1985's Enemy Mine is a complex tapestry of heartwarming double-you-tee-eff. Dennis Quad is Willis Davidge, human fighter pilot who hates Draks. Lou Gosset Jr. plays Drak fighter pilot Jerry. Together they teach us to live, love, and laugh.
On the surface, Enemy Mine is a mostly forgotten scifi flick with an asexual birth scene and a Sarlacc Pit knock-off. But in truth, Enemy Mine is a movie about love, cross-cultural understanding, and a Sarlacc Pit knock-off. "How does Enemy Mine affect me today?" you might ask. What you should be asking is "How doesn't Enemy Mine affect me today?" See, director Wolfgang Peterson's bastardization of Barry Longyear's novella draws more parallels to present day than any distorted Nostradamus text ever could.
Let's start with the first ten minutes of the film — Davidge's bloodlust leads him into the atmosphere of an uncharted planet, where despite the grief he may be feeling as he avenges a fallen human pilot, he giggles maniacally with a Cheshire Cat grin as he gets a shot off and takes out the dastardly Drak. Of course, his ill-timed shot sends shrapnel flying back and damages his ship, but the important part is that he got his man. Also, his co-pilot dies in the subsequent crash.
After giving his dying co-pilot Joey a rousing pep talk that involves no medical attention whatsoever, Davidge buries him under a pile of rubble and realizes that he must finish what he started. Again, lives are lost, nothing's really getting accomplished - why quit? His bloodlust must be satisfied, and Davidge needs to skewer him some flying toadfish.
Eventually our hero stumbles upon Jerry bathing in a pool of what we can assume is water. After watching Jerry swim in the nude for a lengthy amount of time, Davidge clumsily scales a mountaintop and blows his opportunity to take a shot at Jerry by dropping his gun into the water. However, Davidge recovers from his loss, and takes advantage of Jerry dropping in for another swim by grabbing his Gatorade-colored gasoline, dumping it in the water, and setting it ablaze, all the while chortling like a man possessed. Davidge plans on using this opportunity to grab Jerry's futuristic space gun, but the ship is booby-trapped. Davidge winds up getting electro-shocked and left to Jerry's devices.
So, an opening about wanton bloodlust based on half-assed information, going on headfirst into a battle against a society you know little about and having it ultimately blow up in your face? Sounds like the last decade of US/Middle East foreign relations to me. Oh Wolfgang. If only we had listened to you in 1985, when you were probably thinking that this movie was a Cold War allusion.
We hit the second act of the film. Now Jerry and Davidge are the best of friends, after realizing that they must rely on each other for survival. This is cemented after a chance encounter with cheap Sarlacc knock-off....
...and from there the two men build a home together. Was Wolfgang trying to tell us that two men could live together in harmony? How could he not have been? Both men provide the emotional support that each other so sorely needs on an abandoned planet filled with horrible meteorites and Sarlacc-like pit dwellers. Sure, Jerry's supposed to be an asexual being, but let's look at this objectively. That's Lou Gossett Jr. under all that makeup. Put L.G.J. in a tutu and he'd still be twice the man of anyone around him - an Officer & a Gentleman can attest to this fact.
On the other side, we have Davidge, who at this point has embraced the shag, growing one of the mightiest beards in the history of cinema. Scoring a strong "Moses in Ten Commandments" on the Charleton Heston Scale of Rugged Manliness, Davidge assumes the alpha male role to his partner Jerry.
They live together, maintain a home, and provide emotional support to each other on their lonely shithole planet. Despite their qualms, the two end up having a child together. Sadly, Jerry dies at childbirth, leaving Davidge alone with their offspring Zammis, a slimy little alien puppet thing.
In a world where Proposition 8 looms over us like a dark cloud of social intolerance, what would actually happen? Look to Enemy Mine for your answer. They live together, they support each other, and then Jerry abruptly leaves when the other parent needs him most. It's just like a real relationship in this our world. But, y'know. With a bootleg Sarlacc Pit.
The film ends with one of the most shoehorned rescue stories in the history of mankind. Zammis is kidnapped by heartless miners (yes, they went for the pun) and is forced into slavery when Davidge is rescued by his human counterparts. Most viewers of the film would notice that this ending is goddamn ridiculous, but it's not that surprising. This is the most severe deviation from the brilliant novella upon which the film was based. Rather than focus on the mindless emotional fluff of Davidge going back into human society, dealing with the uneasiness of a ceasefire between the two races, and then subsequently going through the difficulty of traveling to the Drak homeworld in order to meet his son again, Wolfgang cops out and plugs in a crazy-ass rescue mission in which Davidge says the word "Zammis" no less than two dozen times.
In summation, Davidge goes home, misses his kid, breaks out, flies back to the planet, kills a bunch of dudes, and then with the help of his friends and the other Drak slaves rescues Zammis. He then he travels to the Drak homeworld (with no difficulty whatsoever, mind you) to induct Zammis into Drak society.
How does this totally nonsensical ending relate to our modern lives? It's the ever-present necessity of adaptability. Rambo II came out six months before this flick, at the time (and still) Star Wars was the king of outer space action/adventure. You couldn't possible expect Wolfgang to stick with the plot of the book and keep the laserfire & intergalactic rescue missions to a minimum; that's just madness. No, just as we must continue to do today, we adapt to what's currently interesting. Be it music, television plotlines, or 90% of the NFL tossing a wildcat formation into their playbook, despite the importance of being unique, you better make sure you aren't too far off the reservation or no one's going to care. Auto-tune those vocals, make the sitcom more about relationships, put three running backs out there, and you damn sure better get a gun in Dennis Quaid's hands before that movie is over with.
Yes, Enemy Mine is timeless. With its C-grade sets, average-at-best special effects, and oddly heartwarming moments, it's a film that stands the test of time. Throw it on whenever you may feel confused, and let the batshit nature of this perverted book adaptation lead you in ways no spiritual material ever could.