When the world ends, it will come to everyone differently but it will come to them all simultaneously; in rural Australia, where nothing more exciting than roadworks and football games interrupts the lives of the locals, it begins with lights in the sky as the power cuts out, followed by the explosions. Before they can fully comprehend the terror descending upon them, the prelude to occupation has begun.
The aliens advancing like a death squad across the football field, among the survivors who flee to the woods are Peter Bartlett (Aquaman‘s Temuera Morrison, former football team captain Matt Simmons (Red Billabong‘s Dan Ewing) and his girlfriend Amelia Chambers (Battlestar Galactica‘s Stephany Jacobsen) and Arnold (The Magicians‘ Charles Mesure), a man whose actions fail to match his words; there they prepare to use guerrilla tactics to strike back.
Written and directed by Luke Sparke, like H G Wells’ The War of the Worlds and its big-screen adaptation produced by George Pal, Occupation is focused more on those on the fringes rather than the big city dwellers and power brokers of Independence Day, the budget not extending to the destruction of national monuments such as Sydney Opera House.
In theory, this should allow a more intimate and personal film where the viewer feels an involvement with the characters; a parallel would be the original mini-series of “V” but where that offered a cross-section of society, each of whom had a different perspective on the Visitors and a complex evolving relationship with them from which sprang considerations of allegiance and compromise, Occupation simply has guns and explosions.
With “additional dialogue” credited to Felix Williamson, the contributions have not expanded the off-the-shelf characters and dilemmas with not one original idea offered before or after the film leaps forward eight months as though an entire season of a television show had been cut down to two hours by removing all the interesting bits.
The survivors still wearing the same neat haircuts and lipgloss, always important in an alien invasion, the passage of time is only apparent in the progress of the now heavily pregnant trainee nurse who has neglected in the interim to pass on any of her vital skills to those around her who might be called upon to assist in the delivery.
Meanwhile, male ego undiminished even as society falls, football players Matt and Jackson (Charles Terrier) still choose to fight each other rather than “the Greys” whose strategy for conquest seems to involve crossing interstellar space to invade planets then forcing slave labour to farm the fields by hand, the expenditure of resources presumably justified by reasons unrevealed.
Christopher Elves’ soundtrack trying to sell the resistance as emotional and epic as the endless slow-motion fight scenes unfold, where Occupation should focus on what can make it individual and proud of its Australian origin, as Wyrmwood did with zombies, it is instead a bland mish-mash of alien invasion B-movies with no identity to call its own.
Occupation is available on DVD, Blu-ray and download from Altitude from Monday 21st January