Enemy Mine, director Wolfgang Petersen’s expensive 1985 sci-fi bomb, arrives on Blu-ray for the first time courtesy of Twilight Time. As with the boutique label’s other releases, this edition is limited to 3,000 copies and is only available through their distributor, Screen Archives. If you love the film, better act soon because once the supply has been exhausted, you’ll pay a premium on the collector’s market.
Enemy Mine takes place in the distant future, with humankind engaged in a constant intergalactic war with a reptilian alien race known as the Dracs. After a particularly intense battle, human fighter pilot Will Davidge (Dennis Quaid) winds up marooned on a bizarre planet after crash-landing his spaceship. A Drac named Jeriba Shigan (Lou Gossett Jr.) crashes there as well. What are the odds that this planet is completely safe and habitable to both species? Probably pretty astronomical, but there they both are—breathing the same air while continuing to fight bitterly, at least initially.
It doesn’t take long to see where the story is heading. After realizing the planet is prone to frequent meteorite showers, Will and Jeriba find themselves working together to avoid getting struck. Before long, the unlikely pair begins to realize they share more similarities than differences. When it sinks in that a rescue (for either of them) doesn’t seem to be in the foreseeable future, they begin to get to know each other, eventually developing a deep mutual respect and friendship.
Even though its bookending first and third acts include a number of additional actors, Enemy Mine is really a two-man show. With Quaid and Gossett so thoroughly dominating the movie, it’s a good thing their performances are strong. In fact, it’s their slyly humorous work that keeps it from collapsing under all the touch-feely pretentions. The lengthy middle portion doesn’t involve much more than two characters conversing (Jeriba becomes fluent in English far too easily, by the way). I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Will, who obviously goes without romantic companionship for many years. Turns out Dracs have no need for mates—they reproduce asexually. Jeriba becomes pregnant, which is pretty much the weirdest thing about him. Otherwise he comes across basically like an Earthling with a skin condition and bloody gums.
In the end, its heart is in the right place, but Petersen (who replaced original director Richard Loncraine) and screenwriter Edward Khmara never really achieve the level of depth they’re clearly straining for. It’s not such a problem that the message of cultural tolerance has been delivered many times before. It’s that the filmmakers never figure out how to make it distinctive and interesting. Not helping matters are the badly dated special effects (more like Star Trek: The Original Series than the best sci-fi of the mid-80s). The spaceships and such are well designed. They just don’t look that convincing in action. The alien planet always looks like a set, perhaps now more than ever considering we’re seeing it in less forgiving high definition.
Twilight Time’s 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray presentation is very strong, retaining a natural film-like appearance entirely appropriate for a film of its era. Clarity is consistently strong, with the Drac makeup (which, unlike the visual effects, holds up very well) exhibiting a particularly high level of fine detail. This is a great visual presentation that accurately represents the film’s original look. The DTS-HD MA 4.0 soundtrack is, again, an accurate representation of the film’s original sound design. All audio elements are crisp and clear.
Supplemental features are limited to Twilight Time’s customary inclusion of an isolated score track and the film’s original theatrical trailer. The booklet, with an informative essay by Julie Kirgo, is also nice to have. Fans of Enemy Mine will surely be pleased with the presentation of this film, which—despite its weaknesses—has become something of a cult classic over the years.