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  Enemy Mine You've Got A Friend In Me
Year: 1985
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr, Brion James, Richard Marcus, Carolyn McCormick, Bumper Robinson, Jim Mapp, Lance Kerwin, Scott Kraft, Lou Michaels, Andy Geer, Henry Stolow, Herb Andress
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the 22nd Century mankind stopped fighting amongst themselves, managing to eradicate war on Earth and concentrate on exploring the heavens as they moved out to colonise space. But when they did they found a new foe to combat, the Dracs, a reptilian race which disputed the Earthlings' claim to various lucrative worlds and trade routes, leading to war between the two races. One of the human fighter pilots was Davidge (Dennis Quaid) who enthusiastically embraced the idea of shooting down the Dracs, but then he went too far in pursuing one of their ships...

Enemy Mine had a famously troubled production which involved the whole film being reshot by German director Wolfgang Petersen, and there are still those who wonder what the original had been like. Nevertheless, there were others who took this story, essentially a sci-fi version of John Boorman's Hell in the Pacific, to their hearts, mainly those well-disposed towards the space genre in the first place and could respond to its allegory of striking a peaceful balance between cultures and races, or both. The trouble was, almost everyone else saw it as a creaky item of would-be relevant, but actually achingly contrived message-making.

So while Quaid and his co-star Louis Gossett Jr emoted in blasted landscapes to bring humanity together with the power of love, the more sceptical wished they had made it look a lot less like second rate episode of Star Trek. You could envisage William Shatner doing his best with this script in full on Captain Kirk mode, meaning he could preach all that brotherly love business while still getting to solve his problems with good old-fashioned violence by the final act, which was pretty much how Davidge behaves here. Add a hefty sprinkling of corn, and serve to the public, albeit those who could stomach such tough guy sentimentality.

Gossett had the added handicap of labouring under complex makeup appliances, and doing a funny voice into the bargain, all the better to emphasise the alien qualities of his character who actually comes across as, well, an American actor slathered in latex. He's called Jerry by Davidge once they crashland on the harsh conditions of a nearby planet after they get into a skirmish with their spacecraft; they start off as antagonists and wind up as firm friends thanks to having to rely on each other for survival. If the way this plays out is deadening in its predictability, at least the script threw in a little surprise in what Jerry has underneath that uniform of his.

Yup, it got mighty lonely out there for months on end without hope of rescue, and before long the lizard man is pregnant. Don't worry, though, Davidge isn't the father, it's simply the alien biology which sees to it that Jerry has to have a baby, yet like most of this it was less conceptually daring than just plain silly. For much-needed excitement, there was the odd action scene (not quite as odd as Quaid acting as first outer space midwife and next foster parent to a reptile infant, mind you) which took the form of those old standbys the meteor storm or the carnivorous creature lurking in the rocks, but mainly the drama predominated. During the final half hour a band of pirates appeared, putting Dracs (who we now see as nice, misunderstood guys) to slave labour in an actual mine, reputedly included because the studio suits wanted one to tie in with the title - there wasn't one in Barry Longyear's original text. So while this sappiness with added scrapping had its adherents, for everyone else it wasn't half cheesy. Stick with Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Music by Maurice Jarre.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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