||The Fly II, starring Eric Stoltz:
Giant Mutant Flies Have Feelings Too.
While most of you are probably real familiar with The Fly, the classic sci-fi thriller starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, there's probably far less of who who've even heard of it's sequel, a movie that spent ten million dollars trying to come up with the most creative, edgy title ever - and very well succeeded: The Fly II.
Slammed by critics, the movie did pretty gosh darn awful in theaters. And granted, it's no masterpiece. But there's something about this one that really clicked for me - it's very much a direct sequel and totally with the continuity of it's predecessor, but I think it really carves it's own little niche quite well, and while I'm sure the Academy blacklisted Daphne Zuniga for life just for being a part of it, The Fly II succeeds where most horror/sci-fi sequels fail: it's it's own movie, not a shoddier version of the root film. It doesn't hurt that there's some pretty shameless gore and the type of characters so cliche to movies of this genre that they're welcome despite their redundancy. Whoa, what the hell was that last sentence? Let me rephrase all that: The Fly II manages to tell a pretty dumb story really well. And it has scenes featuring cops' heads exploding. What more do you want?
Since I don't feel the movie ever got it's just dues, I'm gonna go all out with this review and try to give you as much info as I can. My theory is that you're not going to see it no matter what I say, because it stars Eric Stoltz and on that merit alone I'm sure you're boycotting. So, hopefully, I can get the movie's story across through words and pictures just the same. Be forewarned - The Fly II gets a bit gory so chances are pretty good that if you're sitting down to read this one, you'll probably lose your appetite midway through. If you don't believe it, remember that Stoltz and Zuniga share a sex scene in it. You're not gonna be eating for a while.
Refreshingly, we pick up right where The Fly left off. Geena Davis' character, Ronnie, has of course been recast. If you'll remember, the first film left off with Ronnie carrying Flyboy Jeffy's baby, so now it's time for the big birth celebration. Because she's pregnant with the child of a giant fly, Ronnie's depending on Bartok Industries (and Mr. Bartok especially) to take good care of her. It doesn't take long for us to recognize Bartok as a villain character: he frowns a lot, and thus must be inherently evil.
I love the fact that they're continuing on with the same story instead of just making this one loosely based on the original. It definitely adds something, and makes us Fly fans a lot more interested in the movie than we have any right in being. Plus, you've gotta throw the producers some bonus points for opening up with a scene featuring a screaming crazy pregnant woman who looks positively nothing like Geena Davis giving birth to this:
Yep - cocoon baby. Ronnie dies immediately after seeing this, so she's out of the flick from here on out. Of course, Daddy died via shotgun blast in the first film, so poor little baby Martin is an orphan from the get-go. That's where Bartok comes in. His plan is to raise little Marty, no doubt with some evil, exploiting motives behind it. We'll get to that a bit later - for now, let's just bask in the glory of the FLY BABY COCOON.
The gore here is probably a lot more graphic that you're used to - no CGI effects were used, just lots of corn syrup and red dye. Lots of puss and blood and fleshy parts in abundance. Hooray for that, God forbid we go five minutes into the flick without having to projectile vomit anything we've eaten for the past week. The Fly II is the perfect diet - incidental bulimia.
The deal with Martin is that he suffers from one of his father's traits - accelerated growth. By the time he's just a few months old he looks to be a toddler. Making things more interesting is his brain - Martin, though a child, is at a genius level and runs circles around all of Bartok's hired scientists in the lab.
Bartok establishes himself as a faux father figure to Marty, gaining his trust. Martin has no idea that he's nothing but a guinea pig in Bartok's undetermined experiments. Constantly monitored, he doesn't see the light of day and spends all his time in the lab, not realizing that he's indeed a prisoner.
Martin takes a shine to one of the laboratory test dogs, and later stumbles into a secret sector where they're putting the dog in Brundle's old teleportation pods. (same ones from the last flick - they always mean trouble) Now I know what you're saying. How important could that one stupid dog possibly be? Remember, Martin doesn't really have any friends. The only people he sees are Bartok staffers who despise him. That dog's all he has. He's Flyboy's best friend. So when posed with the issue of making Martin more knowledgeable of the bad shit going down in this biz, the script writers chose the most accessible route: mutate the damn dog.
