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The Fly II: Collector's Edition

David Cronenberg's remake of the 1958 horror favorite The Fly (1986) transformed a campy slice of sci-fi kitsch into a serious, terrifying, and heart-wrenching drama that stands on its own against great films of any genre. Makeup artist Chris Walas won a hard-earned Oscar for his exemplary efforts on Cronenberg's production and stepped up to direct a sequel so awkward and pointless that not even Walas' own makeup effects survive the overbearingly dull current of silliness running through the project. Cronenberg's The Fly ended with brilliant physicist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) a deformed victim of his own ambitions, mercifully killed by his pregnant lover, Veronica (Geena Davis), following a horrifying and tragic series of fatally flawed experiments in teleportation that resulted in the splicing of Seth's genetic and molecular structure with that of a common housefly. As The Fly II (1989) begins, Veronica (played by an actress of no discernible resemblance to Davis) dies screaming upon giving birth to a large, slimy pupa, leaving the human-looking baby who emerges to the captivity of Bartok Industries, the secretive corporate sponsor of Seth's experiments. Their offspring, Martin Brundle, grows at an accelerated rate, and by the age of five is a full-grown adult (played by Eric Stoltz) with an aptitude for science far surpassing that of the Bartok employees who raised him. Sensing Martin's growing restlessness, corporate figurehead Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson) invites the prodigy to finish his father's work. But just as Martin makes breakthroughs with his dad's teleportation experiments — as well as with his love affair with a low-level Bartok staffer (Daphne Zuniga) — he begins to mutate as the dormant insect genes inside him overcome his human cells, just in time to wreak super-insect revenge on the heartless and cynical capitalist Bartok and his cartoonily evil security guard.

Like most sequels to successful genre pictures, The Fly II is preoccupied with mimicking the memorable scenes of its forebears, and it has very few original ideas of its own. Worse, in every echo Walas flounders, rendering flatly and without distinction ideas that Cronenberg made darkly funny and/or deeply resonant. Of course, it's little surprise that a first-time director would fail in replicating the aesthetic mastery of peak Cronenberg, but Walas can't even contrive shoot his own make-up effects properly, lingering so long in admiration of his goop that his craft is artlessly exposed as icky, unconvincing puppetry. Compounding his technical weaknesses, Walas is a dud with actors, and each supporting actor struggles to rise even to the script's measly level of caricature. Rising young stars Stoltz and Zuniga are better than the rest, but beyond their limited personal charms their characters bear only protozoac levels of attraction or empathy. Also with Jon Getz, reprising his role from the first film. Fox presents The Fly II in a two-disc "Collector's Edition" with bonus materials suited for a better movie. The feature is presented in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and it includes a commentary by Walas and film historian Bob Burns. Also included are a "never-before-seen" and instantly forgettable alternate ending, plus one deleted scene. Featurettes include "The Fly Papers: The Buzz on Hollywood's Scariest Insect," which covers the entire The Fly series, "Transformations: Looking back at The Fly II," storyboard-to-film comparisons with optional commentary by Walas, a film production journal, a featurette about composer Christopher Young, an original featurette from 1989, photo galleries, and trailers. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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