There’s no shortage of lowbrow, CGI-laden science fiction across the plethora of streaming platforms now available for consumption. Aussie writer-director Luke Sparke’s Occupation: Rainfall (a sequel to 2018’s Occupation) is a more than worthy addition to the family. Maintaining an unwavering commitment to world-building and a lack of pretension that keeps the proceedings grounded in its strengths, the film is on equal footing with most of the modern tentpole productions currently in the multiplex.
We’re two years into an invasion of Earth by a hostile alien force, one that has largely brought humanity to its knees. The remnants of the resistance in Australia are on their last legs, desperate for a solution to the ongoing crisis. Some, like Amelia (Jet Tranter), are working on a diplomatic solution. Others, like hawkish Wing Commander Hayes (Daniel Gillies), adopt a no-holds-barred mentality, even towards the aliens that have decided to switch sides and join the resistance like Garry (Lawrence Makoare). The clash between diplomacy and militancy subsequently becomes a running theme.
As they search for the purpose behind the “Rainfall” codename the aliens seek, we’re taken on a frenetic journey across Australia. Their trek involves copious amounts of gunplay, aerial combat (great marketing for the F/A-18 Super Hornet), fisticuffs, strange alien creatures, and a bizarre appearance from comedian Ken Jeong. There’s no shortage of fun to be had, and Sparke almost never takes his foot off the gas, wisely preventing the less interesting exposition from distracting much from the action.
“…search for the purpose behind the ‘Rainfall’ codename the aliens seek…”
The nature of the genre generally exclusion an overabundance of meaningful dramatic performances, and Occupation: Rainfall is no exception. We do get our fair share of a*s-kicking, and that’s all that we really need anyway. However, one does have to question the inclusion of Jeong and his stoner-alien buddy Steve (you’d never know it was Jason Isaacs). Their relatively short time on screen is worthy of a chuckle here and there, but it conflicts tonally with the rest of the movie and adds to an already-bloated runtime.
The story’s scope is ambitious, and we must appreciate Sparke’s dedication to the lore and his genre influences. But the unrelenting cacophony of action makes us question if some trimming should have been in order after we hit the ninety-minute mark. It’s difficult to sustain such continued battle and fight scenes for over two hours without quality expository sequences that add a sense of rhythm – sequences that admittedly would have limited success in such genre fare.
Occupation: Rainfall looks impressive considering the limited resources, but there’s no denying that the sweeping use of CGI makes one yearn for more practical effects. To be fair, that’s more of an indictment of the times, not necessarily a dig on the film. One choice that could have substantially minimized the overly digitized aesthetic would have been eliminating the near-ubiquitous use of lens flare, which is hard to ignore once viewers start to pick up on its use.
The influence from disparate action flicks like Independence Day and Mad Max is palpable. For those weaned on such classics, there’s no doubt that Occupation: Rainfall will satisfy whatever genre cravings you might have. But is it a life-changing sci-fi event that will change the landscape of the genre? Probably not, but if you need a break from prestige films and want your face melted, one could do far worse.
"…unrelenting cacophony of action . . ."