As sequels go, The Fly 2 is pretty good. It's got some great effects, some nifty moments, some characters you care about and a splendid central performance. It falls short of Cronenberg's version in a couple of departments, but hell - if I wanted to watch The Fly, I'd watch The Fly. There's enough here to be worth your time.
I really hate it when sequels offhandedly kill survivors of the previous film, but I guess it makes for a good scene. We get some great melodramatic delivery and the usual "WHAT IS IT, DOCTOR????" hospital birth scene that's traditional in films like this. The twist is that it's *not* a monster - instead it's our hero, a baby who'll grow up to be Martin Brundle. (I don't know how he came to get Seth Brundle's surname, but if 'twas the wish of Geena Davis's character then I think it's rather sweet.) Martin's life sucks, but it's gonna get worse.
The most effective fly imagery comes at the start of the film, oddly. Martin makes himself this google-eyed metal helmet that makes him look like a bug, and there's a weird moment where he attracts real flies in a glass tank on to his handprint. I don't know what the significance of that is, but it's creepy. Martin himself goes through four incarnations (two little boys, Eric Stoltz and a special effects monster) and they all do a great job. The child actors are fantastic, despite some odd dialogue for the ten-year-old that you'd expect to sink his performance without trace. Eric Stoltz is no Jeff Goldblum, but he gives a charming performance that conveys every aspect of this freakish, superintelligent, reclusive innocent. I particularly love his delivery of, "Will there be people?"
And then finally the big bug special effects are great, looking so much better than CGI that it's just not true. It doesn't look much like a fly, but it's wacky enough that you don't care.
The film falls down in two main areas. First is the story. Its first two acts tread fairly closely in the original's footsteps, giving us a probably doomed romance between a nice girl and a chap who's... well, he's not gonna become a gerbil. However the third act becomes a straightforward monster flick with the bad guys as victims. These sequences don't seem to know what they're trying to be; if we cared about the people getting pureed, this could be pretty effective and much scarier than anything in Cronenberg's original. However we don't. We want 'em dead, but the film seems to want us to side with them against the monster. (Well, certainly to be scared for them.) Maybe the director thought he was shooting a juicy "squish the baddies" sequence? That could have been fun too, but that's not what we get either.
The second problem is the girl. The Fly (1986) had Geena Davis. The Fly 2 (1989) has Daphne Zuniga. There's a reason why you've only heard of one of those names. Personally I was hoping Martin would fall for Dr Jainway instead, played by an actress called Ann Marie Lee whom I was wrongly convinced I'd seen in an Aliens movie. She was sexy! However Daphne Zuniga ain't; she's dead screen throughout, playing emotions rather than actions and never seeming like anything more than Token Girl. I kept wondering throughout where I'd seen her before; turns out she was Princess Vespa in Spaceballs. Looks like that was her career highlight. [After I first posted this review it was pointed out that she has a sizeable filmography, but it's not exactly full of classics.]
Cronenberg's Fly was a twisted romance with two of the best movie stars in the business. This sequel is a bit more of a hodge-podge and its actors, while often good, don't set the screen alight in the same way. Nevertheless there's a lot of fun to be had here, with a sequel that you're not ashamed to mention in the same breath as the original. And I don't think I've praised Eric Stoltz enough; that's a pretty good performance.