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Alien Nation/Enemy Mine

1 rating: 3.0
A movie directed by Graham Baker and Wolfgang Petersen

Alien Nation: They get drunk on sour milk. They have two hearts and bald, spotted heads. They're highly intelligent, but if you drop them in seawater they'll melt into a puddle of goop. They're "Newcomers," and they arrived as refugees in a massive alien … see full wiki

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1 review about Alien Nation/Enemy Mine

Spectacular Investment

  • Jul 1, 2010
Rating:
+3
20th Century Fox clearly understands the concept of sweetening a deal to near irresistibility and it's tough to find more definitive proof than the Alien Nation/Enemy Mine Double Feature. Representing a very unique time in filmmaking, these two gems represent the golden era of using practical effects and in-camera techniques to paint fantastical tales of alien cultures, gravity-defying spacecraft, and futuristic weaponry. Both of these titles had been on my radar for some time now and picking up the Double Feature for under $10 was the icing on the cake. Here are my full feature reviews of the two films contained within:

Enemy Mine

1985 might as well have been an eternity ago to today's filmgoer who has become dependent upon heavily computer-generated imagery, fast cuts, and inconceivable perspectives. Enemy Mine could very easily be considered the opposite of these trends in every possible arena. Pacing is methodic, visual effects are all practical, and fairly restrictive sets force the viewer into appreciating the writing through dialog exchange.

The premise, based on the 1979 short story of the same title by Barry B. Longyear, takes place in the late 21st century, amidst an ongoing interstellar war between human beings (Bilateral Terran Alliance, or BTA as its referred) and the Dracs (a mysterious reptilian race). Human pilot Willis E. Davidge (Dennis Quaid) and Drac Jeriba "Jerry" Shigan (Louis Gossett, Jr.) engage in a spacecraft skirmish, which results in them both crash-landing on a hostile moon known as Fyrine IV.

The core of the tale works of the idea of members of opposing armed forces discovering that they have more in common than they do discrepancies. After initial residual hostilities, the two pilots eventually come to terms with the idea that cooperation is essential to survive the harsh environment. The story spans years, whereby the two lead characters learn to overcome their differences, become friends, and eventually share each other's languages and cultures.

Honestly, this is science fiction in the purest sense of the classification and despite a look, feel, and tones that never stray far from that fact, I can state with certainty that this film would likely appeal to anyone who appreciates good storytelling. The metaphor of enemies with no vendetta against each other aside from what their respective government's assign them is of course easily transferable to our world. The alien costumes and unearthly environment simply act to enhance the universally relatable prose. Additionally, themes of love transcending gender, race and even species are not only present here, but serve as the catalyst upon which the whole story is built.

Additionally, especially noteworthy is Louis Gossett, Jr.'s spectacular performance as the Drac. Say what you will about the charms of CG but Enemy Mine harkens back to a time when latex, rubber, and body paint were the means of creating something otherworldly for the screen. Not only is Gossett's performance spectacular but the simple fact that his presence opposite Dennis Quaid throughout production seems to have elevated Quaid's performance in terms of believability as well.

In all, Enemy Mine was most certainly lost to the wake left by science fiction giants Star Wars and Star Trek of the early 1980s during its original theatrical debut and while still readily available on the home market, is sadly largely overlooked. In my opinion Enemy Mine serves a timeless reminder of an era where storytelling took precedence over flashy visuals and the appeal of science fiction was strongly interlaced with what it means to be human.

Alien Nation

Alien Nation is one of those films that really defies the system of classification that we have in play to cover most motion picture genres. In summaries and reviews it would be easy to pick out staple concepts such as alien invasion, advanced technology and genetically altered slave trading to peg it as definitive science fiction. However, actually watching the film reveals a cop drama that has more in common with pictures such as Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour and perhaps even a bit Coneheads.

Surprisingly Alien Nation is in fact a buddy-cop story with themes of racism, bigotry, and alienation (sorry for the pun but its true) working behind a fairly straightforward action/ comedy setup. Yes this idea would come back to contemporary culture in the form of Neill Blomkamp's District 9 (2009), but 21-years earlier when Alien Nation hit theaters; it was Farscape's Rockne S. O'Bannon credited with coming up with the original concept. James Cameron is rumored to have given early drafts of the script his signature treatment as well (though he remains uncredited in the final cut).

Set in 1991 (then 3-years in the future), Alien Nation tells of a massive alien slave-ship, quarantined for three years before (reluctantly) being allowed to deposit its cargo of some 300,000 beings to be accepted as citizens of Earth. To many humans (including lead character Los Angeles cop Matt Sykes played by James Caan), these "Newcomers" are little more than unwelcome burdens on society.

Sykes's own bigotry reaches fever pitch when Newcomer gang members take the life of his long-time partner. Ironically, in effort to gain footing in the Newcomer criminal underground, Sykes is forced to take on Sam "George" Francisco (Mandy Patinkin), a Newcomer detective in the LAPD as his new partner.

No ordinary extraterrestrials, these Newcomers though, as they get drunk on sour milk, have two hearts and bald, spotted heads. They're of superior intelligence and strength but contact with saltwater is lethal to them. Finally, and as the detectives discover while trying to solve the case of the Sykes' late partner, what we use as laundry detergent is in fact a powerful narcotic when ingested by a Newcomer. Just like one would expect with we foolish humans, it doesn't take long for a criminal empire based around trafficking the substance to solidify.

Pacing in the film is nice and brisk and with a 90-minute runtime, manages never to bog down with unnecessary subplots or techno babble to try and justify its inclusion in the science fiction ranks.

In all the film offers a pretty fresh take on a well-established formula and though not quite "classic" in its scope or sheer presence, it is rife with something few motion pictures achieve: potential. And in a very rare moment of studio exec astuteness, a superior weekly television series from mastermind Kenneth Johnson and five more made-for-tv movies followed this motion picture. Johnson's influence on the property is simply immeasurable in terms of turning this above average flick into a genuine slice of American science fiction entertainment.

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September 03, 2010
Nice review. I love when you can find double features for an inexpensive price. Sounds like interesting films. Might check them out if I can ever find it at a decent price like you did.
 
August 11, 2010
oh, yeh...I read this before in ammie. Thanks for adding it here, man.
 
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