David Cronenberg’s The Fly

Today I watched David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986)

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Seth Brundle is your typical Hollywood socially awkward scientist type with an ingenious invention he needs to show the world.  In his case, he has invented a functional teleportation machine, though he is still working out the kinks.  Around the same time he approaches reporter Veronica Quaife with his work, though he wants her to keep it private until he is sure it works.  They develop a romance but Brundle is a bit unsure in these matters and the emotions get the better of him, leading to Brindle teleporting himself without adequate testing.  Unfortunately because he teleported himself in an non-sterile environment, he has been genetically fused with a fly.  The change is subtle at first, and then over the top as he acquires Spider-Man-esque superpowers.  But through all of this it is obvious that something is wrong with him and soon his whole body is falling apart as it transforms into some horrid fly monster.

The Fly is one in a series of films that re-imagined B-movie type stories in contemporary and serious sc-fi style.  It’s a worthy pedigree, including such classics as Alien and The Thing.  Though not all of them are direct adaptations like The Fly, these films sought to elevate sci-fi film as a critically respected genre while also paying tribute too, and highlighting, the ideas and tropes of the past.  In that respect I find that The Fly is a bit of a disappointment as it’s themes, character, and delivery are equally as campy and dated as the source material.  This isn’t to say that The Fly is a bad movie, I quite enjoyed it, it’s just a very silly movie that I think is very difficult to take seriously, unlike the aforementioned peerage it is often held with.

I think what stands in the way of me taking this film as seriously as it seems to be asking is a failure to truly develop compelling characters.  While Jeff Goldblum’s performance is great, career defining even, Seth Brundle is, like I said at the top, a cliche.  It seems as though the human element is shoved to the side here in favour of more gore and rather pointless seeming talk of The Flesh, which reeks of Cronenberg trying to shoehorn in his own idiosyncrasies into a story that already has it’s own baked in themes.  There is an obvious tragedy here and taking a moment to rant about the new flesh is just a distraction from the main thrust of the story.

Of course that gore is legendary and this is an absolutely disgusting movie.  While there certainly is enjoyment to be had from Goldblum’s silliness, it is the viscera that really makes this a worthwhile movie.  These effects are almost too effective as they totally dominate the story, kicking any subtlety to the curb in their wake.  This is not a film for the squeamish that much is for sure, but while the effects are sure to impress, I think there are more effective ways of telling a story with gore.  Still, there are some legendary moments here, so I would certainly recommend it to the burgeoning gore hound who is still working through the classics.  4/5

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