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The Fly II (1989)

by on 2012/11/28

“I’m okay.”

* * *

In recent news, I’ve seen reports of David Cronenberg considering a couple of sequels to his films, something he has never seemed interested in. One, Eastern Promises, seems a no-brainer, given its unfinished feel. The other, The Fly, is less necessary, but still an intriguing idea.

For years I looked back on Chris Walas’ Fly II as the proverbial red-headed stepchild. I’d seen it upon its release, but not in two decades since. I welcomed the prospect of Cronenberg stepping in to clear away the bad aftertaste.

Now, I feel disingenuous. Fully expecting to despise the experience, I loaded up this video late last night. I understand the pivotal scenes which turned audiences away, but their generation-old visuals helped to blunt their off-putting effect.

The most impressive part of all, though, was Eric Stoltz’s (Some Kind of Wonderful) performance. Nearly thirty at the time, but starring as the five-year old Martin Brundle, he suggests the torment of a lab rat, cursed with his father’s accelerated growth syndrome. (Jeff Goldblum appears as Seth Brundle in archival footage cut from the first Fly.)

He may well be too good for this role, so to speak. He’s equally effective as naive, sympathetic, intelligent, or frightening. By winning sympathy for his plight, our outrage at the grisly fate of his opponents is mitigated.

Co-written by Frank Darabont — the only man to come between Gru and I — the story tells of Martin’s attempts to complete his father’s work. If he can fix the telepods, they might cure his condition. The trouble is, he doesn’t have much time. He’s fighting his corporate keepers, as well as the monster emerging from within.

My initial skepticism had me scoffing at the stand-in for Geena Davis, both in appearance and voice. I noted with no little pessimism that the only people returning from The Fly were the creature effects guy (director Chris Walas) and the mercenary jerk, Stathis Borans (John Getz). I assumed this effort would be all exploitative gore.

And there is that, without any doubt. This is not a horror flick for the viscera-averse. However, there were other touches I enjoyed or had forgotten: the communion with animals, the “handprint” moment, the parallels between the telepods and a rural motel’s bug zapper and, of course, the various fly puns adding dark humour.

No, it never becomes truly great, but The Fly II is better than I remembered. Like similar movies before it (Firestarter, Scanners) or since (Species, Splice), it evokes the Frankenstein template fair enough. You could certainly do a worse interpretation and — as a sequel — it’s the best we have yet.

* * *

Rated 14A (Canada) / R (United States)

105 minutes

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