The pre-production history of Enemy Mine is probably more interesting than the film itself. It started out as a Big “A” film and people like Spielberg turned it down etc. Terry Gilliam was offered it after the surprise American success of Time Bandits. However Gilliam turned it down to follow his dream of making Brazil which in turn elevated his project because studios were amazed Gilliam turned down such a “big film”. David Lynch was even offered it at one point probably in the midst of the fiasco that was Dune which Lynch basically refuses to even acknowledge its existence anymore.
Richard Loncraine who made his debut with the cult classic Slade in Flame was eventually hired. He also had some minor British hits under his belt with Brimstone and Treacle and The Missionary in the early ’80s. He would later go on to make the excellent adaptation of Richard III with Ian McKellen which is also out on Blu-Ray this week. However due to basically creative differences Loncraine was fired off the picture but Fox was already around $20,000,000 in the hole. They could have stopped the film and cut their losses or hire a new director, the choose the latter . They decided on Wolfgang Petersen who had a similar surprise fantasy hit with The NeverEnding Story the year before like Gilliam had with Time Bandits. Petersen had also already directed the epic Das Boot to much critical and commercial acclaim worldwide.
So onto the film itself, it’s basically a reimagining of John Boorman’s excellent Hell in the Pacific but instead of the pacific it’s set in space on the planet of Fryine IV. Dennis Quaid plays the pilot Willis Davidge who had been in a dog fight with the alien enemies Dracs and crash lands on the planet. He believes himself is alone until he encounters non other than a Drac and they eventually have to work together to survive and they teach each other their respective languages. However the Drac is genderless and can give birth and does eventually and Willis must help the baby survive and teach him.
The film is a time capsule of the lesser side of ’80s Science Fiction that reeks of too much studio interference. Obviously the fact a great majority of the film was reshot because Petersen was unhappy with Loncraine’s footage is evident on-screen but he does his best. The climax despite being relatively effective has the feeling it’s missing something and when you look into the production history a much longer ending was planned but was cut due to the increasing budget due to the reshooting of the film.
Dennis Quaid who can be an excellent actor with the right material gives it his all and for my money gives the superior performance. Louis Gossett Jr.’s performance as the Drac Jerry is a weird mixture of sounding like a caricature of an Afro carribean but speaking backwards Russian for the most part for the alien language. Which is funny given the basic and heavy-handed message of racial acceptable.
The visuals given the time is still a pre-CGI age so some lush beautiful matte paintings are on view. There are some certainly some dated animated laser beams which reak of a bad Cannon film. The makeup effects of the Dracs are disappointing because where the lips are there is a clear line where the mask fits on the actor’s head. This is never convincing enough to meld together with the actor’s own skin.
Overall Enemy Mine is an enjoyable bit of ’80s sci-fi fun which has an important message that does hit itself far too often on the viewer’s head. However one can wonder what would’ve happened if Gilliam or Lynch did end up directing the film. The disc includes the theatrical trailer and a deleted scene.