The scientists attempt to teleport the pup from one pod to the other, and they succeed in part. However, the dog ends up as a maniacal beast mutant who starts biting people's hands off the second he arrives. Martin, obviously, is at a loss for words. Well, almost all words, he manages to shit out one or two 'AHHHHHHHHHHHH!'s before crying hysterically like a sissy little flygirl.
All this nonsense so far sets up a few of the plot's main points, so let's sum 'em up for ya: Bartok is closely guarding Martin because he's the son of a guy who turned into a fly, and he's also working on his father's infamous teleportation pods. As far as Martin knows, the only disease he has is the accelerated growth deal. He's got no idea that he's destined to throw up on everything he tries to eat. Martin = Naive, brilliant, son of the Fly. Bartok = Evil corporate figurehead with equally evil intent. Golden Labrador = MUSHY PILE OF MUTANT DOG ACTION. Jeff Goldblum = Blessed with foresight for not signing on with this sequel. With the base points of the plot set in stone, we can happily move on and pray that someone starts buzzing around and eating people real soon.
At the tender age of five, Martin appears all grown up, now played by Eric Stoltz. His mind continues to bloom and his brain's become a powerful asset - Bartok gives him a home and hires him to do various technological weirdo crap at the lab. Martin's thrilled because he's the only five-year-old who can say that they personally own their own toilet. Bartok coyly promises Martin that his days of being closely monitored are over, and that he's an independent man free to carry out his deeds of his own volition. Bartok's lying, folks: the entire house is bugged (fly puns are number one) and secret agents are watching his every move with hidden cameras.
Bartok shows Marty the pods and insists that he finishes the work of his father. Martin agrees, thinking that he's helping modern science and the general Powers of Good. His job is to get organic, living matter teleported through the pods without disintegrating into mush. Though reluctant, Martin trusts his foster daddy well enough to sign on for the project. Besides, five-year-olds always gush when presented with the opportunity to fuck with massive electronics projects without getting yelled at. Really, how could he turn the offer down?
And then he meets Daphne Zuniga!!!
You'll remember Daphne as Princess Vespa from Spaceballs, but personally, my favorite Zuniga Moments came from her portrayal of Jo on Melrose Place. You know, the artsy New Yorker, clad in black, who moves to Hollywood for no reason and either has sex with or picks a war with everyone she meets, carrying an air of depression and anger everywhere she goes despite being the only cast member who nobody tried to murder repeatedly through use of bombs or hit-and-runs? That's Jo. Zuniga was the only person on Melrose Place ever who never had an intense sex scene. But she made up for it by buying Billy a coffee maker.
She also played one of Alex's old girlfriends on Family Ties. Acting resumes this impressive aren't surpassed until we enter the golden realm of tinsel town's biggest stars, like I dunno, Rhea Pearlman or someone. In this flick, she plays Beth Logan, an unassuming Bartok researcher who gets romantically linked with Martin. Girl don't even think about it - he's five-years-old for Christ's sake. AND HE'S A FRIGGIN' FLY ON THE INSIDE. No good could come from that relationship. But Beth dresses so poorly that a kid who hasn't seen the outside world in five years is probably her only shot at getting laid. They immediately fall for each other, gracing us with the most lovable movie couple since the Daniel Clamp/Marla Bloodstone Connection.
Marty shows off his pods, because when you've got a new girlfriend and you need to impress her, that's definitely something you should be doing. It's hard to tell if Beth is impressed or not because it seems that the person playing her isn't really Daphne Zuniga, it's a robot clone of Daphne Zuniga completely devoid of emotion. She also lisps worse than a gay hairdresser with his tongue cut off. Zunigga please.
So, remember that crazy mutant dog? Bartok promised Marty that they mercifully killed him after the experiment went wrong. But here he is, months later, being kept alive in torment for study. Martin is FURIOUS. Nobody keeps HIS dog alive without telling him. After a quiet moment of reflection, Martin goes downstairs and kills the thing himself. You'd be surprised at how effective this scene really was. You'd think it'd be hard to invoke emotion and pity from the audience over a stuffed dog puppet that looks more like a dead raccoon, but here it is and there I was, all misty over Martin's touching display of affection for his long lost pal right before he shoves a handkerchief full of ether up the thing's nose.
