A small group of town residents have to band together after a devastating ground invasion. As they struggle to survive, they realize they must stay one step ahead of their attackers, and work together for a chance to strike back.
After watching “Occupation”, I wasn’t sure how to start the review. Here are a couple of options:
You know your film is in trouble when a half-literate post on imdb.com strings together a coherent list of reasons why the movie stinks.
During the primary alien attack on an Australian football game, I had a flashback to “Godzilla 1985”. As our entire primary cast all jump aboard a camper, all I could see were those people from the Godzilla movie attempting to use the elevator to escape a building the titular behemoth happened to be dismantling. I walked out of “Godzilla 1985” at that point. Unfortunately, that was not an option with “Occupation”.
Take your pick as either works with the rest of the review.
The first 15 minutes sets up the main characters. Don’t worry about names. You know these characters. The reluctant hero, his overachieving girlfriend, the grumpy but kindly old guy, the guy with the sketchy past, sketchy guy’s young stepdaughter whose head is lost in her smartphone, the young couple who just found out they are gonna have a baby (and the woman just happens to be a nurse as well), the homeless guy with a heart of gold, and so on. Any character that doesn’t get some background in the first 15 but are connected to the main characters are packed away until much, much later in the film where their lack of depth won’t slow down the movie even more.
The cast all climb aboard a camper. This should be the breaking point for most viewers. You see the alien aircraft strafing every vehicle in the parking lot. Vehicles blow up on every side of the camper. A group of alien troopers are shown in the rearview mirror as being at the back bumper. Yet more people crawl into the back of the camper. Then they drive off. More alien aircraft swing in and blast the other parked cars, but they “miss” a slow-moving camper with a rack of lights bright enough to be seen from orbit.
They set up camp, and viewers are treated to a couple of montages of people learning new skills as they all work together and start taking the fight back to the aliens. It’s a shame the film wasn’t made in the 1980s because they gave good montage back then. I mean, the original “Red Dawn” is the basic template here, and that was about as 80s as you can ask for. Plus, “Red Dawn” benefited from having Lea Thompson and Jennifer Gray. I miss the 80s.
When an alien is captured, we get the expected “are we morally better than the things killing us or worse?” argument quickly glossed over in favor of some action scenes because the film has been running on paper-thin character conflicts long enough that viewers might start defecting.
The somewhat abrupt change in tone comes across as if the viewer is dropped into the beginning of the second part of a two-part episode without properly finishing part one. At that point, you realize there Is another hour left in the film, but you pretty much know who will survive and who will die. You pray for some deviation, but it never comes.
Instead, your mind might start wondering about things. If these aliens have been studying us and our transmissions for years, wouldn’t they have used some of the abducted humans to create a virus and then secretly expose us to it instead of waiting until they actually make planetfall to start figuring out the enemy? Do the stormtroopers from Star Wars laugh at the piss-poor aim these aliens have? Why does a character have to drag the entire cast to the edge of a valley so they can stare like a bunch of idiots from a Steven Spielberg-directed film at a monstrous spaceship that they could have just as easily seen by merely looking up? Why would the aliens have their “secret” weapon on only ONE ship when they have ships all over the planet that could have the same weapon if the aliens had, I dunno, the Internet? How is it that most characters hit by even a glancing blast from an alien gun will die, but the main characters can pretty much take a full-on shot and get up to keep fighting? Why are we handed a wad of wet-tissue political correctness in a film in which humanity is threatened by aliens who intended to wipe us out like an irritating poop stain? Why does the film end with a bland pop tune that does not fit the previous hour and fifty minutes in tone?
“Occupation” is weakest in the worst possible place, and that is the script. The main characters are clichés right off the shelf. The dialogue is stilted and weirdly jingoistic when the characters start monologuing. Scenes run too long. Every attempted twist or different plot point is a cliché. The whole movie constantly trips itself by trying to be everything the audience would expect instead of what would be realistic or even natural.
The acting is acceptable, except in a couple of scenes where you just want the actors to shut the hell up. The camera work is, again, acceptable, but not outstanding, even when attempting to do “inventive” things. (Here’s a hint: Turning the camera upside down is not inventive.) Some of the practical effects on the aliens aren’t bad. The CGI ranges from workable to “Oh, hell, was that done on an Amiga?”.
While “Occupation” does make its small budget seem much larger with interesting costumes and lots of military hardware, the failure of the script is so complete that a couple of times it seemed the film had veered into parody when it was attempting to be real. Other than seeing the actors who played Jango Fett and the Gyro Captain in roles far beneath their talent, “Occupation” has little to offer and takes far too long to do so.