Director – Luke Sparke – 2020 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 128m
Australian alien invasion epic with lots of seasoned actors and heaps of special effects. What could possibly go wrong? – out in cinemas on Friday, July 9th
A sequel to Australian alien invasion outing Occupation (2018) by the same director, this big effects movie spends much time and effort on spectacular alien spaceships and dogfights, prosthetics alien costumes and the occasional creature that couldn’t possibly be portrayed by a human actor in a suit. These visual effects do the job but aren’t particularly engaging. The piece overall lacks original ideas and panache.
The sketchy plot has the world (i.e. Australia) invaded by aliens called ‘Greys’ because of their skin colour while a military force under Wing Commander Hayes (Daniel Gillies from Spider Man 2, Sam Raimi, 2004) is fighting back. Hayes believes force is the only way to deal with the invaders and has consequently sidelined peace negotiator Amelia The Human (Jet Trantor from Thor: Ragnorok, Taika Waititi, 2017) who has made the effort to learn to speak the alien language. Greys unsympathetic to the invasion live amongst the humans.
A wise elder named Abe (David Roberts from The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, Lana & Lilly Wachowski, 2003) despatches a two-man recon mission to find and discover the exact nature of the eponymous Project Rainfall. The mission comprises two volunteers Matt Simmons (Dan Ewing from Love And Monsters, Michael Matthews, 2020) and an alien Matt nicknames Garry (Lawrence Makoare from The Dead Lands, Toa Fraser, 2014; Die Another Day, Lee Tamahori, 2002; The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, 2001, The Return Of The King, 2003, both Peter Jackson) accompanied by two horse / dog creatures who turn out to be fiercely loyal and possessed of a useful habit of eating alive any attacking aliens. I would love to be able to tell you that these are as interesting to watch as the Tauntaun (the bipeds ridden like horses) in The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kirschner, 1980) are interesting to watch, but they aren’t.
In similar vein, there’s a battle with a huge beast that consists of teeth in a maw carried by spider legs and blessed with the ability to flip over and still keep walking. Again, I’d like to tell you it’s as thrilling to watch as the insectoid aliens in Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven, 1997) which it vaguely resembles, but it isn’t.
The space pilot battles against the aliens are impressive in visual effects terms, but there are far too many of them and they go on far too long. And the actor-in-a-suit alien prosthetics are fine, insofar as they go, but they alone can’t carry the film.
The recon mission stops at a village settlement of people who refused to do what they were told by the military and are now somehow running a sustainable local society. Their host Peter Bartlett (Temuera Morrison from Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones, George Lucas, 2002; Once Were Warriors, Lee Tamahori, 1994) is sympathetic, but his fellow villagers form a lynch mob and demand the Grey be handed over to them. This is one of the few genuinely interesting and engaging sequences. A fight ensues.
Later, the mission reaches an American base where the mystery of ‘Rainfall’ will be explained. The only two people in this vast complex are unfunny, wisecracking US scientist Bud Miller (Ken Jeong from The Hangover, Todd Phillips, 2009; Despicable Me, Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, 2010 and their sequels) and movie-obsessive alien Steve (voiced by Jason Isaacs from Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets, Chris Columbus, 2002, and sequels; Star Trek: Discovery TV series, creators Bryan Fuller, Alex Kurtzman, 2017-18).
Far superior Australian post-apocalyptic movie Mad Max (George Miller, 1979) had the good sense to deploy an element of home-grown culture (custom cars) in Australian desert repurposed as post-apocalyptic wasteland, not to mention launching the international career of Mel Gibson. Occupation: Rainfall can make no such claim of exploiting Australian resources and pushing its movie culture forward on any level, preferring rather to merely reproduce vacuous Hollywood SF spectacle without adding anything new (beyond the Australian accents, which make a nice change).
It does however deliver almost non-stop action with spectacular visual effects for over two hours for a reported Australian $25m (£13m). That may impress industry money men and make the film an easy sell, but for anyone paying to watch the film it really isn’t enough. Decent direction, plot and characterisation would have helped. Not to mention, far more importantly, a well-thought out screenplay which certainly isn’t what we get on the screen here. Without those elements, special effects and action really can’t cut it. Potential Turkey of the Year.
Such a shame – I really wanted this to be good.
Occupation: Rainfall is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, July 9th.
Trailer (look, let’s be honest… the trailer makes the film look fantastic… Don’t be fooled, though… The completed film is an endurance test – and not in a good way):