The Fly: David Cronenberg
The Fly II: Chris Walas
The Fly: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, Les Carson
The Fly II: Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, Lee Richardson, John Getz, Frank C. Turner
The Fly: David Cronenberg, George Langelaan (characters), Charles Edward Pogue
The Fly II: George Langelaan (characters), Mick Garris, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, Frank Darabont
The Fly: This frightening, but extremely moving and romantic horror film stars Jeff Goldblum as an over-ambitious scientist who accidentally merges with a housefly while conducting a bizarre teleporting experiment. A journalist (Genna Davis) who has fallen in love with him while covering his scientific endeavors, suddenly finds herself caring for a horrifying creature whose insect half gradually begins to take over.
The Fly II: Beneath his ordinary exterior. Martin (Eric Stoltz) is the most extraordinary person alive. Though only five years old, he is a fully matured adult. And his is also the son of a human fly! Now it is only matter of tie before his mutated genes waken from their dormant state. Jam-packed with incredible special effects. The Fly 2 is an unforgettable sequel, just as riveting and terrifying as the original.
The Fly: $15 million.
The Fly II: -unknown-.
The Fly: $7.007 million on 1195 screens.
The Fly II: $6.751 million on 1524 screens.
The Fly: $37.585 million.
The Fly II: $20.021 million.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
The Fly: 95 min.
The Fly II: 104 min.
Release Date: 9/5/2000
• Theatrical Trailers
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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The Fly (1986) / The Fly II (1989)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 11, 2005)
When David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly hit screens in 1986, it made for a surprisingly effective experience, one that I hadn't thought I'd like. The Fly is usually classified as a horror film, but I think that designation limits it too much. To be certain, it contains a number of classic "scary movie" elements such as some jolts as well as more than its fair share of gross and/or creepy moments. Although The Fly features very little violence, it makes up for this with all of the disgusting - but effective- shots we find as Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) slowly mutates into another creature.
However, I think that at its heart, The Fly is a tragedy. Actually, I know that it's a tragedy, as it perfectly fits the definition of that term: "a serious play or drama typically dealing with the problems of a central character, leading to an unhappy or disastrous ending brought on by fate and a tragic flaw in this character". Without providing too many of the story's details, let's just say that description nails the content of this film.
When The Fly made its rounds at our college's student union, I'd already seen it once and was eager to view it again. My friends mocked me because I'd told them how moving the film was; they simply couldn't believe some cheesy horror flick could possess any form of emotional punch. After we all saw the film, they ridiculed me no more (about The Fly, at least).
Key to the success of The Fly is the amazing performance by Goldblum. I've always liked his work but I don't think he's ever been better than as Brundle, a brilliant but socially awkward engineer who starts to change in oh so many ways after an experiment gone bad. Goldblum's natural twitchiness and quirky delivery suit him especially well as he transmogrifies from man to creature, and no matter how many layers of make-up cover him, he somehow manages to convey the essential humanity and spirit of the character. It's a tour de force performance, and one that would have gotten an Oscar nomination if the Academy would remove the stick that's up their collective ass. (At least that year marked a small victory for actors in typically-overlooked genres, as Sigourney Weaver took home a nomination as Best Actress for her work as Ripley in Aliens.)
As Seth's girlfriend Ronnie, Geena Davis also provides solid work. In some ways, she has the tougher role just because she's the one who has to act as the audience's contact person. Ronnie is the way we keep in touch with the story, since I think most of us - even the nerdy engineers in the crowd - identify with her more closely. Seth departs from the realm of reality too quickly for us to be able to stay with him, but Ronnie is the human constant in the movie, and is the one who has to make the toughest decisions. Seth has no choice as to what fate will befall him, but Ronnie can select her own path. Davis keeps the character nicely grounded and avoids sentimental or sappy pitfalls.
One aspect of the film that deserves special note is Howard Shore's excellent score. The music adds a lovely element of pathos and emotion to the proceedings that easily could have been dashed. How easily? Check out the temp music used in the movie's trailer; that cheesy synthesizer junk would have ruined the film. Shore seems to have a wonderful knack for bringing out the underlying feeling in movies that formally belong to the horror/thriller genre. He also did the scores for Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs, the two best films of that sort made in the Nineties.
Although David Cronenberg does a good job of directing the film, I must admit I wish he'd not made the movie so graphically disgusting. The goo and nastiness doesn't bother me, but I think it kept the picture from the wider audience it deserved. Also, the most awkward parts of the movie revolve around gross-out scenes. Some of these stand out uncomfortably and seem ill-placed within the story's structure; I think Cronenberg just felt like tossing out some sliminess and ignored the logical progress of the tale.
