Released: 28th January
Seen: 31st July
In 2018 the film Occupation was released in July to an audience of… uh… almost none. On a six million dollar budget the little Aussie Sci-Fi invasion flick brought in a worldwide box office total of about $150K. To put that into perspective, in July of that year the 2007 film Across the Universe got a re-release for three days and made about $200K. To put it bluntly, Occupation was a flop.
That isn’t really a shock, it’s an Australian film and any Aussie film with a budget in the millions tends to not be good at making its money back, but Occupation was such a forgotten film (It came out around the time of Infinity War, no one was looking at it) that one would be justified in believing it would have been a one off… which is why it blows my mind that somehow this sequel exists and cost $25 million that I’m certain it’ll also never make back.
Occupation: Rainfall picks up a few years after the first movie (don’t sweat it if you didn’t see the first one, this film basically wipes the slate clean) with the earth still dealing with the alien invasion. Humanity has teamed up with a few good aliens in order to help them fight the bad ones that are still trying to take over the planet. The war between the bad aliens and everyone else on the planet rages on, until the human resistance army discovers a weapon that they might be able to use to bring down the dark side of the force and… oh damn, sorry, got this confused with a Star Wars movie. In my defense, that’s basically what this is.
Occupation: Rainfall feels, from start to finish, like a rejected Star Wars prequel script with the serial numbers filed off and a few key names changed in order to try and hide what it’s doing. It’s honestly impressive how much of this stuff feels like a direct lift from that infamous Lucas property, from the designs of the aliens to the semi lightsaber fights. It’s almost comically similar to the point where you can’t avoid noticing that the only thing it’s not doing is being as compelling as the Star Wars movies are.
You’ll also notice that I compared it to the prequels… that’s cos this film decides, at roughly the hour and a half mark, to introduce us to a pair of Jar Jar’s in the form of the two big non-Aussie actors in the cast who do what I believe is meant to be a comedy routine but ends up just being annoying. I guess annoying is at least something resembling a feeling, which is more than the rest of the film elicits.
Most of the film just kind of exists, neither engaging nor upsetting. It just keeps going, occasionally impressing with some legitimately great low-budget battle sequences that show off the potential of this film, before going back to lengthy bouts of uninteresting dialogue set in places that could exist in any country on the planet.
Which leads to the other big flaw, the first film felt very distinctly Australian in its setting by having the main cast of characters hiding in the bushland. You took one look at Occupation and you could tell that it was made in Australia… Occupation: Rainfall has to keep verbally reminding everyone that it’s taking place somewhere around Sydney because there’s nothing visual that sets that up (Except a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge that’s so mangled that it’d be very easy to miss). Throw in our non-Aussie cast and it takes away the thing that made the original film feel unique.
Even with all those issues, there are still some things about Occupation: Rainfall worth admiring, mainly in the visuals on display. Considering the comparatively small budget that it had, it’s wildly impressive how good this looks. Sure you can see a few seams here and there but there is still a lot of raw talent on display that makes for some fun and engaging battle sequences. The scenes of the aerial battles would look good if this was a 100 million dollar blockbuster so doing this on the tiny indie budget they had is wildly impressive.
Indeed I have to give serious props to the writer/director Luke Sparke who clearly knows how to make a limited budget look fantastic. Honestly with a really amazing script and a studio that would help really push his work, it’s not hard to imagine Sparke being asked to make a ton of blockbuster films in the future. While this film might not be one I revisit, I would absolutely check out anything that Sparke makes in the future because he really seems to want to make big fun action films and I hope to see more.
Still, Occupation: Rainfall is a film that is, at best, derivative. It’s not without promise or some impressive shots but it constantly feels like a film that we’ve seen before a few dozen times and it never really pushes far enough to stand out among them. It’ll make for an interesting addition to a Sci Fi channel schedule at some point in the future, maybe even elicit a few clicks on Netflix, but I can’t see it being remembered for long… so when they make the inevitable sequel to it, it should be fun to see if anyone even remembers that this is a franchise now.