Film Review: Enemy Mine (1985)

Release Date: December 12th, 1985 (Germany)
Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
Written by: Edward Khmara
Based on: Enemy Mine by Barry B. Longyear
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr., Bumper Robinosn, Brion James

Kings Road Entertainment, SLM Production Group, Twentieth Century Fox, 108 Minutes

Review:

“Uncle, what did my parent look like?” – Zammis, “Your parent looked like… my friend.” – Davidge

Enemy Mine was about ten years old when I discovered it late at night on cable. I probably saw it on TNT’s MonsterVision with Joe Bob Briggs, the greatest TV movie host of all-time. I immediately fell in love with the movie and watched it every time I came across it on television. Once I bought the DVD, years later, I recognized the cover art and realized it was something I used to see at video stores in my childhood. I probably never rented it in the ’80s because I didn’t know what it was and I probably assumed it was sub B-level schlock.

Over the years, I’ve grown to love the film even more and even though it has gained a cult following in spite of its awful theatrical performance, there are still a lot of people, even fans of ’80s science fiction, that haven’t heard of or seen the movie.

The plot is about two enemy pilots that are marooned on a planet together after a dogfight. One is a human, the other is an alien. Over the course of the story, they have to get past their mutual distrust of one another and learn to work together in order to survive. The film takes a drastic turn at the end of the second act, as the alien pilot dies while giving birth. The human then has to raise and protect the alien child, which becomes much more difficult when human scavengers show up and abduct the alien kid, forcing it to work in the mines with other enslaved aliens.

At first glance, this isn’t a movie that you expect will be an emotional journey. On the surface, it looks like it’ll be a non-comedic version of the Odd Couple in space. However, it tugs at the heart strings pretty hard and it’s impossible not to fall in love with both pilots, their bond and then, the child that comes into the life of Davidge, the human in the story. By the time the evil humans show up, you’re fully invested into these characters and the abduction of little Zammis is a real punch to the gut.

All in all, this is a fine motion picture. Being directed by Wolfgang Petersen, fresh off of The NeverEnding Story, this film has a similar style in its fantastical setting. It’s also made even more beautiful with the spectacular matte paintings used to create the sky and outer space. The whole film feels as if it takes place in a living painting.

I think that the practical effects are also amazing, especially in regards to the alien makeup and the dangerous sand creature that keeps trying to make the pilots its lunch.

Enemy Mine has found its audience over the decades since its release but even then, I don’t think that enough people know about it or have given it a shot. It’s one of the top sci-fi films in a decade that was littered with them. Plus, very few have ever been as emotional or had as much heart as this one.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: ’80s science fiction films.

Film Review: The NeverEnding Story (1984)

Release Date: April 6th, 1984 (West Germany)
Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
Written by: Wolfgang Petersen, Herman Weigel
Based on: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
Music by: Klaus Doldinger, Giorgio Moroder
Cast: Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach, Moses Gunn, Patricia Hayes, Sydney Bromley, Gerald McRaney, Deep Roy, Tilo Pruckner, Frank Welker, Alan Oppenheimer

Neue Constantin Film, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes

Review:

I really like Flashback Cinema and the fact that they bring beloved classics back to the big screen for modern audiences. I was especially excited to revisit The NeverEnding Story, as it was one of the first films I saw in the theater as a kid. I also must have watched it a few hundred times on VHS from the mid-1980s through the 1990s. I had planned to review this a few months back but when I got wind that it was on Flashback Cinema’s docket, I decided to wait and see it on the big screen again.

It was cool seeing this in a theater, over thirty years later, with a new generation of kids present. Unlike most family films I have seen in recent years, the children were quiet and pulled right into the film. It didn’t feel hokey or aged or like an ancient relic that couldn’t compete with the giant blockbusters of the 2010s. The audience was engaged and it was nice seeing parents genuinely happy that their kids connected to something that they once held dear.

That being said, The NeverEnding Story still plays really well. Sure, it has aged and the effects are outdated but the magic is still alive and strong in the picture and it rises above its limitations and still transcends the screen.

I wasn’t a great judge of an actor’s performance when I was a kid, as most kids aren’t, but the performances by the child cast are phenomenal. Noah Hathaway is beyond amazing as Atreyu, Barret Oliver made Bastian relatable to every kid and Tami Stronach, even with limited screen time, is sweet, elegant and perfect in the role of the Empress. It is rare that you can see one good child actor but this is a film that features three great performances by children, who I wish had done a lot more work after the film. They are the real force that makes the film work.

Moses Gunn, Deep Roy and Tilo Pruckner were all fantastic as well, even though each of them had little time to shine. Gunn’s stoic but serious presence added a legitimacy to the narrative. However, it was Thomas Hill’s Mr. Coreander that really takes the cake, as every line he delivered was perfect and chilling. It is great seeing him return in the sequel, even if that film doesn’t live up to this one.

The special effects are really well done for a German film that didn’t have the budget of bigger American movies. The creatures and their facial animatronics were superb, especially those used for Falcor the luck dragon and G’Mork the evil gigantic wolf. Most of the sets were well designed and accompanied by fabulous matte paintings for their backdrop. This was also a great time for matte paintings in cinema and this film features some of the best work in the pre-CGI era.

The success of this film lead to great things for director Wolfgang Petersen, who would go on to do many more English language films and find a permanent place in Hollywood. He had already got an Oscar nomination for Das Boot before this picture but it was The NeverEnding Story that gave him a career that allowed him to direct later films such as Enemy MineIn The Line of FireOutbreakAir Force OneThe Perfect Storm and Troy.

The NeverEnding Story is a family classic. It is one of the best fantasy films ever made and based off of my experience, seeing it in the theater in 2017, it is a timeless motion picture. Hopefully, later generations will also find the film and appreciate it like millions already have.