November 6, 2013

Movie Review: The Fly II (1989)

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about remakes. It seems that among the hardcore fans there is no way to do a remake right, while mainstream audiences at large seem to be a lot less fickle. Anyway, I am very much a wait and see kind of guy, I like a lot and hate a lot. Let the movie prove itself to be bad before ripping into it. In any case, there is one movie I seem to forget when discussing good remakes, David Cronenberg's The Fly from 1986. The Jeff Goldblum/Geena Davis horror was well received and holds up in comparison to the Vincent Price original. It did well enough to spawn a sequel of its own, The Fly II in 1989.

This movie is not nearly as involving or successful as its predecessor. It was not very well received upon its original release, and rightly so. When you put it next to the Cronenberg flick, there is really no comparison. The problem is that we need to try and not put it up there and watch it for it is. Well, it still isn't all that good, but it certainly does have its fun moments and sometimes that is what we need. Not everything needs to be a five star classic, sometimes it is merely all right to exist as a piece of disposable entertainment, it is all right to just enjoy. That is what I did with The Fly II.

The sequel finds a dude named Bartok (Lee Richardson) as the owner of Brundle's (Jeff Goldblum, only seen in some archive footage from the first movie) teleportation pods. He is continuing the experiments on transporting matter in molecular form (a process first attempted in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), Also in the facility is Martin (Eric Stoltz when he is an adult). Martin is Brundle's son and he is growing at a very fast rate, plus he has extraordinary intelligence. He is given the keys to the lab, if you will and begins to work on the experiments again, all while the scientists try to figure out why he is aging the way he is.

As the movie movies forward, we watch as the brilliant young man begins his experiments. He also investigates the possibility of using the machine to clean out his mutation. Of course, we know that is not going to end well. Anyway, the first two thirds of the movie is a character drama in a sci fi/horror setting. We see Martin grow up, his awkward interactions with other people, and his eventual romance with third shift lab worker Beth (Dapne Zuniga from Space Balls). This is where things begin to take a turn.

It is fairly interesting to watch Martin and Beth's awkward early moments. Martin is very pointed and does not get subtext, so his words with Beth are meant literally, while she interprets them differently. The two dance around a bit before recognizing their mutual attraction. Of course, Bartok and his people see this as a distraction to Martin's work and their purpose for keeping him around. This further builds towards the last third.

The final third of the movie sees the mutations taking over and a monstered up Martin leaving a bloody trail of death as he goes up the chain, killing those who have wronged him in a nicely gooey fashion.

The Fly II is not a subtle movie. It may lull you into thinking that during the first chunk, but it is merely setting everything up for the horror driven chaos towards the end. It is very clear how Martin is being built up, from his experience with the blood drawing, to seeing what happened to his dog, to processing a relationship with a woman, he is destined to kill. Eric Stoltz does a nice job of giving the often dry Martin a reason to be invested in.

Special Effects guy Chris Walas makes his directorial debut, and while the practical effects are nicly executed, his direction tends towards the bland side. The screenplay, credited to four folks, including Mick Garris and Frank Darabont, is decent and looks to explore the lonely, secluded life of Martin but is a little dry, like the character.

In the end, The Fly II is not as necessary as the first film, but you could do a lot worse with your time. Martin is a good character, and the practical, and gooey, effects are very nice and are a good example of why practical gore works so well, there is so much more personality, especially knowing that the stuff is really there on the set. It is also interesting to note that the movie received an X rating due to a gruesome head crushing, fortunately, an appeal got an R with no cuts.

Mildly Recommended.

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