Chris Walas and producer Steven Charles-Jaffe
begged the marketing people not to use the line,
"Like father, like son," which they felt was corny,
but, as you can see, they flat-out ignored them.
At the main facility of Bartok Science Industries, the company that funded Seth Brundle's experiments, his lover, Veronica, gives birth to an insect-like larval sac before going into shock and dying. As the company's founder and CEO watches, the surgeons open the sac and pull out a seemingly normal baby boy. The child, whom the scientists name Martin, grows at an accelerated rate, looking like a five-year old when he's only eleven months and a ten-year old at only three years. He's also extremely intelligent, with a photographic memory that allows him to virtually consume information, and is befriended by Bartok, who asks him to think of him as his father. One day, while exploring the complex, Martin befriends a golden retriever being kept as a test animal but, when he goes to see him the next night, finds that he's been transferred to Bay 17. Martin sneaks onto an observation deck there, where it's revealed that the scientists have rebuilt his father's Telepods, and watches them use the dog as a teleportation subject. The teleportation itself is successful, but the process horribly mutates the dog, which attacks and seriously injures one of the scientists, a sight that traumatizes Martin. Two years later, Martin is now a young man, despite only being five years old, and is given his own private house on the property as well as a job: repairing the Telepods, which Bartok and his scientists still can't get to work properly. Despite being unsure about the proposition because of what happened to the dog, Martin decides to finish his father's work when he's shown his mother's video records of Seth's experiments and progress. As he begins to work, he meets and befriends Beth Logan, a company employee, and the two of them grow quite close as they work together on the Telepods. Martin, however, grows distrusting of Bartok when he learns that the mutated golden retriever, which he was told had died after the botched experiment, is still alive and being kept in a dungeon-like pen for study. After euthanizing the tortured animal, Martin reveals to Beth that he's perfected the Telepods and the two of them become lovers. However, an injury to his arm that he received earlier begins to look frighteningly mutated and Bartok is told that Martin's originally dormant fly chromosomes that he inherited from his father are now awakening. Martin learns from Beth, who's been discharged, that Bartok videotaped the two of them having sex in his home and, in a rage, tears the house apart, finding a hidden security camera. Upon breaking into the records room, Martin learns the truth about his father's mutation and is told by Bartok that he himself will soon become an insect-human hybrid, which Bartok plans to use, along with the Telepods, for a new age of genetic research. Martin, his metamorphosis beginning in earnest, escapes from the facility and, after going to Beth and telling her what's happening, the two of them become fugitives. Bartok sends his henchmen after them, needing Martin to be brought back as he's also the only one who knows the password to make the Telepods work, while Martin goes through a dramatic physical and mental change that may prove dangerous to everyone around him, including Beth.
While the previous film was basically David Cronenberg putting his own twisted spin on the basic plot and concept of George Langelaan's short story, The Fly II owes much more to the original movies, particularly Return of the Fly. Like that film, the story focuses on the son of the doomed scientist trying to carry on his father's work but eventually becoming a similar fly-creature like dear old dad. In addition, the movie's conception of being more of a typical monster movie following on the heels of a very thoughtful, sophisticated first film, is right in line with Return of the Fly, as is the fact that the new monster does kill people, unlike the first one, and the happy ending, where the son manages to cure himself of his mutation. Even the official trailer is similar to that movie's, with the opening being the sound of a fly buzzing and a narrator saying, "Listen. Do you hear (it)?" Surprisingly, the film, whether intentionally or not, incorporates some elements of Curse of the Fly as well, not the least of which is the fact that the main character is again named Martin and he, as in that film, takes injections to stave off a physical affliction he's inherited from a past generation (in this case, though, the medication turns out to have been a mere placebo to give him false hope). You also once again have the idea that the teleportation process causes mutations in the subjects, a problem the leads spend a good portion of the story trying to fix, and to me, the deformed creature that Bartok becomes at the end of the movie is very similar to the writhing mass of the flesh that the two mutants in Curse of the Fly became when they were teleported together. And in what could be a subtle reference to the original film, one of the teleportation subjects is a cat; although, fortunately, this cat, which is a cute little kitten Martin names Prometheus (make your own Ridley Scott joke there), has a lot more luck with it than Dandelo did.
Even though the movie is primarily meant to just be an entertaining monster movie, there are some deeper aspects to the story. One of the film's four writers (given that, it's a miracle that the movie is as coherent as it is) was an up and coming Frank Darabont, who had just wrote the screenplay for the 1988 version of The Blob with director Chuck Russell, and Chris Walas feels that he wrote Bartok as the absolute worst embodiment of corporate America. The idea of corporate science had been touched on a little bit by Cronenberg, with the notion that, even though Seth Brundle had created something that could change the world, possibly in a positive way, it would eventually be owned by Bartok Science Industries for them to do with it what they choose; here, that is what's happened. Bartok has had the two intact Telepods brought over to his main facility and is trying to get them working again. And sure enough, as you might expect, he has no intention of using it for the greater good of mankind. He tells Martin that it could mean a new age of surgery, one where cutting people open would become obsolete and outdated, but in reality, he plans to use Martin's eventual metamorphosis as the prototype for what he refers to as, "A new age of genetic research." Using the Telepods as the tool and Martin as an example of the potential, his intention is to create a venue of genetic manipulation for profit. In short, it's the absolute worst use possible for these amazing machines, worse than anything you could have imagined when Seth told Veronica the company would end up owning anything he invents.
