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(GUEST REVIEW) The Fly II (1989): Collector's Edition (RECOMMENDED) (1 Viewer)

Greg K

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THE FLY II: COLLECTOR'S EDITION

Studio: 20th Century Fox
Film Year: 1989

U.S. Rating: R

Film Length: 105 minutes
Genre: Science-Fiction/Horror

Aspect Ratio:

1.85:1 enhanced widescreen
Color/B&W: Color

Audio:

English DTS 5.1 Surround

English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround

French Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo

Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned: Yes

SRP: USD $19.98


Release Date: October 4, 2005.

Film Rating: * 1/2 out of *****

Starring: Eric Stoltz (Martin Brundle), Daphne Zuniga (Beth Logan), Lee Richardson (Anton Bartok)

Written by: Mick Garris (story, screenplay), Jim Wheat (screenplay), Ken Wheat (screenplay) and
Frank Darabont (screenplay). Based on characters created by George Langelaan.

Directed by: Chris Walas


LIKE FATHER. LIKE SON.


Greetings! Sorry for the late review, but my screeners arrived late, and I've had to juggle working on this with leading some kind of normal life. Anyway, after putting up with years of begging and pleading, Fox Home Entertainment finally whipped up an excellent, 2-disc Collector's Edition DVD release of David Cronenberg's modern sci-fi/horror masterpiece, The Fly (1986). You can see the official HTF review here: http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htfo...readid=241919.

Imagine my surprise when I heard that the sequel would also be getting the Collector's Edition treatment. I managed to convince HTF to let me do a guest review of The Fly II (although I really, really, wanted to review the first film, too).


For those who don't know, The Fly (1986) was a remake of the 1958 shocker of the same name. In Cronenberg's film, eccentric scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) developed a working teleportation system, but gradually mutated into a hideous amalgam of man and insect when he failed to notice a common housefly in the telepod with him when he tested the teleporter on himself. By the film's end, the totally transformed scientist asked his journalist lover, Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis), to put him out of his misery (and so she did). However, Veronica had previously learned that she was pregnant with Brundle's child, and she wasn't sure if the baby was fathered before or after Brundle's teleportation mishap.

First off, a little history. After the smashing success of Cronenberg's The Fly in the summer of 1986, a sequel was inevitable (especially since the deletion of that film's epilogue left the issue of Veronica's pregnancy unresolved). David Cronenberg was asked to participate, but he was already committed to Dead Ringers (1988). Eventually, Chris Walas, the head of Chris Walas, Inc. (the FX company that won the Best Makeup Oscar for The Fly's shocking effects in 1987), was chosen to direct. A small army of writers worked on the script, including Mick Garris (who left the project because of creative arguments with Fox) and Frank Darabont. The studio had initially wanted a remake of the Cronenberg's remake, with more emphasis on the love story that was so integral to the first film's success, and less emphasis on the gory special effects. First-time director Walas tried to quit the picture out of frustration at one point, but eventually resolved to hold the project together and turn it into something presentable. The final film is remarkably consistent considering Walas' lack of experience and the patchwork nature of the story. The film is also something of a remake of The Return of The Fly (1959), the sequel to the original 1958 film.

(SOME SPOILERS AHEAD)

The Fly II begins several months after the end of the first film. Veronica Quaife (Saffron Henderson, subbing for Geena Davis, who wisely declined to return for the sequel) has been convinced to carry Seth Brundle's child to term by evil industrialist Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson), head of Bartok Industries (the company that funded Seth Brundle's experiments in the first film). Inside the massive Bartok research complex, Ronnie screams and dies as she gives birth to a slimy larval sac, which splits open to reveal a seemingly human baby.

The orphaned child, named Martin Brundle, lives under constant survellance and scientific scrutiny at the Bartok compound. Although he seems normal enough at first glance, young Martin has a genius-level intellect, incredible reflexes, and, due to a chromosomal malfunction, is maturing five physical years for every one chronological year. Thus, by age five, he's physically in his 20s (and is played by Eric Stoltz). However, Bartok has told Martin that he suffers only from a rare accelerated aging disorder, and that Martin's father did, as well, which is far from the truth.

