Enemy Mine

Enemy Mine (1985)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr.
Extras: Production Stills,Trailers

By 1985, numerous special effects driven sci-fi movies had made a good bit of money at the box office. I don’t need to tell you the ones that are really good, as I’m sure you’ve seen them many many times. But there were also a handful of films from this genre that aren’t exactly household names. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has brought us one of those on DVD, "Enemy Mine", a film that despite its well-known stars is not a Hollywood production.

"Enemy Mine" tells the story of a man and an alien stranded on a foreign and uninhabited planet. If this weren’t enough of an incongruent relationship, the two species are bitter enemies. The film begins in the spaceship of Captain Willis Davidge (Dennis Quaid), who’s leading his small crew in a dogfight against an alien ship, a member of a race that has being killing humans in space by the hundreds. When one of their team ships is taken out, Willis goes after the alien ship with full vengeance, following him against the will of his crew into the atmosphere of a near planet. He lands a clean shot on the alien ship, clipping its wing and causing the alien pilot to eject. But the cloudy visage leaves little sight or time for Willis and his team to back out and they brace for a crash landing. When the dust settles, Willis is the only one left. Well, the only human left. His head still set on revenge, he sets off searching for the ejected alien determined that he will kill this beast or die trying.

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a movie if he succeeded, now would it? When Willis does find the alien (a make-up hidden Louis Gossett, Jr.), his initial attempt at murder is foiled and he soon finds himself the captive of the very alien he so wanted to kill. But then a strange thing happens. The alien doesn’t kill him. In fact, the alien offers him some very slimy food. The two struggle to understand each other, but when a meteor shower threatens their lives they quickly come to learn that if either one of them is going to survive, they will have to keep the other alive as well. In no time, they have become semi-friends, saving each other’s life and teaching each other their respective languages. Time passes and hair grows, and after one particularly destructive meteor shower Willis, like Tom Hanks, decides that any outside chance at escape is better than no chance of rescue at all. The alien, however, does not share his feelings. So Willis takes off on a solitary journey, his excitement and hope peaking upon the discovery of Pepsi cans (what else?) and ship wreckage. Unfortunately, he also discovers that these recent visitors were human scavengers, draining the land only for its’ resources and using the alien Dracs (from the planet Droacon) as slave labor until they see fit to kill them. Disappointed, he returns to the alien only to find the Drac pregnant and dying. In a scene worthy of the miracle of life, Willis delivers the alien’s baby just as the alien himself, loses his life. Naturally, Willis decides he must raise the child as his own. Things get hairy when a group of scavengers show up and the young Drac can’t help his curiosity, which of course gets him in trouble. Willis comes to save the day, but risks his own life in the process, taking shots in the arms and being left for dead. Somehow, Willis’ limp body is found by the same military that Willis once piloted for and he is brought back to health and tries to explain his story and how he must go back for his adopted son. The military doesn’t support this idea, but Super Mom Willis defies their orders and takes off to the strange planet to save his boy from the scavengers.

Directed by Wolfgang Peterson, "Enemy Mine" lacks the excitement of some of his more successful films (Das Boot, The Never Ending Story). In fact, it’s a pretty bad movie altogether. Yet, there’s something about it that’s highly entertaining, that something in my opinion being Dennis Quaid. His performance is way over the top in this flick, but it’s hard not to chuckle watching him eat a slimy worm or kissing his adopted baby or telling the alien he "doesn’t know diddly-poop about humans" and really meaning it. Certainly not an Oscar performance, Quaid nonetheless sells his part and makes it sort of a camp classic. The biggest problem I had with the film, though there are many, is the alien himself. I couldn’t really figure this guy out. We’re told in a terrible voice-over from Quaid in the beginning that their race is hell-bent on destroying humans, yet when we meet the Drac, we find him a religious man who believes in New Testament-like forgiveness. So, which is it? That and the fact that Gossett sounds like he needs to spit every time he talks just sort of turned me off from what could have been quite an interesting character. Anyway, I’m sure there are those of you who will and do love this movie no matter how much I point out it’s faults, so I’ll end my opinion of the film itself by suggesting the movie "Hell in the Pacific." The story of an American and a Japanese man stranded together on an island during WWII, the film makes far better use of this concept and has two outstanding performances by Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune.

Fox has come a long way in the quality of its’ DVD product, the first and most important improvements coming in the video itself. "Enemy Mine" follows this trend with a pretty good-looking <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer (2.35:1). I was surprised by the sharpness of detail in the various rocky sets of the foreign planet and the face of the alien himself. The transfer really does justice to the make-up, allowing a clear examination of such a nice creation. Colors are also pretty good, though most of the film takes place in dark and murky environments. The print is clean and free of blemishes; a nice job for a flick that is nearing a 20-year birthday. No digital artifacts to speak of and black level and skin tones are very good. There were times where I thought things looked foggy and muted, a scene where an alien attacks Willis and the Drac’s shelter in particular. But having never seen this film in the theaters (thank goodness!), I can’t say if this is a fault of the transfer, though I seriously doubt it.

Audio is presented with English <$DD,Dolby Digital> 4.0 and 2.0 surround, as well as French stereo. The Dolby 4.0 track is somewhat of a disappointment, obviously sounding a bit thin without a LFE channel or stereo surround. Effects are fairly clear, with moderate surround work for the rear channels. At times I felt the score was overwhelming the dialogue, not to mention overwhelmingly bad and annoying. The dialogue itself is mostly clearly defined, though when Quaid goes into one of his crazy yelling fits there seems to be some slight distortion. An unfortunate accompaniment to a far superior video presentation.

Unlike most recent Fox DVD’s, "Enemy Mine" is far from a special edition. On the packaging, the features are listed as Theatrical trailer and stills. When you actually get to the special features menu on the disc though, you find the options Behind the Scenes, Trailer, and Fox Flicks. Thinking perhaps the packaging left off a featurette of some kind, I clicked on the Behind the Scenes and alas found it to be the production stills. All THREE of them! I appreciate the effort, but maybe the stills should’ve just been put in the booklet instead of teasing us with the idea of something worth actually looking at. Also included is a pretty cool trailer for "Enemy Mine", which aside from giving away entirely too much about the plot, also features some of the cool music (Phillip Glass, I think) used in "The Truman Show." In the Fox Flix section, may be the best part of the disc with trailers for "Aliens," "Alien Nation," "The Abyss," "Independence Day," and the extremely bizarre "Zardoz".

If you like "Enemy Mine," you might be a bit disappointed with the overall value of this DVD. The video looks good, the sound is just okay, and the special features are all but non-existent. If you’ve never seen the flick, I definitely recommend it if you’re a Dennis Quaid fan (and you should be) and those of you who dig the campy fun of ’80’s sci-fi will no doubt have a blast with the film. But still see "Hell in the Pacific".