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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 by 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 were 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 Drax 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.
The novella and film provide examples of the following tropes:
- All Hail the Great God Mickey: Alien Jeriba Shiba assumes that Mickey Mouse is a great spiritual figure.
- 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 it's 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, see below.
- Enemy Mine - As noted above, not the Trope Namer; 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.
- Fire-Forged Friends - Davidge and Jeriba have to cooperate if they expect to survive at all.
- The Golden Rule: The alien's holy book has a version of the quote. Davidge remarks that the Bible has a similar quote. "Truth is truth."
- 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.
- Humans Are Ugly: So says Jerry, at any rate.
"You... ugly... head."
- Ironic Echo: 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.
- Mister 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-Scene Wonder - (Until someone finds a better category.) 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.
- 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 male and female at the same time.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent - Both played straight (the Drac are loathed by humanity and personally by Davidge in the beginning) and subverted, as 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 - See the rationale for adding the "slave mine" aspect under the Executive Meddling entry