Meanwhile, Bartok and his people have been trying to get Seth Brundle's telepods to work correctly over the past five years, but to no avail. On his fifth brithday, Martin is offered the chance to finish the work of the father he never knew by correcting the flaw in the telepods (which horribly mutated a laboratory dog Martin had befriended two years prior). After seeing a videotape of a hale and hearty Seth Brundle, glowing in the initial aftermath of his fateful teleportation (nice use of a deleted scene from the first film), Martin agrees, and eventually gets the telepods working correctly.

While looking for some organic matter to use as a test subject, Martin meets night-shift computer programmer Beth Logan (Daphne Zuniga). The two gradually begin to fall in love, but soon after, Martin begins to exhibit some unusual symptoms. Subsequently, Martin learns the truth about his father, and, feeling horribly betrayed by Bartok, he flees with Beth. They visit Stathis Borans in an attempt to learn more about Seth Brundle (John Getz's delightful cameo is a sad reminder of how good the first film was, especially compared to the sequel). However, Martin's genetic heritage is catching up with him at an incredible rate, and he's beginning to mutate into a new being, an insect-human hybrid possessed of incredible strength and power, fueled by a burning desire for revenge against those who wronged him.



Compared to Cronenberg's film, The Fly II is an utter disaster, a pale imitation that that ranks up there with the worst kind of sequel. Not only does it mistreat the survivors from the first film (Ronnie is killed off in the opening scene, and Stathis Borans has become a reclusive drunk), but it's also very much a remake of a remake in that it echoes the previous film's narrative structure (Boy meets girl. Girl helps Boy in perfecting teleporter. Boy turns into Bug. Girl screams. Bug attempts cure via teleportation-combination.). The only truly new element in the film is the notion of the dangers of corporate science and genetic engineering, as personified by the power-mad Bartok. Still, the plot is clunky, the supporting characters are totally one-dimensional (and, many would say, so are the main characters), and the science is incredibly weak (Martin's gene-swapping program suffers from this, in particular).

The story feels very much like the work of people who didn't really understand the nature of the first film, and the basic premise of the sequel amounts to "Hey! What if the company Seth Brundle worked for, which was mentioned only in passing in the first film, is evil, and they want to exploit his son? Neat, huh?". There are also several continuity errors between films, such as the fact that telepods suddenly don't work correctly in the sequel. The most blatant error is the second videotape of Seth Brundle, in which he explains his accidental fusion with the fly. Although this is indeed a scene from the first film, that conversation between Seth and Veronica Quaife was never actually videotaped. The only way Bartok could have that moment on film is if his people went to the local video store and rented the first film!

Certainly, one of the most impressive elements of The Fly II would be the gory creature and makeup effects, but even these are marred by the audience's lack of emotional invesment in the characters and the story. Whereas the first film used such effects for specific dramatic and thematic purposes (and to emotionally devastating effect), this film basically turns into a rip-off of the Alien films, with a bunch of gun-wielding Bartok security guards running around dark corridors, hunting the monster that's hunting them. Still, there are two gory moments that are quite memorable (and which I won't spoil if you've not seen the film). One involves the "vomit-drop" effect from the first film, and the other involves an elevator.

However, if you're able to set aside the comparisons with the first film for a moment, you might actually enjoy the film as the B-level monster movie Chris Walas intended it to be. Yes, The Fly II is still a bad film, but it does deliver on that schlock-horror promise. As a result, it's a "bad" movie that's grown on me quite a bit. It's actually quite enjoyable if one wants to experience some of the gore and thrills of the first film without being emotionally drained or intellectually stimulated.