Say, wasn't this movie supposed to be about a big fly monster? It's possible that I missed those scenes due to being too entranced with Zuniga's strange pronunciation of her boyfriend's name: 'MART-TAIN.' Evidently, his fly parents were Frenchies who put pauses between the syllables.
Almost completely out of nowhere, the two of them start having wild monkey sex. It's pretty odd because the previous scenes didn't really make them all that romantic - Martin kept talking about Beth being 'his only friend,' so I guess even five-year-olds can become pretty adapt at pickup cons when they need to be. After seeing this, I'm real surprised that Zuniga never did the sex thang on Melrose - she can really go! Of course, while she's got the body movements down, she's making faces that indicate she was remembering the funniest jokes ever on Frasier the whole time.
Okay, I promise, the action's about to start picking up now. Just be patient - the climax scenes are worth the wait.
Martin uses one of the lab's supercomputers to try to figure out a cure to his weird disease. The only way he can kick it is if he gets a healthy human donor to go in the pods with him - but the human donor will become a mutated mess because of it. Scratch that!
PS, I think it's neat how the computer can draw up a graphic of a mutated human complete with squiggly skin lines. The Age of Technology is pretty stupid sometimes.
Beth is given a job transfer and told that she shouldn't have messed with Bartok's pet project. A greasy security guard hands her a videotape of her and Martin doing the nasty. When Martin hears the news, he freaks out and tears his place apart, finding the hidden cameras. He's pretty damn miffed about the whole thing - now the entire staff of Bartok Industries knows he has a mole shaped like a giraffe on his ass.
But, it's worse than that: Martin's disease is starting to kick in - his face and skin are beginning to mutate. Obviously, there's more to the story than mere age acceleration, and Martin realizes that he's been lied to about his true afflictions. Yes folks, we're starting to see those inherited fly traits shine through. His daddy would be proud if Geena Davis didn't blast his face off.
Now here's a cool scene - Martin stumbles onto a Bartok-library tape showing his father, in fly form, explaining what's happened to him. Obviously, Marty freaks out. All five-year-olds pretend to be an insect once in a while, but none of them want to end up looking like that. He and Beth narrowly escape capture by their former employers, and head off to find help.
Most of the reviews I've read slammed Eric Stoltz' portrayal in this role - but seriously, I don't see where the problem is. I mean it's not like he's working with a great Shakespearean tragedy here. It's the friggin Fly sequel. He should be commended for milking even the smallest IOTA of believability out of this thing. I think he did quite well - I ended up sympathizing with his character. I really wanted to use the word 'empathize' there, but I can't, because I've never had the pleasure of turning into a weird flyman. I never have any fun.
They seek help from Stathis Borans, who you should remember as Ronnie's horny old love interest from the first film who gets his hand and leg dissolved by Jeff Goldblum. Now a disgruntled alcohol, he's quite bitter over everything that's happened, and basically spends five minutes telling Martin that his father was a big stupid cocksucker before pitying him and handing the duo his car keys. John Getz reprised the role for this flick, and for the small part he had, he really made the most of it. He's a true Hollywood icon. If I'm not mistaken, he's also the same guy who nailed the 'ASS TO ASS!!!' line in Requiem For A Dream. Now we're talking starpower.
Marty and Beth check into a remote motel to hide from all the people chasing them. Martin's getting a lot worse now. This scene was used in the old commercials that promoted the film, and it scared me to death as a kid. (I was 10 when the movie came out) Martin starts acting all fly-like and talks smack to Beth, insisting that she leaves before he does something crazy - namely vomiting acid on her forehead.
Beth: You're getting worse!
Martin: I'm getting...better.
Beth: MART-TAIN you are not getting better, look at you!
Martin: So I'm not much to look at. I thought you serious chicks were only into our minds.
Beth: I love your mind Mart-tain...I'm just saying that you need a doctor.
Martin: Right. 'Hey Doc - I'm turning into a fly. Can you get me some codiene?'
Beth: Mart-tain, this is hardly the time to be cracking jokes.
Martin: That's where you're wrong. This is the perfect time for a good joke. Why'd the two monkeys fall out of the tree?
Beth: STOP IT YOU NEED SERIOUS HELP!
