As a budding film critic, people often ask me for recommendations as to which movies they should see. Actually, that’s an outright lie. But, for the next little while, any person who asks me to suggest a great movie to them, I will tell them to watch The Fly. So, if you’re reading this, don’t ask me until you’ve watched this movie.
And what isn’t there to like? First off, there’s a straightforward, but still insanely compelling story. A scientist, Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), meets an attractive female reporter, Veronica (Geena Davis), at a convention, and brings her home to show off his invention: a device which can transport materials from one module to another. Thinking he’s simply showing a pretty girl a good time, it doesn’t occur to him that she, as a journalist, might want to break the news of his device to the entire world. When the proposed story is met with doubt, bordering on ridicule, by her boss, Veronica accepts Seth’s offer that she help him complete his experiments, and in exchange, she can write a book about the experience. Their partnership develops, through attraction into a relationship. One day, when Veronica is off severing ties with an old flame, Seth becomes jealous, and, combining alcohol, jealousy, and scientific bravado, decides to try to teleport himself. It goes smoothly, except for the housefly that, unbeknownst to Seth, is inside the pod with him. When he arrives on the other side, the fly is nowhere to be seen. The rest of the movies deals with Seth’s transformation, as his body tries to reconcile the insect DNA that now makes up half of his genetic code.
Fuelling this incredible story is Jeff Goldblum. Seth Brudel is more than likely a genius, but he’s humble enough to consider himself more of an amalgamator, outsourcing the particular mechanics of his invention to other, more technically-inclined specialists. In this humility, as well as in his initial naivete in bringing Veronica to his lab, Seth is shown to, by no means be a bad guy. He’s curious, intelligent, and socially disinclined, making him lovable. This, in turn, makes his transformation, and its destruction of the person he was, all the more tragic.
Veronica is also quite worthy of our sympathy. Davis plays her as a woman who knows enough of the world to appreciate and see value in Seth’s untainted childlike vision. She seems to be holding his hand through their relationship, but through it, is able to rekindle her belief in the existence of a good man. So, it is not impossible to conceive that, even through his reconstruction, Veronica tries to continue to offer her support and love to him. She isn’t stupid, however, and is aware that, if things go too far, she will have to sever ties with Seth. On the other hand, her endurance and triumph over repulsion speaks greatly to the strength of her character.
Visually, the film is incredible. 25 years later, the prop effects and make-up are still disturbing and difficult to watch. Since late last year, there has been some talk of David Cronenberg writing and directing a remake of this, his own, movie, with most of the reason being for the opportunity to update the visual effects. There is absolutely no need, as the practical effects of this movie, ground it in reality, leaving the audience desperately grasping for any remaining shreds of humanity within Brundle.
Overall, this movie is simply an incredible experience. It’s touching, terrifying, intriguing, and disturbing. It asks big questions about the dangers of technology, the nature of humanity, and the awesomeness of Jeff Goldblum.