All in all, The Fly II is a vastly inferior follow-up to a truly landmark genre film. Still, if you want to see a fun little monster movie that entertains on a very simplistic level, or just can't help but wonder how the first film was followed up, then you should check it out.


PACKAGING:

The DVDs come in a black plastic keepcase inside a cardboard slipcase. The cover art (a rather uninspired close-up of a fly feeding) is duplicated on both outer and inner covers. The rear cover art of the keepcase is slightly different than the slipcase, featuring a few photos from the film. An insert with chapter breaks, photos, and a text excerpt from the film's original press kit are included.


MENUS:

The menus are very similar in style to those that appear on The Fly: Collector's Edition's discs. A buzzing fly can be seen (and heard) over the FBI warning screen. On Disc 1, the main menu is a CG-rendered motion menu, finally settling in front of the telepods inside Bay 17 (although the modelers got some of the pod details wrong). The fly buzzes aropund, occasionally landing in front of the viewer. The sceond disc's main menu is based on the specimen pit at Bartok Industries, with the CG fly continuing to buzz around. The other menu screens are still images from the film featuring various locations at the Bartok Industries complex.

The film is broken up into 24 chapters, and the chapter breaks are the same as the ones on the 2000 Fly/Fly II disc.



VIDEO: **** out of *****

The Fly II is presented in its 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio and is anamorpically enhanced. Interestingly, the image quality seems a step or two above the transfer used on the previous Fly/Fly II Double Feature disc from 2000. The picture is crisper and the colors are far more vibrant (something that is also noted on the DVD's audio commentary track). It's highly unlikely this is a new transfer (Cronenberg's film didn't get one, so why should the sequel?). Perhaps the higher bitrate has something to do with it. Anyway, the film has never looked as good as it does here. Sure, there's some visible grain and other specks and spots, but overall, the image is superb.



AUDIO: **** out of *****

The film is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, French Stereo (both of which are the same as the previous Fly/Fly II disc), and new Spanish Dolby Surround and DTS 5.1 Surround tracks. There's also the commentary by director Chris Walas & Bob Burns, which we'll get to shortly. The audio is crisp and clear all around for each audio track, and the DTS track is a nice bonus for those who can really enjoy it.

Oh, and the subtitles options are English and Spanish, same as the previous release.


SPECIAL FEATURES: *** out of *****

Disc 1:

Commentary By Director Chris Walas & Film Historian/Archivist Bob Burns:

This is a fun commentary by director Walas and Bob Burns (who appears in the "Brundle Museum of Natural History" and "Aliens in the Basement" featurettes for The Fly: Collector's Edition and Alien Quadrilogy DVD sets, respectively), although it tends to focus more on technical aspects of the film than any kind of attempt to provide a deeper understanding of the characters and the story (compare that to Cronenberg's commentary for The Fly" Collector's Edition). Still, there are some interesting tidbits that are revealed, such as the fact that Walas and crew dug a Brundlefly puppet from the first film out of storage to film another videotape of his father that Martin sees (the scene doesn't appear in the final cut of The Fly II, although it is in the script, which I've read). All in all, Walas and Burns are a lot of fun to listen to, although the fact that, two-thirds into the film, they digress into other topics of conversation (such as how they met, and their feelings on the evolution of monster movies), is very telling in regards to how much there is to say about the film. Only near the end do they pick up with scene-specific talk again.


Deleted Scene: Stopping For Food:

This is a scene I'd read about in Cinefex magazine, and it's nice to see it here, although it certainly wouldn't work in the context of the film itself. Lasting under two minutes and taking place during the trip to Stathis Borans' home, Martin and Beth stop for fast food, where Martin's increasingly bizarre appearance is mocked by a group of kids. Martin promptly responds in a very fly-like manner.


Alternate Ending:

This ending (which Chris Walas strongly lobbied against) runs about a minute, and is a blatant "happy" ending featuring Martin and Beth that was insisted on by the studio.


