Director: Luke Sparke
Screenplay: Luke Sparke
Starring: Jason Isaacs, Dan Ewing, Temuera Morrison, Jet Tranter, Ken Jeong
Duration: 128 mins
BBFC Certification: 15
With the advent of Marvel and the current dominance of the comic book film, the traditional summer blockbuster (specifically those from the Nineties and early 2000s) seems to have mostly disappeared. There have been certain throwbacks, of course. In 2018, the computer game adaption Rampage saw huge mutated creatures destroy Chicago, while last year, Gerard Butler attempted to save his family from an oncoming apocalypse in Greenland.
Occupation: Rainfall, from Australian writer/director Luke Sparke, is the latest film that attempts to re-capture some of that earlier blockbuster magic. A direct sequel to Sparke’s own Occupation from 2018, the film is set on a near future version of Earth, which has come under devastating attack from Alien invaders. As Sydney is evacuated, a group of soldiers and renegade aliens (who have defected from the invasion force) attempt to track down the elusive and mysterious Rainfall, an object that could finally swing the war back in their favour and save the human race.
No doubt working from a budget that pales in comparison to its Hollywood contemporaries, the first thing that strikes you about Occupation: Rainfall is how impressive the action sequences are. VFX teams from The Last Jedi and Blade Runner 2049 work their magic here, allowing Sparke’s imagination to run wild as cities get destroyed and huge ships blast laser beams from the sky. In fact, Sparke seems keen to tackle every form of action cinema in the book, from large scale battles, to gunfights, sword fights, monster fights and aerial combat. Luckily, he proves to be a competent director of action, constructing his sequences with a clear logic and a desire to constantly excite.
Unfortunately, however, these action sequences are populated by characters so underwritten and serve a plot that feels so derivative that after about half an hour you simply end up not caring. By the time you reach the end of the film, you feel that there might not actually be an original bone in Occupation: Rainfall’s body. With ships that look like they have been stolen from Arrival, a gritty tone cribbed from Battlestar Galactica, battles right out of Independence Day, not to mention the dozens of shots, sequences and plot points that liberally borrows from every sci-fi movie of the last fifty years, everything ends up feeling recycled and uninspired.
The characters are served no better, despite the film boasting a decent cast, including Jason Isaacs, Temuera Morrison and Ken Jeong. Two dimensional morality is the biggest sin here. The story is either filled with bland stock characters such as holier than thou heroes or cliched military villains, while character arcs are rote and by the book (will the ignorant soldier actually grow to like the alien companion he his forced to work with? Place your bets!!). These underwritten characters can’t achieve the emotional catharsis the plot is desperately reaching for, leaving you feeling uninterested and uninvested.
Despite the impressive special effects and Sparke’s ability to rustle up an occasionally exciting action sequence, Occupation: Rainfall never escapes the feeling of being an expensive TV movie as opposed to the Roland Emmerich Hollywood epic it is aiming for. Overlong and feeling rehashed from dozens of better films, it fails to sustain excitement, tension or interest and does little to make you want to come back for the sequel boldly advertised right before the end credits.