I guess the first of which – and still one of the very best – was the George Pal produced adaptation of H.G. Wells The War Of The Worlds (1953) from Paramount Pictures. That outing proved so popular with audiences that studios were naturally happy to start ponying up more cinematic depictions of the inevitable loss or near-loss of the planet. While the aliens have come in all shapes and sizes – including plant life and even viruses – the end result has often been much the same: some small platoon of plucky Earthlings somehow manages to rise to the occasion, defy the odds, and save (what remains of) life as we know it. There’s typically a lot lost in the process, true, but viewers are assured before the credits roll that the survivors will rebuild … and it’ll no doubt be a better place.
More than a century after Mr. Wells crafted that first invasion in print, storytellers are proud to continue the tradition; and one cinematic incarnation that completely escaped me was Occupation (2018). This Australian release – written and directed by Luke Sparke – took the approach of having the heroes chosen not from one of the world’s biggest and boldest military apparatuses but rather from the ranks of you and I: regular Joes who quickly grow tired with the invading forces and decide to strike back. After winning the ‘Best Feature Film’ prize from the Australian Screen Industry Network Awards, a follow-up was probably inevitable … so Sparke and company dipped back into that well with the release of Occupation: Rainfall … or as it’s titled in the film itself, “Occupation: Rainfall – Chapter 1.”
Since I missed the set-up picture, I waded into this one a bit slowly at first, not entirely certain I’d understand all that was going on. Thankfully, there’s a brief set-up that sets the film’s events into motion, and I can assure anyone reading that you do not need to have seen the earlier flick to understand what’s going on here. (It would help clarify some of the particulars, but it isn’t entirely necessary.) But as “Rainfall – Chapter 2” does not as of yet appear to have materialized nor be on the calendar (so far as IMDB.com suggests), I think it’s fair to point out that this one ends on a massive cliffhanger … a bit of a disappointment so far as this reviewer is concerned.
From the film’s promotional materials:
“The highly anticipated follow-up to Occupation (2018) picks up two years into an intergalactic invasion of Earth where survivors in Sydney, Australia are fighting back in a desperate ground war. As casualties mount by the day, the resistance and their unexpected allies uncover a plot that could see the war come to a decisive end. With the alien invaders hell-bent on making Earth their new home, the race is on to save mankind.”
One of the blessings (or is that a curse?) to having been treated to so many alien invasions is that there are ample comparisons that can be drawn to, literally, hundreds of properties. I suspect anyone who has ever watched any movies has seen at least one invasion feature; and, yes, that truth likely applies to folks who don’t consider themselves much a fan of Science Fiction or Fantasy. But because storytellers have seen these films and television shows ad infinitum, I think there’s a latent tendency to inadvertently ‘recreate’ some of what’s been done before without realizing it’s been done (to death!) already.
For example, the armor-protected aliens of Occupation: Rainfall bear a striking resemblance to those from Fox TV’s stellar 1995-1996 SciFi/Action series Space: Above And Beyond. Their fighter craft? Well, upon closer inspection I found them to look an awful lot like those already soaring onto silver screens worldwide in Roland Emmerich’s popular Independence Day (1996). And a handful of the film’s action sequences? Again, I’m not trying to point fingers, but didn’t I see some of this – or snippets very similar – in Jonathan Liebesman’s Battle Los Angeles (2011)? Though I’m not trying to pick a fight or start a war with anyone, my chief concern in trying to approach Rainfall independently is difficult because so very, very, very much of it felt derivative.
Now, this isn’t to say the picture isn’t well done.
The downside to that? Well, their best moments are lost in a helluva lot of noise.
The relationships in the film aren’t exactly very well spelled out, and the result ends up producing a wide array of players who spend most of their time running, shooting, screaming, flying, fighting, etc. Multiple alien species were involved in this original assault on the Earth, but – as some of them have paired up with humans wishing to bring the fighting to an end – even they don’t get the kind of explanation required to make sense of who they are, why they’re necessary, and what role they could inevitably play in all of this. The script even introduces a secret American project – tied closely to the title – that ends up being more of a distraction here when it should feel organic to the saga. Nothing quite gels together the way it should, and the result kept me asking a lot of questions that apparently have no answers.
The aforementioned Independence Day – as a solo picture – accomplished great balance with its impressively large cast because everyone had a singular purpose. Some were rather obviously meant to be victims in the alien onslaught, but their deaths were necessary in order to stir the remaining significant survivors on a call-to-arms. (That’s damn near fundamental in films of this type.) But Rainfall – even at its midpoint – is still introducing characters (some from the first film), and they’re never quite doing anything other than reacting to the story as plotted. A vastly more interesting film could’ve been achieved by slimming down this cast and focusing on that central relationship (Matt and Garry) and maybe a second subplot; what we’re left with instead feels like a conclusion rushed (and a bit unclear) for the sake of tying this installment up, getting it in theaters, and securing funding for a third. Very little is brought to effective closure here – well, I’m sure the former population of Sydney, Australia might disagree, were they still alive – and I’m left wondering why.
Dare I say it makes me long for the days of Crocodile Dundee?
Occupation: Rainfall (2020) was produced by Occupation Two Productions and Sparke Films. The feature is currently available around the world on various streaming platforms as well as Cable VOD.
Recommended. You know, at some point the worldwide Liberals and Progressives who push even the mildest politically-driven stories really ought to put-up or shut-up: since our world only has ten years left due to the “damage” we’ve inflicted on it with the burning of fossil fuels, maybe these invading aliens would be better served by taking some other planet? Certainly, these aggressors don’t seem all that concerned with the amount of soot and ash they’re releasing in our atmosphere, so I really think the solution practically writes itself.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Saban Films provided me with a complimentary streaming link for Occupation: Rainfall (2020) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.