Esoterica – Enemy Mine

Anyone out there remember Wizard magazine? You know, the fairly long running publication for comic book news and prices which spent the entirety of its existence becoming progressively less interesting and highly prone to upsetting nearly everyone in the four-color world. No? Hardly surprising since Garub Shamus thermite plasma’d his bridges with such terrifying efficiency that the destructive effect has actually rippled back in time so that we may be spared painful memories.

But before ripping off subscribers and attempting to convince comic-book readers of twenty years that what they really wanted to read about was professional wrestling, Wizard experimented with a series of specifically targeted pop-culture magazines under their imprint. Toyfare was, relatively speaking, a hit and stayed around for a while.

and gave us this. So… that’s kinda cool

A much lesser known attempt was Sci-Fi Invasion, which only ran for four or five issues, probably giving you some indication as to the quality of its content. But, from the darkness, there is light. Or, more accurately, from crappy writing there is a worthwhile recommendation (which is something I pray about every one of my posts).

The Top 10 Sci-Fi Flicks You Might Not Have Seen opened a younger Zee’s eyes to the fact that not every flick worth watching has legions of fans trying to cram it down your throat. Sometimes you have to go digging for those hidden gems. But if, like me, you have no idea where to start because you’re the only one in your family and circle of friends with an interest in somewhat offbeat genre films, it helps to have someone point you in the right direction.

Number 3 on that list was

Enemy Mine

Year: 1985

Director: Wolfgang Petersen

Writers: Barry Lonyear & Edward Khmara

Starring: Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr.

Enemy Mine is one of those films that never had a major release in Australia. This happens with far too many decent flicks, if you’re asking me, but given that it was made and released during the fairly bloated, effects heavy period of the mid-80’s, it’s kind of understandable.

Willis Davidge (Quaid) is a space fighter pilot engaged in battle with the vicious Drac when his vessel is damaged and he crash lands on an uncharted world in the middle of nowhere. But he didn’t go down alone – a lone Drac fighter crashed as well. The mortal enemies begin a deadly pursuit t0 finish their conflict… but there are more dangers on this world than one another.

At its core, this adaptation of a novella by author Barry Longyear is a remake of a 1968 potboiler Hell in the Pacific (starring Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune) – wherein two enemies are forced into painfully close quarters and have to choose either to die, or to work together to survive.

Quaid… next to remake The Ten Commandments

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: This movie has aged. That’s not to necessarily imply that it has aged badly, but it has aged noticeably. The effects for the film are handled by Industrial Light & Magic, and their practical counterparts in the Jim Henson Creature Shop. But this was all pre-CGI, and prosthetics aside, it was always difficult to truly and effectively create free moving critters and alien landscapes. But when held alongside other nostalgic treats like The Last Starfighter (also on that Top 10 list above) the movie occupies a very comfortable piece of sci-fi cinema real estate – one that recalls the wonder of seeing these things for the first time when you were a kid.

Of course the combination of landscape and critters play like a third character to our center figures. Dennis Quaid is…well, he’s Dennis Quaid; you don’t get this guy because you want him to play anything else. He’s always been in my good books (mostly for Innerspace and Dragonheart), and he’s solid as always in this picture. On a side note, I’d just like to say that I think he is the only actor who could have pulled off Han Solo. Playing opposite (under heavy prosthetic makeup) is Lou Gossett Jr. as the Drac “Jerry”. Gossett, once a contender for the crown held now and evermore by Samuel L. Jackson, here breathes real life and heart into his alien pilot.

But all of those aspects are in support of the central idea of this picture: “What is my enemy?” When forced to acknowledge the basic humanity common to all life, and then when further exposure forces further understanding, how are we to regard those whom we have been told are “them” – the outsiders, strangers and “others” that we must oppose. Today this message doesn’t have quite the same poignancy as 1985 – but during the Cold War, this would have cut deeper than the ending of Rambo II and Rocky IV put together.

Maybe I’m exaggerating.

How To Enjoy It

As stated above, this one plays well in Nostalgia-Screen, so pair it with The Last Starfighter or Flight of the Navigator, pour a large glass of chocolate milk, and be in bed by 8:30.

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