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
“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.
Pairs well with: ’80s science fiction films.