Review by Alex Haberstroh
Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett, Jr.
Director: Wolfgang Peterson
Audio: Dolby Digital 4.0, Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: April 3, 2001
Psychologist Carl Jung stated that there is a “collective unconscious” possessed by the human race. Stories can generally trace their origins back to themes that are common throughout all human literature, or “archetypes.” As with all genres, science fiction is certainly no stranger to this phenomenon, and I would argue, even more prone to it. Beyond the backdrop of lightsabers or space ships, time travel or wormholes, the genre is really moved by themes like: overcoming all odds, coming of age, fighting evil, both internally and externally, and questioning one’s humanity.
1985’s Enemy Mine essentially follows the theme that prejudice is futile. In the future, man has expanded into the far reaches of space, yet there are others there, a reptilian race known as Dracs, who also claim the rich worlds that the humans want. A terrible war results, and the two races slaughter each other with such happiness and regularity, it seems that peace will never come.
During one of these battles, fighter pilot Willis Davidge (Quaid), in the heat of battle, chases his adversary down to the surface of an unscouted and inhospitable planet. Once there, he realizes that escape is impossible. All he can do is kill the Drac or die trying.
As expected, he is in for a little more than he bargained for and soon finds that his alien adversary is not the brutal creature that he was led to believe, but really an intelligent and caring being who shares many of the same thoughts and feelings.
At the beginning of the film, Davidge bitterly complains how much he hates the Dracs, yet admits to the viewer that he has never even seen one. The movie does a adequate job of showing how completely asinine prejudice can be, even if it doesn’t necessarily break any new ground in the themes of prejudice and racism (or in this case species-ism).
Overall, I enjoyed Enemy Mine. The credit for the film’s success is really due to the fantastic job done by the two actors involved. As in titles like Cast Away, which rested solely on the talents of Tom Hanks, so Enemy Mine rests on the performances of Quaid and Gossett Jr. Both actors do a believable job of conveying their emotions to fit their characters’ moods and bringing the viewer through the emotional evolution that takes place from: at first hatred and suspicion, to grudging respect, and finally brotherhood. I credit Gossett Jr. especially, for bringing a real presence to the character of the Drac, which at the end seems just as human as Quaid’s character.
All in all, this is a good eighties sci-fi, with fine performances that thankfully avoids mushiness for the majority of the film.
The video quality is generally okay. In the beginning, the print looked somewhat grainy and soft, but this is probably due more to the fact that Enemy Mine is another tragic victim of Super 35 film. Overall, the picture holds up, with black levels represented well, and no real problems with shimmering. At least it’s in Anamorphic.
When I looked at the box, which advertised Dolby Digital 4.0, I was a little leery of what Fox had done. I honestly don’t know what kept them from making this a full 5.1 track, but I guess subwoofers and discrete channels are really overrated.
All in all, the audio doesn’t fare as well as the video. There are points where the action is much louder than the dialogue, resulting in a track that’s so garbled that at some points subtitles are needed. Fox really let us down on this transfer.
Fox is somewhat inconsistent. The Alien Legacy collection, Abyss, Independence Day, Fight Club, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, even their recent Bedazzled and Cleopatra, are all incredibly rich with supplements. Yet I somehow seem to keep seeing their lackluster efforts, such as in the recent Smilla’s Sense of Snow, and now Enemy Mine.
First up is Behind the Scenes, which I thought would be at least a featurette or some makeup tests, showing the laborious process of creating the reptilian makeup of the Dracs. Much to my chagrin, it was instead three stills from the movie with camera guys seen in the background. Ha!
Next was a theatrical trailer for Enemy Mine in full screen non Anamorphic with surround sound, and finally, Fox Flix, which had trailers for Aliens, Alien Nation, Independence Day, The Abyss, and finally Zardoz.
In conclusion, Enemy Mine is a pretty good, if sometimes forgotten, eighties sci-fi classic that deserves better on DVD. Due to its mediocre video, horrible audio, and sparse supplements, this has rental all over it.