Enemy Mine: Hate the Movie, Love the Novella

I really, really did not like the movie. And when I say “didn’t like” I actually mean loathe. Part of the reason is that the movie did not make sense. (Especially the Davidge-on-the-conveyor belt scene. I never understood what the heck they were doing with that. Also, they don’t really explain if I recall, why the kid was growing up so fast, or make it more clear how much time was passing.)

Another part of the reason is that my dad’s theory-crafting about the movie (while the damned movie was playing) was enough to make me want to scream bloody murder. (Dad’s theory-crafting about science fiction movies and tv shows was generally annoying enough to warrant its own post.) For Enemy Mine, dad decided that the Drac religion was meant to stand in for Islam, and that Dracs were coded as black. (No, I am not sure why, and questioning/disagreeing with him generally caused a hostile response back in the day.) The point where I think he’s more or less right, is that the producers of the film turned this story into a very sloppy anecdote about racism.

I disliked the movie so much that I never bothered to read the novella it is (badly) based off. Even after I read and liked another book by Barry B. Longyear. Enemy Mine was just too horrible, and too annoying to contemplate…until I ran into a copy of The Tomorrow Testament. After giving it a wary look a time or two when I ran across it, I finally decided to read. I was a bit confused, because it was of course, nothing at all like the movie, or anything like what I would expect the sequel of the movie to be like. (Because of course, it is the sequel of the novella, not the movie.)

The Tomorrow Testament is about a soldier named Nicole living in the Drac equivalent of a POW camp who rescues two Drac children. In the course of the rescue she’s injured, and is blinded. A diplomat and philosopher type decides that she would be the perfect candidate to resolve the ongoing war between humans and Drac, much to the confusion of poor Nicole who stumbles along until she discovers the underlying causes of the war. Her journey through an alien book of philosophy and her journey through the tangled mess that created the war makes for some fascinating reading, and I loved the book enough to want to read the movie tie-in (which is marginally better than the movie) and eventually the novella, which actually, rocks like a rocking thing that rocks.

What Enemy Mine is actually about is how a) both sides of a conflict demonizes the other side and b) how two people who would normally be enemies can become friends under the right circumstances. It’s also a little bit about love, and how someone who literally can’t relate to his own kind learns how to relate to someone who isn’t like him at all. Unfortunately, the producers went with something that would translate more or less as “racism bad, bad, bad –don’t be bad!” Therefore, what would otherwise be a laudable message is lost in what is essentially metaphorical baby talk.

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Filed under book, Meta, movies, race/ethnicity issues, science fiction, sociological

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