Nonetheless, even with those abrupt and awkward segments plus some weak dialogue and silly plot constructs - teaching the computer about the flesh indeed! - The Fly works very well. Those is search of a gory, campy horror flick will be disappointed, but anyone who'd like to see a touching, well-acted tragedy will be more than pleased with The Fly.
The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B+/ Bonus D-
The Fly appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A mix of problems meant this ended up as a mediocre transfer.
Although some slight softness crept into the image from time to time, the movie usually appeared pretty crisp and well-defined. A modicum of edge enhancement created occasional distractions, though, and led to a little softness. Those concerns failed to become major. Moiré effects and jagged edges no problems, but source flaws were a greater distraction. I noticed quite a few examples of specks, grit and marks through the movie. These created definite problems at times.
Because The Fly was an extremely dark movie that focused mostly on interiors, very few colors became evident. However, when they did appear, the hues seemed strong. For instance, examine the scene in which Seth and Ronnie went out shopping and for coffee; the light purple of her outfit was vivid. Also, when Ronnie entered the hospital in her dream sequence, the reds and yellows worn by passers-by looked great.
Given the movie’s interior focus – and somber tone – a surfeit of bright hues would have been inappropriate, so I was happy these examples were the exceptions to the rule. Black levels were moderately dark and solid, though they could appear a bit inky at times. Shadow detail tended to be a little opaque, but for the most part those scenes seemed accepted clear. Some of the transfer’s issues related to the era’s film stock, while others connected to the prevalence of dark interior shots. Between these various concerns and the print flaws, I didn’t think this transfer deserved a grade above a “C”.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio was significantly better than the picture. The remix took the original Dolby Surround track and opened it up a bit. The forward soundstage remained dominant, with a nicely active environment in the front channels. The audio integrated well and panned cleanly across the speakers. The rears offered more general support for the most part. These speakers provided reinforcement of the score and effects, but they occasionally kicked in with more active audio during the most dramatic scenes; I even detected one or two instances in which split surrounds were used. The soundfield didn't compete with those found in more recent films, but for a picture from 1986 it worked well.
Quality also seemed pretty good. Dialogue sounded natural and crisp throughout the film, with only a few instances of mild flatness that didn't affect intelligibility. Effects were generally clean and accurate, though they displayed slight distortion during some of the louder moments. The score seemed especially strong, as it displayed clear highs and some fairly deep lows. Actually, the mix as a whole packed a surprising punch; the bass won't dazzle you but it appeared above average. A little hiss popped up during a few dialogue scenes, though this didn’t interfere with anything. The soundtrack earned a relatively positive "B+".
Unfortunately, this DVD includes very few extras. We find the film's original theatrical trailer, plus one for its 1989 sequel. It also tosses in trailers for the 1958 version of The Fly, its 1959 sequel The Return of the Fly, plus two movies paired on another "Fox Double Feature" DVD: Fantastic Voyage and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. And that's it.
The Fly II
In a bizarre way, however, I must admit that I consider the inclusion of The Fly II to be something of an "extra". I think many others will regard it that way as well, since to lots of us, it's not something we'd pursue if it appeared on its own. I wanted The Fly and would have been just as happy with this DVD if it came without the sequel.
That's because The Fly II is a genuinely bad movie. I won't be so melodramatic as to state that it trashes the memory of the original, but it certainly doesn't add to the legacy.
(Note: to discuss any part of the story to this film, I'll have to include information that could be regarded as "spoilers" for the first movie. As such, if you want to skip any of that kind of data, just avoid this section.)
The Fly II picks up a few months after the end of the first movie. Ronnie never got her abortion, and the movie starts with the delivery of her baby larva. First sign this movie'll bite: when it's so incredibly obvious that the Ronnie we find here isn't Geena Davis. No, this is some chick named Saffron Henderson, an actress who came from nothing and soon returned to that state. At least the filmmakers had the good taste to kill Ronnie on the operating room table so we didn't have to witness the embarrassment of her continued phony presence.
Indeed, the only character who returns from the original is John Getz' Stathis, who plays a pretty minor role in the proceedings (and who looks embarrassed to be there). Goldblum actually shows up in some videotape footage that I assume was from the earlier production; however, I can't say that for certain, since the material wasn't in the first film, so it's theoretically possible (though unlikely) that Goldblum did a few snippets specifically for The Fly II. The only certainty is that the Ronnie voice we hear is not Davis'; clearly it's someone else, presumably Henderson.
Anyway, now that I've gotten that housekeeping out of the way, I can address the nuts and bolts of the film itself. The Fly II follows the rapid development of Seth and Ronnie's son Martin (portrayed by Eric Stoltz as full-grown), a genius who's kept under scientific observation at Bartok, the company that bankrolled Seth's work. He quickly matures, meets a chick who looks an awful lot like dead old Mommy (Beth, played by Daphne Zuniga), and turns into a funky new critter who acts an awful lot like dead old
Daddy-fly. Nastiness ensues.
