Enemy Mine (1985)
Enemy Mine (1985)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.

Release Date: December 20th, 1985 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Wolfgang Petersen Actors: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr., Brion James, Richard Marcus, Carolyn McCormick, Bumper Robinson

 


 

L

ate in the 21st century, the nations of Earth were finally at peace, productively focused on exploring and colonizing the distant reaches of space. Unfortunately, they were not alone. An alien race called the Dracs was claiming squatter’s rights to some of the richest worlds in the galaxy, turning space into a new battleground. Currently, Willis “Will” E. Davidge (Dennis Quaid) is at the forefront of the clash, waiting patiently at the only real home he’s ever known: a massive fortress hovering in the orbit of an outlying planet.

When a squadron of Drac starships, called “bandits,” attack the outpost station, Will leads a team of fighters to destroy them. Although the mission is a success, Will’s craft is hit and he’s forced to crash on a nearby volcanic planetoid. His copilot, Joey (Lance Kerwin), dies in the wreck, forcing Will to singlehandedly approach a similarly downed enemy vessel, itself containing a lone survivor. As Will makes his way toward the hostile opponent, hoping to mercilessly execute the pilot as an act of revenge, he slips on a rock and drops his gun. Eventually, night falls and a deluge sets in, prompting Will, armed only with a knife, to hatch a new plan to burn the “toadface” Drac, named Jeriba (Louis Gossett Jr.). But his overconfidence finds him instead seized and turned into a prisoner – one required to work with his captor to survive a lengthy ordeal in the harsh environment of the desolate rock.

It begins with a space battle, very much like something from a “Star Wars” movie (perhaps no coincidence, as the effects were done by Industrial Light and Magic), before assuming a rather timeworn yet fundamental sci-fi scenario: cooperating with an alien enemy to endure a shared affliction (a premise that would be notably used multiple times in television episodes of “Star Trek”). In the process, both sides learn something about the other, which results, inevitably, in an understanding and a humanization that morphs into a genuine partnership and friendship. As seen in so many tales of extraterrestrial warfare, the instigator and the defender, the species that started the armed conflict, and the real reasons for combat seem to blur when viewed from a fresh standpoint and with common goals amassed.

Since the reptilian Dracs are humanoid and sentient and psychologically complex (as opposed to the dronelike invaders of “Aliens” or “War of the Worlds” or “Independence Day”), “Enemy Mine” tackles the barriers of language, education, food, and even spiritual beliefs. Here, the biological differences in reproduction are also examined, lending to one of the major plot points that creates sympathy and further complications – such as the terrifying prospect of total isolation. And, like many of the spacebound creature-features of the ’70s and ’80s, there are additional antagonists to thwart, including – or perhaps especially – humans who are not so progressive in their attitudes.

It’s at once a survivalist thriller, a study of combatants in war, and a contemplation on differing modes of tutelage, as if a sci-fi take on “Dances with Wolves” or “The Last of the Mohicans.” And in its adventure, it occasionally resembles a prehistoric fantasy piece, like “One Million Years B.C.” or “The Land that Time Forgot,” even if action isn’t a primary concern. But on the technical front, the makeup effects aren’t exceptional, the starships are a bit clunky, and the designs of rodent fauna are stiff and uninspired. Plus, there’s a pointless narration that presides over much of the film, as if Will is reading from a journal – though he doesn’t take regular notes and merely recites events that either take place onscreen or are easy enough to assume. Still, the lighthearted nature of the project, with musings on such a wide array of sci-fi-tinged topics (most amusingly, those of identity and existence), makes “Enemy Mine” worth a watch, even if its story and ideas never become truly profound.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10