suffers from what can be called the Sleepless in Seattle school of film-making:
there must be a happy ending at all costs! Which is rather strange since the film
was directed by German import Wolfgang Petersen (also director of
The NeverEnding Story (1984)) who gave us Das Boot (1981) which had the worst
ending possible - and was much more all the memorable and powerful because of
it! But other possibly great sci-fi films also suffer from the Sleepless in Seattle
(1993) school: The Abyss (1989) and Strange Days (1995) are perhaps
the best examples in the genre.
Because Enemy Mine insists on its happy (and extremely unlikely!)
ending, the film suffers because of it. It starts off as one of the more interesting
sci-fi stories we have seen in quite a while. A human and an alien star fighter
pilot are stranded on a hostile planet. Both are from opposing sides and when
the film started we saw them (obviously) trying to blast each other from the sky.
However, to survive the planet with its hostile creatures, bad weather and regular
meteor storms they find that they have to cooperate in order to survive. Sure,
the story is as old as they come: replace the setting with that of two fighter
pilots in WWII, let's say one American and the other Japanese, and you know the
rest. But at a point in Enemy Mine one doesn't know how the several
plot issues it throws up will be resolved.
that is the problem: the scriptwriters didn't know either and instead relied on
some very unlikely deux ex machina plot mechanisms. And this is sad. The film
boasts some excellent acting, a real science fiction premise, interesting production
designs (actually the special effects doesn't go for the Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
hardware look, but rather a 1930s pulp Buck Rogers look) and some excellent alien
make-up. If you're into Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke
or any of the golden age of sci-fi, then you should see Enemy Mine,
because despite its many faults it's still a far better sci-fi movie than many
of the so-called "sci-fi" movies (Independence Day (1996) comes
to mind) thrown at us by Hollywood in recent times. Nonetheless, the film's biggest
problem is that, unlike many of the sci-fi luminaries mentioned here, it doesn't
know what to do with its material.
Review by James O'Ehley from The
Sci-Fi Movie Page.