However, it's all pointless hysterics and violence, as this movie has nothing to say other than "time to make money for a new franchise!" Since The Fly II didn't perform very well at the box office, a series of movies was (happily) snuffed, but it's bad enough this clunker escaped the lab. In no way does it provide even a small fraction of the chills or drama of the first film. Instead, it replaces that movie's grand tragedy with an overripe case of the teenage blues, as the biggest annoyance Martin seems to feel is that he doesn't get enough privacy. From there he goes on a rampage, although things up end happily ever after.
For reasons unknown, special effects artist Chris Walas was hired to direct this film. Actually, I guess it makes budgetary sense, since he killed two birds with one stone, but unfortunately it leaves the movie with a leaden pace and no sense of style. This is nothing more than a cheap melodrama combined with elements of a bland thriller. We wait to see Martin turn into a fly and then we watch what happens - the end!
Absolutely nothing about the film makes it compare to the original. Every aspect of it seems bland and weak, from the limp acting - Stoltz can't carry Goldblum's mandibles - to the lackluster pace to the cheap theatrics of the climax. In place of Howard Shore's fantastic score, we find music from Christopher Young, a composer whose career is filled with mediocre films (and also includes another abysmal sequel, 1985's A Nightmare On Elm Street 2).
Frankly, The Fly II isn't the worst movie - or even sequel - I've seen, but it certainly represents a steep drop from the heights experienced by the original film. I found the picture bearable but not very enjoyable, especially coming right after my viewing of The Fly. If you decide to watch it for yourself, allow a significant amount of time to pass in between the two, as that's the only way you'll enjoy it in the least.
The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus D-
The Fly II appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like the film itself, this transfer wasn’t special, though the image wasn’t nearly as bad as the flick.
Much of the time the image seemed acceptably detailed and sharp, but a fair amount of softness could interfere at times. This happened more frequently during the first half of the movie than during the second. The latter portion appeared somewhat crisper, though it remained somewhat vaguely defined at times. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, but I saw moderate edge enhancement through the movie. As for print flaws, I saw occasional specks and bits of grit, but no periods of serious dirtiness took place.
Although The Fly II used a slightly more broad palette than its daddy, the colors looked less lively. For the most part, hues seemed acceptably accurate but they appeared a bit pale and drab. The colors weren't terrible but they did look bland. Black levels were also a bit wan and gray, and shadow detail presented a slightly heavy and flat appearance. Enough went right with this transfer to merit a “B-“, but don’t expect stellar visuals.
Another Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack came with The Fly II. The forward soundstage remained dominant, with a nicely active environment in the front channels. The audio integrated well and panned cleanly across the speakers. The rears offered more general support for the most part. These speakers provided reinforcement of the score and effects, but they occasionally kicked in with more active audio during the most dramatic scenes. It's a nicely enveloping track for its age.
Quality sounded consistently good. Dialogue occasionally came across as slightly flat, but speech usually seemed crisp and articulate, with no concerns related to intelligibility. Effects were bold and accurate and showed no signs of distortion. The score appeared smooth and bright, and the entire track kicked in some satisfying bass at appropriate moments. The mix provided a strong experience for a moderately old movie.
Less exciting are the DVD's supplements. They exactly duplicate those of the side with The Fly; we find the same six trailers contained there. I did notice one difference that shows evidence more care was put into the side with the original; those menus use a fly swatter as an icon, whereas for The Fly II chosen items just highlight with a lighter border to indicate they've been selected.
One odd thing about this package: on its package and on all of Fox's publicity materials for the set, it refers to the movie as The Fly 2. However, all of the original listings call it The Fly II. Clearly the latter is the correct title. I have no idea why this differs on the packaging.
Recommendation time, and this set causes me an unusual dilemma. We have a double feature DVD but only one of the films is worth your time. However, since the good movie is great, that makes the situation more complicated.
Although the letter of the law says differently, I'm afraid many others and I will regard this as one fine film with a sucky one as a bonus. I love The Fly and am very pleased to own it, although the transfer isn’t better than mediocre and it includes no extras. However, I have no continued interest in The Fly II. I watched it because I needed to do so for this review. Honestly, I'm sure I would have checked it out anyway, but its presence adds not one iota of "extra value" to this set; if anything, I resent its presence since it theoretically takes up space that Fly-related supplements could have occupied.
In the end, I do recommend this DVD, and not just as a rental; it's something that fans of the genre should own, I think. It’s worth it since The Fly is such a great movie. The presence of The Fly II means nothing to me, but I must admit that the double feature concept has some merit as long as not all of the titles are this lop-sided. In any case, fans of The Fly will want to bite the bullet and invest in this package; the movie is worth it.
To rate this film visit the Collector's Edition review of THE FLY