Dan Ewing, Temuera Morrison, Daniel Gillies, Jet Tranter, Kevin Jeong, Dena Kaplan, Mark Coles Smith, Jason Isaacs
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…should serve as a splendorous oasis for those feeling the current drought of mainstream action blockbusters.
Luke Sparke’s Occupation was a rare breed of cinema when it hit in 2018. Not many Australian films come out with that level of blockbuster ambition, and even fewer have the technical chops to back it up. But Sparke managed to utilise cultural iconography and a small budget to show the Americanised face of modern action/sci-fi that they weren’t the only game in town, with a bombastic crowd-pleaser fit for the world stage.
And with this follow-up, he’s aimed even higher and, astonishingly, managed to hit the mark.
The production values have suitably elevated to create the kind of action eye-candy that usually shows up with a much, much bigger price tag attached to it from the likes of Disney. While some of the green-screening can be a little obvious in places, the way it, and the visual effects in general, are wielded makes up for all sins.
Everything, from the designs of the various aliens on-screen, to the finesse put into the action scenes both on and off the ground, to the space-opera-sized scope of the dramatic stakes and narrative; it all fits and makes for film craft that manages to one-up the original.
It helps that Sparke’s writing has also been given an upgrade, expanding beyond the Independence Day/Tomorrow, When The War Began/War Of The Worlds genre cribbing of the original and forging its own identity.
Not that it completely abandons its influences (there’s plenty of Star Wars, Star Trek and maybe a little Mass Effect within); just that they are remixed better here. It’s an alien invasion war flick that looks at all three of those descriptors and brings out some difficult ideas from them, delving into trauma, torture, and good old-fashioned xenophobia to add appropriate murkiness to the proceedings. It can be as subtle as a laser to the face at times, but it’s still a nice change-up from the Reagan-quoting missteps of the first film.
And speaking of missteps, after what happened with Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, who thought that bringing Ken ‘Deep Wang’ Jeong back into this genre was a good idea? It is genuinely bizarre just how quickly he and Jason Isaacs start to shake the foundations of this entire film’s entertainment value within moments. When everyone else, from the returning faces to the newcomers, are doing just fine with balancing darker war drama with an Ocker sense of humour, in comes ‘hasn’t been funny since the first Hangover’ and ‘have we learnt nothing from Red Dog: True Blue?’ to muddy the waters.
But while they stick out like asteroid-sized splinters, they are far from irrevocably wrecking the film around them.
A locally-produced sci-fi epic with real cinematic muscle and the kind of cultural commentary that shows why the Aussie/sci-fi intersection is such a match made in heaven, Occupation: Rainfall should serve as a splendorous oasis for those feeling the current drought of mainstream action blockbusters.