Occupation: Rainfall (2021)

Luke Sparke

Running Time: 128 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Dan Ewing, Temuera Morrison, Daniel Gillies, Lawrence Makoare, Mark Coles Smith, Jet Tranter, Jason Isaacs, Ken Jeong

Released in 2018, Occupation was an attempt to make an Australian sci-fi epic depicting humanity fighting against alien invaders. The desperate battle continues two years later, as human survivors find themselves allied with renegade aliens. Struggling to fight back in a ground war, the fragile resistance uncover a plot which could see the war come to an end.

Writer/director Luke Sparke has crafted a sequel which stands alone rather well, as character history and motivations are clearly conveyed without viewing the first film. The result feels inspired by the works of Michael Bay, offering much spectacle and explosions, although without the visual flair. The world-building at play feels at odds with the limiting budget, particularly for some visual effects and backgrounds. What's more effective are the practically realised alien designs.

Viewers are shown why the resistance holds such disdain for the aliens, having endured such horrific trauma in the wake of the invasion. It should be easy to understand their motivations even when committing questionable actiong, yet it comes across as artificial. One subplot is the perfect opportunity to show how humanity can't stop infighting even in the face of potential demise, although the military politics and grapple for control just feels tiresome. What should work ultimately feels frustrating.

This is especially true of Matt Simmons, the gung-ho lead played by Dan Ewing. He's paired alongside a renegade alien he calls Gary, with the clear dislike meant to offer an intergalactic spin on 48 Hrs. It unfortunately doesn't work, as Simmons acts like an intolerable bully and an impatient child to his partner too often. When the relationship should naturally thaw over the runtime, it comes off as a rush to see him learning to be tolerant to a more interesting character.

Packed within the story are an abundance of characters, and despite an overlong runtime, not enough reasons are given to care about them. The screenplay feels stretched too far, and when coupled with some acting choices, few of the characters stick in the mind. This sadly means the inclusion of a bickering odd couple, consisting of Ken Jeong and an movie-obsessed alien voiced by Jason Isaacs, fails to register. While the ending promises another chapter, it's a struggle to imagine occupying a seat for the next instalment.

Occupation: Rainfall is available in cinemas and on Digital from 9th July