ENEMY MINE. Great science fiction movie from the VHS era

The 21st century. The human race explores and conquers new planets in the universe. However, it is not alone. It has to fight for dominance in space against the hostile Drac race.


17 December 2023

ENEMY MINE. Great science fiction movie from VHS era

A war is raging between Earthlings and the Dracs – humanoid aliens nicknamed “lizards” by humans. During one of the battles, an Earth spaceship is damaged, and pilot Willis Davidge (Dennis Quaid) crash-lands on the planet Fyrine IV. Unfriendly living conditions, difficulties in obtaining food, adverse weather phenomena, and meteor showers are not the only concerns for the Earthling. Another spaceship crashes on the planet, carrying Shigan (Louis Gossett Jr.), a Drac representative. Fyrine IV turns out to be too small for the members of these mutually hostile civilizations.

In such a situation, what can the protagonists of Enemy Mine do? Engage in battle or try to live together and wait for rescue from another planet? Petersen shows how challenging this choice is. They are divided by everything—race, language, customs. Ironically, the only seemingly common goal of both pilots appears to be the same: to destroy the enemy. Although, as we later discover, the Drac race is not a colonizer conquering alien planets. And the Earthlings are not as pristine as they initially seem. Without revealing too much, I can say that a friendship blossoms between the characters, despite many adversities. What divides them ceases to be a problem, and together they try to survive on Fyrine IV.

Enemy Mine Dennis Quaid Louis Gossett Jr.

It usually chooses its themes from the vision of the future world, time travel, technological development, and its consequences. The film that initiated this genre is often mentioned as A Trip to the Moon, directed by Georges Méliès, a silent French film created in 1902. Petersen’s film was made in 1985. By then, the world had seen films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars (1977), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, and many other cinema successes. Compared to them, Enemy Mine was not warmly received by the audience. I don’t fully understand why. Of course, the special effects leave something to be desired, but I think the possibilities provided by technology in 1985 were well utilized. Besides, this film is not about the effects. It’s more about friendship seemingly against logic, even against the prevailing law—after all, there’s a war between civilizations. What happens in space is not the most important; not the accuracy and realistic appearance of spaceships, not the spectacular shootouts and chases, but what unfolds on the planet Fyrine IV should capture the viewer’s attention. And a lot happens there.

Enemy Mine Dennis Quaid Louis Gossett Jr.

The Drac race does not distinguish between females and males. Here, everyone is hermaphroditic. So when Shigan tells Willis that he is expecting offspring, Willis is very surprised, alternately disbelieving and laughing at his friend. The viewer may also feel strange, especially if they watched this film in 1985. Moreover, Shigan, theoretically devoid of male or female characteristics, resembles a man. Despite a very strong facial characterization, it’s easy to see that a man, not a woman, is playing the role. The childbirth scene, where the viewer observes a male individual, can evoke ambivalent feelings.

I know it’s difficult to change an actor’s appearance to the point where they are unrecognizable, and the viewer has no idea who is behind the mask. But that’s where I would see certain “shortcomings” in the director’s characterization. A kind of experiment in which the viewer is unable to recognize the actor—taken even further than in Enemy Mine—would be very interesting.

Enemy Mine Dennis Quaid Louis Gossett Jr.

I have no objections to the performances of the leading actors. Both Dennis Quaid (gained popularity for his role in The Right Stuff) and Louis Gossett Jr. (Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor in An Officer and a Gentleman) created very interesting characters. They convincingly portrayed the initial mutual hostility and the complexity of the situation in which the characters found themselves. It’s easy to see how much effort and tolerance their life together costs.

If I were to describe Enemy Mine in a few words, I would say: It is a film about friendship. About its birth, flourishing, about the sacrifices and renunciations it is capable of. Petersen excellently captured this process, making it more challenging by choosing representatives of hostile races as his protagonists. The aspect of friendship is the highlight of the entire film.

Words: Anna Niziurska



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