Trailers:

Included are trailers for The Fly (1986), The Fly (1958), Return Of The Fly (1959), Alien, and The Omen. There's also a menu featuring "If You Liked This Movie, You May Want To Try..." titles, which consist of the Alien and Predator films.


Disc 2:

Documentaries:

Transformations: Looking Back At The Fly II:

This retrospective, which runs just under 50 minutes, features recollections by Chris Walas, producer Steven-Charles Jaffe, and composer Christopher Young on the entire production, from pre-production to release. This is quite an interesting little documentary, and allows one to get a good sense of the problems Chris Walas had to deal with in making the film (and his thoughts about the film).


"The Fly" Papers: The Buzz On Hollywood's Scariest Insect:

This hour-long documentary, which was originally produced for the American Movie Classics channel in 2000, is narrated by Leonard Nimoy and traces the history of all five Fly films (The Fly, Return of the Fly, Curse of the Fly, Cronenberg's 1986 remake of The Fly, and The Fly II). It features a mix of vintage interviews (with key players such as Vincent Price, Jeff Goldblum, and David Cronenberg) and interviews that were newly conducted for the documentary (including Chris Walas and Al/David Hedison). This is an excellent piece that provides lots of information for people who have never seen the Fly films, and it actually runs about 10 minutes longer than the version I'd seen on AMC (which was presumably edited down to 50 or so minutes to make room for commercials). This is probably the most worth-while feature in the set, and even if you hate The Fly II (but like the other Fly films), I'd recommend you buy the DVD for this documentary alone.


Featurettes:

1989 Theatrical EPK:

This is the Electronic Press Kit promotional featurette produced for the film in 1989, running under 5 minutes. It consists of interviews with the film's key players and clips from the film. The featurette's narration is very difficult to hear over the audio from the film clips that are played, though this is almost certainly due to the nature of the featurette, and is not likely the fault of the DVD's production team.


CWI Video Production Journal:

This is a nifty featurette which shows behind-the-scenes test footage of the film's various creature effects, from Ronnie's pulsating belly to the mutated dog to the various "Martinfly" puppets. Each segment is introduced by a newly-produced text screen explaining the nature of each rig. Any fan of the film's creature effects (or creature effects in general) will enjoy seeing this rare test footage.


Composer's Master Class: Christopher Young:

This is a great little interview with Fly II composer Christopher Young that runs about 13 minutes. The film's gothic horror-sytle score is actually quite good (enough so that I took the plunge and acquired the film's soundtrack CD a while back), and it's nice to hear it discussed by the man who created it. Young discusses his involvement with the film, and then moves on to the film's specific musical themes.


Storyboards:

This is a small still-frame gallery of storyboards for several scenes from the film.


Storyboard-To-Film Comparisons (with optional commentary by Chris Walas:

These featurettes (Opening Sequence, Bartok, and Ending) feature storyboards from the film playing above the appropriate film clip. Some notable changes were made between storyboards and filming. Note that some storyboarded sequences that are featured here do not appear in the "Storyboards" section elsewhere on the DVD.

When one chooses the commentary option, Chris Walas discusses how and why certain elements changed between storyboards and filming.



Still Galleries:

Production Photos:

This is a nice little gallery of photos that move from the beginning of the film to the end, mixing in publicity and behind-the-scenes photos.


Art Of The Fly II:

This is a gallery that features behind-the-scenes photos of the film's creature effects under testing and construction, as well as maquettes and prototypes.



CONCLUSION:

The Fly II is considered by many to be a wretched, mutated copy of the first film that one would expect to emerge from the receiving end of a telepod rather than the original, genuine article. Still, this DVD release does the film and it's very small group of closeted fans justice, and DVD producer Paul Prishman should be proud. Overall, if you have even a marginal interest in the film, it's definitely worth a look. The presentation far exceeds what many feel the film deserves by treating the film and the filmmakers with respect, and that's what makes this DVD release worthwhile.
 

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