Occupation: Rainfall is a sequel to the 2018 low budget Australian alien invasion flick Occupation, written and directed by Luke Sparke that, whilst well-reviewed, failed to make much of an impact at any box office and appeared to sink without trace. Curiously, it performed well enough on Netflix in the US to enable Sparke to get this lavish sequel greenlit and whilst as a film, it’s not hugely interesting and doesn’t really do anything new with the ‘humanity flattened by aliens’ trope, it’s an admirable achievement in its own right delivering an astonishing display of visual spectacle on a comparatively meagre 25 million Australian dollar budget.
Sparke has thrown literally everything at the screen here – we’re pretty sure we saw his kitchen sink hurtle past at one point. For those who may have missed Occupation (i.e. virtually everyone), a quick opening narration brings us up to speed as we’re told that two years have passed since the alien ‘Greys’ came to Earth and groups of human resistance fighters continue to fight the good fight, aided by alien defectors who are sympathetic to the human cause. Word comes of a mysterious device known as ‘Rainfall’ connected to a former military base at Pine Gap and a group of plucky humans (mostly characters from the first film) set off to find it in the hope that it might provide a valuable asset in their ongoing struggling with the vicious, armoured aliens.
What follows is over two hours of bombastic action, endless explosions, CGI aerial dogfights and a fantastically ambitious storyline that seriously cuts no corners in bringing some real visual oomph to the screen. Occupation: Rainfall looks extraordinary; frankly it has the scale and pallet of a film with a budget five times higher, topped and tailed by massive air battles with aircraft and alien fighter ships and studded with spectacular set-pieces throughout its running time (the best being a ground race between pod-like hoverships) and any number of alien lifeforms from the reptilian aliens themselves to strange dog/horse hybrids that roam the landscape, not to mention a sequence with a hideous arachnid creature and a cheeky lightsabre-lite fight. The CGI looks terrific on the small screen (although any deficiencies may be accentuated on a cinema screen) and it’s all stunning stuff but the downsides to the film frustratingly detract from the shock and awe of the massively accomplished visuals. The story itself is a bit dreary and unimaginative – and uninvolving - with the attention tending to wander when the attention focuses on the drab human characters – and the film is ultimately far too long and far too loud. There’s really not enough narrative here to justify a two-hour-plus running time and the inclusion of clunky comic relief sequences with The Hangover’s Ken Jeong feel not only misjudged but completely out of place in a film that is otherwise po-faced and humourless. By the time the film reaches its explosive conclusion it’s really hard to care what happens because we’ve been beaten around the head by the visuals and the sound design for two hours at the expense of interesting character dynamics and in the absence of standout performances from a largely-bland cast.
In the end Occupation: Rainfall is an incredible accomplishment on the available budget and this is clearly a labour of love from Sparke who has so clearly given this project his all. This alone makes it a worthwhile experience as proof that it’s not just Hollywood that can churn out big, brash sci-fi adventure movies and that sometimes these films really don’t need $200 million budgets to make their point. The ending suggests the potential for a third chapter in the story but next time we’d like to see equal time and energy expended on both the script and characters and the headache-inducing visuals.
Occupation: Rainfall is available on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD now. Read our interview with director Luke Sparke here.