An underrated 1985 Sci-Fi film adapted from a Barry Longyear novella
The humans and the aliens (Dracs) have been at war (in space) for some time now. There's a great deal of prejudice between them, and the humans think of the Dracs as "lizards" and some worse terms.
Then this one human, Willis Davidge (Dennis Quaid), shoots down a Drac ship, and both ships crash-land on a dangerous planet. Davidge's co-pilot dies and he's left to fend for himself. Then, while trying to get revenge on the Drac, he ends up getting captured instead.
The Drac, whose name, Jeriba Shigan (Louis Gossett, Jr.), gets shortened to "Jerry" for the film, forces Davidge to slave away at building shelter and such, as he managed to hang onto his sidearm. But when the danger from deadly terrain, storms and predators gets to be too much, Jerry and Davidge end up working together, and then becoming friends.
Then Davidge decides to head out and see if there's any chance of them being rescued, but Jerry won't come with him. A good thing, possibly, as Davidge finds good news in the form of a futuristic Pepsi can
(evidence that humans have visited Fyrine IV) and bad news in the form of a Drac skull (evidence that the humans are illegal strip miners). Once Davidge gets back, he learns that Jerry is pregnant (turns out that Dracs can self-fertilize and have no control over the process). Sadly, something goes awry and Jerry dies in childbirth, so Davidge raises the kid, Zammis (ZAH-mees), by himself.
Either because the film studio thought that Viewers Are Morons
or because films work better with a climax
, the villainous humans
return to set up their mine run using Dracs as slaves. Since Davidge didn't teach Zammis that some humans are evil bastards, Zammis quizzically wanders into the area and gets captured. Davidge tries to save him but is shot dead by a scenery-chewing
slavedriver played by Brion James.
Or so it seems. Turns out his body is retrieved by a military scouter and brought back to the starbase where he once served. They're just about to give him a funeral (straight out the airlock) when he revives and starts mumbling in the Drac language while unconscious. His former comrades nurse him back to health, and he steals a ship and heads off to find Zammis.
In a final conflict with the evil miners, Davidge enlists the help of the Drac slaves, freeing them, taking out the overacting slavedriver and his cronies, and finding Zammis, who gets his Crowning Moment of Heartwarming
because it looked for a moment like he was dead but then he rouses and says his Catch Phrase
from earlier, "Zammis get four, five?" (referring to how Dracs have only 3 digits on their hands while humans have 5).
Because Jerry taught Davidge his Drac lineage (something highly treasured in Drac culture), he is able to recite it to the elder council on Zammis' home world and formally introduce the young Drac to his own society. In honor of his actions, Willis Davidge's name is added to the Jeriba family line.
And for the record, not actually the Trope Namer
for Enemy Mine
. The phrase predates the movie.
The novella and film provide examples of the following tropes:
- All Hail the Great God Mickey!: Alien Jeriba Shigan assumes that Mickey Mouse is a great spiritual figure.
- Billing Displacement: Louis Gossett Jr. has much less screen time than his position on the cast list might imply. A lot of the movie involves Davidge and Zammis after Jeriba has died.
- Bizarre Alien Reproduction: The Drac are parthenogenic, which means they self-fertilize. Watching Davidge helping the rather masculine Jeriba have a baby is more then a little surreal.
- A Boy and His X: An Earth soldier and his parthenogenic reptilian alien adopted child.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Fyrene Pit Fiend appears almost immediately after the crash, and repeatedly menaces both Davidge and Jerry. The turtle-like groundrunner, the Pit Fiend's first victim, also comes in very handly both as food and as a meteor shield.
- Conveniently Close Planet: Not only do they both crash on the nearby planet, but within walking distance of each others spacecraft.
- Crazy Cultural Comparison: Early in the relationship, Davidge quotes, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Jerry thinks he must have learned this from "great Drac teacher, Shizumaat." Davidge responds he learned it from Mickey Mouse, and Jerry assumes he was a "great Earthman teacher." They also have this with Shizumaat's book that has its own version of "do unto others" and when Davidge comments on hearing it before, Jerry replies of course, since it's universal truth.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The beginning fighter scene starts out as this but turns ugly when the Drac ambush the Alert squadron. Also pretty much every time Davidge faces off against the slavemaster.
- Death World: Fyrene IV. If the predators and extremely powerful electrical storms don't get you, the periodic meteor showers will probably do the job.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jerry has quite a sarcastic streak at times. "Where would you be without me, Jerry old buddy?" "Back. Home."
