Occupation: Rainfall, 2020.
Directed by Luke Sparke.
Starring: Dan Ewing, Temuera Morrison, Daniel Gillies, Lawrence Makoare, Mark Coles Smith, Ken Jeong and Jason Isaacs.
A small-band of resistance fighters has since grown to huge numbers, now working to repel alien invaders that have landed in Australia for an all-out assault on mankind. When the fighters learn of a military device codenamed ‘Rainfall’, they lead a desperate, dangerous mission to discover if the mysterious ‘Rainfall’ could turn the tide of war in their favour.
Sequel to 2018s Occupation, this independent Australian sci-fi action film had an increase on everything from the production (Saban Films backed the distribution) to an $19m budget, nearly triple the original $6m. Director, writer and editor Luke Sparke maintains his vision of his large-scale alien invasion story set across Australia with much more bang for the buck this time. If you haven’t yet seen the original, it actually only affects your understanding of the character relationships here, all forged previously. Yet with everything so much bigger and bolder, you could jump straight in if you felt brave enough to skip to exposition.
It’s War of the Worlds meets Terminator: Salvation spliced with Guardians of the Galaxy as familiar faces return to continue the fight including Dan Ewing and Temuera Morrison alongside newcomers Jet Tranter, Ken Jeong and even Jason Isaacs lending his voice to an alien called Gary. 834 days since our alien invaders touched down in Oz, gone are the innocent citizens thrust into taking up arms and resistance against their will. Now, they are battle scarred, bedraggled, commanders of arms and leaders of men and women in their quest to save refugees caught up in the war and to push the enemy back. Ewing and his co-stars may not be the most convincing of actors as they are still working from an independent background, but they are good enough to lend a sense of no-brainer action and sci-fi escapism for their respective roles; good or bad, heroes or villains. They have more confidence in the material that lets them have more fun, and while there is a lot less focus on character development this time around, the bangs and whistles provide a bigger distraction for casual viewers wanting a basic science-fiction romp.
The opening few minutes make it clear this is a very different film in tone and style to the small scale original. So much has gone into the visual effects, set design and production value that it looks a different franchise altogether. Everything is a little slicker, a little cleaner and a little more polished this time around, and we are able to really feel this is a resistance force battling alien invaders on major land and air battlegrounds, across cities, not just in small Australian forests and country towns. The budget has gone a good way to making the sets as authentic as possible and the visual effects big enough to build far alien characters, expansive battlegrounds, spaceship battles and blazing firefights. It makes sense also, with the visual team behind Star Wars: The Last Jedi helping bring the work to life.
It clocks in at just over 2hours, but it feels far too noisy to warrant such a longer runtime than what could be required. Again, the budget is bigger and so too are the (admittedly cool) dog-fights, chases and shoot-outs that often feel there for the sake of it. The lumbering enemy clad in their Battlestar Galactica-esque armour present as much a threat as Imperial Stormtroopers, marching into battle relentlessly but just cannon fodder at the end of the day. The real “boss” threat is much better after the initial onslaught of foot-soldiers, which feels a little repetitive at times. Hulking warriors that combine the ferocity of Predator and stature of a xenomorph make sure this film does sci-fi villainy right without just shooting all the time.
Writer Sparke tries to inject some humanity into proceedings away from the action. When the blasters fall quiet and our humans take centre stage, we explore how it means for one race to show prejudice and violence against another with nothing but misunderstanding and hate. These moments are few and far between, and give Morrison chance to shine more as the solid actor he his not just hiding behind a gun, but with his words, stature and actions.
But fear not – if you want a science-fiction action film then this delivers. Australia plays host to an apocalyptic playground where nothing and nobody is safe, especially on the mission to discover what ‘Rainfall’ is and how it could be used to win the war against the invaders. Acting as a sequel, but big enough to be seen as a stand-alone adventure, Occupation: Rainfall at least proves that the passion is there from an Australian cast and crew to deliver a no-brainer action film as big as Hollywood could do. While it offers nothing special for the genre, it delivers enough entertainment and ticks all the boxes far better than many other independent offerings.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★