The almost human son of “The Fly” searches for a cure to his mutated genes while being monitored by a nefarious corporation that wish to continue his father’s experiments.
David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” (1986) is (In my opinion) the greatest film of his storied career. A perfect melding of science fiction and horror which surprisingly, also works as a tragic love story. A true benchmark of the genre & a critically lauded film as well it’s success lead to a sequel a few years later. The film did leave one question unanswered, that question being what became of Seth & Veronica’s unborn child? That question is answered in “The Fly 2“, but was it a question that we really needed answered?
As the film opens, Veronica is in the midst of giving birth to the child she conceived with Seth. She’s surrounded by doctors but she’s not in a hospital, she’s in an operating theater located in the headquarters of Bartok Industries and the entire procedure is being watched from above by Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson) & his cronies. If you recall, Seth Brundle was a Bartok employee and he commented that anything he creates while in their employ is owned by them. Bartok has taken possession of both telepods and has taken care of Veronica as the baby was growing inside of her. The idea being that if the child is anything like it’s father, then it will be a genius (And essentially property of Bartok Industries). Veronica dies during childbirth but she does see what her baby looks like. What comes out of her is a misshapen cocoon that the doctors don’t know what to do with until they realize that something is squirming inside of it. They open it up and find a gore smeared baby boy who is promptly held aloft as if in tribute to Mr. Bartok who nods accordingly.
Cut to a few short weeks later and the boy (Dubbed Martin) is the size of a four yr. old boy! He’s growing at an enormously accelerated rate but otherwise acts as one would expect a five yr. old to act. He lives in a large room that is constantly being monitored by Bartok employees & is tended to by two physicians, Shepard (Frank C. Turner) & Jainway (Ann Marie Lee), neither of them seem to like Martin very much but he’s oblivious to their disdain towards him. A few years later he is the size of a 10 yr. old (Harley Cross) and has begun to show signs of his inherited brilliance. Martin recognizes the dislike that his caretakers have for him but he’s more interested in exploring the world outside of his living space. He eventually manages to copy a passkey that allows him to wander about the facilities late at night. He uses the air ducts to move around unnoticed. He ends up in a room filled with animals that are used for experiments and befriends a dog. He visits the dog often and bemoans to it the idea that he believes he’s going to die soon since he’s growing up so quickly. One night he goes to visit his canine friend and finds his cage empty, he snoops around and finds the dog being placed into one of the telepods with a cadre of technicians scurrying back and forth. Since acquiring the telepods Bartok has been unsuccessfully trying to replicate Brundle’s success. The dog is secured inside one of them, a switch is flipped and the dog is transported from one pod to the other. But what comes out of the other pod looks nothing like what went in the other one. The dog is horribly mutated and Martin screams in horror from his hiding place when he is found & consoled by Bartok & co.
Cut to Martin’s fifth birthday and he’s now a fully grown adult (Eric Stoltz). His birthday gift? An apartment of his own, one where there are no cameras watching him 24/7, one where he can do what he pleases, when he pleases. But there’s one caveat…Bartok wants him to help solve the problem with the telepods. His people can’t do it & maybe Martin, with his father’s intellect, can do what Bartok’s people haven’t done. Martin is hesitant to work with the pods because of what happened with the dog but Bartok assures him that the dog was put out of it’s misery quickly & humanely. Martin is convinced and promptly begins to work on solving the mystery of the telepods. He also meets Beth (Daphne Zuniga) a low level employee who strikes his fancy and vice versa. A romance is struck between the two of them and Beth begins to assist Martin with his work. At an office party that Beth invites him to Martin discovers that his dog hasn’t been put down, rather it’s been kept at the bottom of what looks like a dirty, dank dungeon (Slimy wet walls, straw floor, water dripping, the works..). Obviously in pain and barely mobile it’s kept chained and being fed a disgusting looking gruel. Martin bursts into tears and runs away thinking Beth knew about the poor creature and returns later that evening and euthanizes his friend to put it out of it’s misery.
But Martin finds out that Beth really didn’t know anything of the dog & upon realizing that he’s been lied to all along (& secretly videotaped as well) he escapes with Beth in tow. But Martin develops what looks like an infected wound on his left forearm and that is what Bartok and his associates have been waiting for…Of course Martin is carrying the same fly dna that his father carried and it has laid dormant until now. And now that it’s begun to manifest itself it’s only a matter of time before Martin begins to transform into something ….but what? Well that’s not going to be too much of a surprise, the film is called “The Fly 2” isn’t it?
The problems “The Fly 2” has are many. It’s got a hell of a precursor it has to live up to and to be effective it needed to be as least as intelligent as the prior film, it fails miserably on that accord though. The script by Jim & Ken Wheat, Mick Garris & Frank Darabont feels like a bunch of scenes stapled together with no thread to pull them together. The film just lurches pell mell from one scene to the next without any real cohesion to them. It’s so fast paced that it feels like it’s over in an hour rather than the actual 105 minute running time. But fast paced doesn’t mean that it’s particularly exciting. It’s not boring but it’s hardly involving, there’s no true emotional heft to it. It’s also rife with some really stupid lines of dialog, my favorite being Beth’s reaction to Martin’s condition as he begins his change. He seems to be growing older with some sort of fibrous material covering his body but all she can say to him is “It looks like you’re getting worse”! Another dumb line is uttered by Bartok when he proclaims that if the telepods can work it can “Make conventional surgery obsolete”! Exactly how that might occur is something he fails to tell us though.
The actors do what they can with the silly script. Stoltz walks around looking miserable most of the time & Zuniga looks like she 12 years old and shouldn’t even be in this movie. Richardson makes a great villain but Turner & Lee do little more than mug for the camera at each opportunity. John Getz makes the most of his cameo as Stathis Borans and Goldblum returns as well (On Video for a short scene), Davis does not return though and actress Saffron Henderson plays Veronica in the opening scene. Special mention must be made of Gary Chalk who plays Scorby, Bartok’s head of security. There is no way that anyone can believe that this man is the head of security for what is supposed to be a multi million dollar corporation. He’s a squat, bellicose, barrel bellied moron who runs like a hobbit and has absolutely no air of authority whatsoever. When Bartok realizes that Martin is in the building towards the end of the film he orders security not to harm him, so what does Scorby & his posse do? They immediately grab their submachine guns! So they don’t speak english either…
First time director Chris Walas won an Oscar for his incredible makeup effects in “The Fly” and seemed a logical choice to help this sequel. If nothing else the effects oughtta kick ass right? And for the most part they do, it’s a pretty squishy movie and not shy when it comes to some good old fashioned carnage. The creature Martin turns into (Martinfly?) is big but isn’t very scary looking although it has a pair of oddly emotional eyes that help to soften it’s appearance. Sadly Walas doesn’t have a viable script to work with here and some of the setpieces seem hastily shot, as if he just wanted to get them done. The film looks like a big budgeted television movie which doesn’t help matters too much, Christopher Young’s score is acceptable but hardly memorable.
But for all that’s wrong with it (And there is plenty wrong), I don’t dislike this flick. Like I said earlier, it moves quick and generously spreads the red when necessary. The ending is silly but crowd pleasing and the bad guys get what’s due them when it’s all said and done. It plays more like a fable than a horror film though and while that suited me it might not suit you. I still enjoyed it and I think it might play better as a stand alone film rather than a sequel to a classic. It’s a painless 100+ minutes…
“The Fly 2” – 2.5 out of 5 shrouds
The Fly 2 (1989)