- Disneyfication: The ending of the film is much more optimistic than the ultimately happy but rather more cynical ending of the original novella.
- Double Meaning Title: Caused by Executive Meddling. "Enemy mine" is a phrase referring to "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." The climax of the film also features a mine full of enemies.
- Enemy Mine: The two main characters must join up against the elements to survive, in spite of being enemies. It's not the Trope Namer, however. The movie was named for the phrase that named the trope.
- Executive Meddling: The whole "slave mine" aspect is not present in the original story. According to IMDB: "Author Barry Longyear reported at a convention that the studio insisted on adding a subplot involving a mine, thinking the audience would not realize that the "Mine" in the title was a possessive (as in "My Enemy") rather than an object." Fridge Logic kicks in when you realize a comma between Enemy and Mine would've solved the problem.
- Fantastic Racism
- Fire-Forged Friends: Davidge and Jeriba have to cooperate if they expect to survive at all.
- Follow the Leader / Recycled IN SPACE!: The movella and the film are Hell In The Pacific IN SPACE!
- The Golden Rule: The aliens' holy book has a version of the quote. Davidge remarks that the Bible has a similar quote, and Jerry isn't surprised. "Truth is truth." It highlights how neither of them practiced this (being at war) until they were forced to as well.
- Humans Are Bastards: The Dracs tend to think so. They claim that the humans are actually the aggressors in the war. But the humans believe otherwise.
- This is more or less inevitable, since the common folk on both sides have little to go on but propaganda intended to make them more willing to support the war effort. The Drac, however, claim the region being fought over on the basis that they were there first, by a wide margin, and the humans are upstart interlopers.
- Humans Are Ugly: So says Jerry, at any rate.
"You... ugly... head."
- However, Jerry saves Davidge's life because he states that the Pit Beast is even uglier.
- Zammis says Davidge looks "terrible" after he's rescued.
- Humanoid Aliens: The Drac have certain fundamental differences from human biology (most notably their reproductive cycle), but they're still bipeds with two arms and a head on top that does the talking.
- Mr. Seahorse
- Mood Whiplash:
- Davidge, chasing after a groundrunner, falls headlong into a familiar looking pit, cussing a blue streak. Slapstick soon turns to horror, though, when the resident Pit Fiend's tongue appears and begins seeking him out...
- An even more drastic one: the meditative sunset scene with Jerry and Davidge is interrupted by another lethal meteorite storm; they barely make it back to shelter, and amidst the continuous roar of the impacts around them, they're almost immediately at each others' throats...
- Mugging the Monster: Davidge attempts to sneak-attack both Jeriba (to steal his supplies) and the slavedriver (to rescue Zammis). To say the least, neither ends well.
- Narrator All Along: The narrator turns out to be the elder Drac in the slave camp.
- Nicknaming the Enemy: Dracs are called "lizards" by humans.
- One-Gender Race: There are no male Drac or female Drac, as each Drac is both male and female at the same time.
- Papa Wolf: Never mess with Zammis, ever.
- The Power of Friendship
- Pronoun Trouble: Jeriba is referred to as "it", rather than "he" or "she," because all Drac are hermaphrodites.
- Humans were calling Dracs "it" without knowing they were hermaphroditic, however, so it's more initially a case of Fantastic Racism.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Subverted — the Drac are loathed by humanity and personally by Davidge in the beginning, but Davidge becomes friends with Jerry, and ultimately raises his child.
- Troubled Production: The production began its shoot in Hungary with a different director and a $20 million budget (which was considered lower than the average sci-fi film). After the studio saw the first dailies, production was shut down and the director was let go. After Wolfgang Petersen was hired to replace the first director, the shoot moved to Germany with the budget somehow doubling to $40 million. Quaid and Gossett even got additional pay on their salaries so they would not abandon the production. Needless to say, Fox ended up with a major money loser by the time the film was released.
- Truly Single Parent: The drac parental lineage is truly linear, since they are self-fertilizing like some terrestrial reptiles. In the words of the novella, "Don't tell a drac to boff himself, because he probably will!"
- Viewers Are Morons: Executive Meddling insisted on there being an actual mine in the story for people who don't understand the title.
- Vindicated by Cable: Endless HBO play gave the movie the fan base it deserved.
- War Is Hell: Par for the course for a Wolfgang Petersen film. Highlighted by the atrocities that the human leaders conveniently ignore because they're at war.