Martin: One was dead, and the other one was stapled to him! HAHA where's my cymbals?!
Martin is kidnapped again by Bartok's people as he gradually forms a cocoon around himself. So Bartok does the only logical thing - keep the pulsating giant fly cocoon locked in a room with one unarmed female scientist and absolutely no protection whatsoever. These villains really have serious organizational complexes. Of course, the cocoon hatches, and the new Fly quickly murders the Hell out of our idiot-in-peril.
From here on out, it's a gorefest with the Fly murdering everything in sight. Quick camera work hides the costume, which is pretty good but doesn't hold up well in the still pics used here. I guarantee you that it does come off a lot better in the live action flick. Martinfly goes around killing a few more Bartok associates - murdering everyone who's been lying to him since he was a kid and grooming him to be some colossal medical experiment. I'm leaving out the basic death scenes because they're not really worth detailing - but don't worry, I'll cover the good ones in just a moment. First, it's time to realize something about Martinfly that his father lacked:
Even in fly form, he's retained some of his humanity. He still loves little doggies.
Though I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a small part of me hoping that he'd eat the dog.
Okay, a big part of me.
Martinfly doesn't have the same amount of compassion for Bartok's people, though. There's two death scenes in particular that are gory as fuck and are worth detailing, so here they are, brace yourselves:
FLY II'S COOL DEATHS
1) Marty uses the ol' Fly Vomit™ to totally disintegrate a security guard's head. As if the vomit isn't disgusting enough, the dumb cop starts peeling off his flesh as if his dying wish was to be buried looking like Ghost Rider. It's pretty gross and since the only real gore was in the birth scene at the film's start, it totally catches you off guard and works real well. You know, if my vomit did that, I'd probably make it a point to throw up more often. It'd make getting rid of our used Pepsi bottles a lot easier. We could just throw up all over them instead of walking all the way outside to the recycle pails. Sure we'd have some holes on the floor from our supervomit, but really, who cares? We're human flies, there'd probably be piles of shit all over our apartment anyway.
2) Marty throws a security guard underneath a descending elevator, causing his head to explode under the weight. Well...we weren't expecting that, now were we? I like it when heads explode in movies - I think it should be a prerequisite before any movie can be released nationally that at least one head must explode in the first trimester of the flick. I'm serious - if they did it, then we'd never have a reason to gripe about wasted ticket money again. We'd always get our money's worth as long as someone's head explodes. I like to pretend that the cop here was played by Howard Hesseman because it sorta consummates a long-standing private dream of mine.
Martinfly drags Bartok into the pods, motioning for Beth to hit the switch. See where we're going here? Remember, with a healthy human donor, Martin will be zapped back to normal. Once Bartok sees the 'Gene Swapping Process' label on the computer screen, he starts freaking out, realizing that he'll no longer be such a looker.
Beth hesitates for a moment, because after all, Martin is a lunatic fly monster and it's not easy to trust him. Then again, Bartok videotaped her having sex and Hell hath no fury like a woman taped. She pushes the button, and just as extra security comes in with the intent of shooting our fly friend, the pods shoot lightning and the teleportation/gene splicing commences with fantastic results...
Bartok is transformed into the same type of mutant as the dog we saw earlier, while Martin reverts back to his human form. Beth throws aside all regard for her personal health and kisses him despite the boy being totally covered in disgusting drippy mutant flesh. It's a pretty happy ending, but I've gotta wonder: if the film went five more minutes, would we see all of the guards shoot these two for turning their boss into a Klingon? I guess we'll never know.
What we do know is that Bartok does live on - kept alive for studies, just as he kept Marty's poor dog alive. I love poetic justice. And I love flies! Amazingly enough, this is the closest thing we could possibly get to a happy ending, and if there was one thing I wasn't expecting out of Fly II, it's a feel-good experience. So kudos to them for the shock.
Overall: Rent this one, it's worth seeing. They've been selling both Fly movies together in low-priced sets recently, (you can find them anywhere, try any online video retailer) and it's a great way to check them out again without having to wait for the movies to show up on cable at 4:30 AM eighteen Tuesdays from now. As far as sequels go, this one is a cut above the rest. But even as a standalone, it's pretty cool in it's own right. Recommended.
Matt's Review of Clockstoppers: Click here.
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