This is the first score by Christopher Young that I ever heard (at least, the first one where I was actually aware of his name) and it remains one of my favorites of his. It's a completely different score from the one Howard Shore composed and, like the music for Return of the Fly, doesn't reuse any of the previous film's themes, but it's no less effective. I think that even people who don't care for the movie itself would have to agree that the music is one of its best aspects, because it's everything you'd want in a score for a monster movie like this: big, sweeping, and absolutely majestic, managing to capture the mood of each scene and moment brilliantly. At that time, Young was just coming off doing the music for the first two Hellraiser movies and you can definitely hear some crossover here but those scores are also awesome, so it's a nice crossover. As he himself mentions on the special features on the DVD, there are three main themes that hold the score together. The first, which you hear in all its glory during the opening and ending credits, is a loud, bombastic but also mournful and tragic-sounding theme that's meant to signify the mutation that Martin inherited from his father and the sad circumstances surrounding it. It comes up in a much quieter form whenever his condition is mentioned or alluded to, like when he's telling the dog about it or during the climax when Martinfly pets that security dog and when Beth comes face-to-face with him, getting across that Martin's consciousness is still in there, and it's used in other places for things that are related to his condition. You hear another loud, powerful version of it when the Telepods are first revealed in Bay 17 and when Martinfly drags Bartok into the Telepod at the end, as well as a solemn, lonely version during the scenes with the mutated dog, emphasizing how both he and Martin are victims of his father's work. The second theme has two distinct versions: the first is a plucking piece that plays when young Martin is exploring the Bartok facility and is meant to be childish and mischievous, and the second is a slow, more solemn-sounding string piece that you hear when Martin sees his father on the videotape. The third is a nice, gentle love theme for Martin and Beth, which you first hear when Martin asks Beth if she'd like to work with him on the Telepods and it reaches its full zenith when they have sex. Ironically, it's the piece that reminds me the most of Young's Hellraiser score, but that's meant as a compliment, because that score is quite beautiful in places. After those three main themes, you have music that's meant to be either eerie, like this quiet little piece you hear when Martin realizes that what's happening to his arm is more than just an infection, ominous, like the string piece when Martin learns that Bartok has been lying to him his whole life and also learns the truth about his father, percussive and driving, like when Martinfly is stomping his way towards Bay 17, dragging Shepard's body, or just downright scary, as is most of the music during the third act. Narrative-wise, the score ends with a piece that starts off bombastic but grows quiet and eerie when the Bartok Beast is revealed in the pit at the end, alluding to the payback he's been dealt. Bottom line, it's a great score, and one you should like, even if you don't care for the movie itself.
I'll admit, there are a number of country songs that I do like (when you grow up in Tennessee, you kind of have to like country), but I don't care at all for k.d. lang's Lock, Stock and Teardrops, which plays during the montage of Martin and Beth working together on the Telepods and becoming closer as a result. I don't know whose decision it was to put that there but, in a movie that has a very powerful, orchestral score, it's quite jarring and doesn't fit to suddenly go into a country song, one whose lyrics don't even match what they're accompanying, I might add. Yeah, you still heard the Help Me song in the Cronenberg film after he decided it didn't fit with the tone of the rest of the music but at least it was in the background and not overbearing like this. And are they supposed to be listening to the song, like when Martin has the headphones on at one point? I could at least deal with that but, again, suddenly hearing a country song in this kind of movie does not work at all. According to the soundtrack listing, there's another song in here by Wall Street called Deep Inside Your Love but it must have been playing in the background of the office party scene, because I don't remember it all.
As far as what the future holds, for a while it seemed like David Cronenberg was actually going to return with a very unusual sequel to his own film. It was a surprising notion, since he never does sequels to his own movies, feeling that they're all self-contained stories, but I guess after he and Howard Shore created that operatic version of the film, he was open to going back to it. He said he actually came up with this idea back when Mel Brooks was first thinking about a sequel but Brooks turned it down because he felt it was too much of a departure. As to what the story for the film would have been, Cronenberg was vague, describing it in a 2012 interview with Indiewire as, "A meditation on fly-ness. None of the same characters or anything and, of course, with an understanding of modern technology." God knows what that means but, since it's Cronenberg, I'm pretty sure it would have at least been interesting (I said, "Pretty sure," because I hated Cosmopolis). But, for various reasons, mainly due to budget problems, it never happened. There have been other attempts to do another film version of George Langelaan's story, like an aborted Todd Lincoln film in the early to mid-2000's, but nothing has come of it and, really, I don't think we need any more Fly movies. You're never going to be able to top the original or Cronenberg's film, so I think this is one franchise that you should definitely be laid to rest. But, we shall see what we shall see.