wrong with that on a basic level, but it just makes things way too easy. The scientists come across as assholes from the beginning, which could have been made better if they slowly showed their evil intentions to keep us engaged. This good vs. evil thing makes things way too predictable and, again, there's no mystique.
THE FINAL HOWL