Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Screenplay: Edward Khmara based on the novella by Barry Longyear
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Lou Gossett Jr, Brion James
Duration: 108 mins
BBFC Certification: 12
You know the old saying, never meet your heroes? This could also apply to films you loved as a kid. In the 80’s my friend’s dad owned a hardware shop, which like a lot of small businesses of the time, also rented VHS tapes. During the school holidays we were frequently allowed free reign to watch whatever film we wanted and our favourite genre was sci-fi. Our go to films, which we watched many times were Tron, Battle Beyond The Stars, The Last Starfighter and, yes, Enemy Mine. The last time I watched Enemy Mine must have been around 1989 or 1990 and when I heard it was being released on Blu-Ray for the first time, I was very excited to see it again. However, time has not been kind to it …
In the distant future, the plot follows a human pilot, Willis Davidge (Dennis Quaid) who also narrates the film. In his opening voice over he explains that as humankind explored further beyond our own solar system we have been at war with alien races for control of the frontier of space. A long and brutal war with the Dracs has been raging with no end in sight. During a dogfight with a Drac pilot, Davidge and the Drac both end up crashing on a hostile alien world. Davidge tracks down the crashed Drac ship with the intention of killing off his enemy, but they both soon realise that they will have to work together in order to survive. Over the coming months, Davidge and the Drac, who he renames Jerry, learn each other’s language and bond in terms of respect and religion. When Jerry dies during childbirth, Davidge is left to care for the child and school him. When the child is kidnapped by off world slavers, Davidge embarks on a rescue mission and to return him to his own planet.
Enemy Mine’s strengths are in the two leads, with excellent performances from Quaid and especially from Gossett Jr, who gives a heartfelt performance even under layers of prosthetics. The story is broken into three distinct acts, the first an allegory of US foreign policy, the second a brave (for the time) look at same sex couples entering into parenthood and the third a condemnation of the slave trade. And this is where the film fails, as you feel you are watching a film made by combining three different scripts. This is enforced by the clunky script with some hilarious dialogue at times. Apparently, there are two versions of Enemy Mine, as the studio were unhappy with the original version directed by Richard Longcraine, and hired Wolfgang Petersen to reshoot, making major changes to the original story. It would definitely be interesting to see this version, which I suspect could be far superior.
The Blu-Ray picture is an excellent 1080p transfer with good detail and strong colours, especially enhancing the matte paintings that bring to live the studio bound landscapes. Unfortunately, the dated special effects don’t fare so well in high definition.
In conclusion, I was largely disappointed in Enemy Mine some 30 years later and found it dull at times. Looking back, I’m surprised we enjoyed it so much as kids.
Eureka Entertainment is distributing Enemy Mine on Blu-ray. The only extras are the original trailer and a deleted scene.