A small Australian town experiences a small, yet devastating portion of a world invasion by a hostile alien race during a night of carnival festivities and a rugby football game. A small group of locals band together to form a resistance against the alien occupation that seeks to turn mankind’s world into their own, using captured humans as slave labor for their own agricultural harvesters. After each liberation of prisoners, the resistance fighters train others as rebels to strike back, and strike back hard, against their oppressors while they continuously search for their missing loved ones, but for some, at the cost of their own humanity and compassion when only killing becomes the most instantaneous gratification toward taking back their home planet. A select few of rebels try to find common ground in peace with a homeless alien race that desperately seeks an inhabitable world, but red and green blood must be shed on both sides before amity ever becomes a realistic ideal between two humanoid races.
“Occupation” is the 2018 alien invasion action-thriller and the sophomore feature film from Australian director Luke Sparke. Sparke, who also wrote the script, shares additional dialogue credits with Felix Williamson of “Nekrotronic.” What could be considered as “Red Dawn” meets “Independence Day,” “Occupation” has wealthy production value breadth that kisses the line of being something constructed from the flashy and gleam-laden Michael Bay with grand scale visual effects that blend fairly seamlessly with ground level practical makeup. Explosions, weapons fire, and spray patterns of alien blood put a significant dent into the storyline that follows the nearly-a-year course of the ragtag team of human resistance fighters, firmly solidifying “Occupation’s” action status and large pocket budget on a this foreign science fiction film.
Not one actor headlines “Occupation,” but, rather, follows the subjective motives from each of the motley crew of survivors. If had to choose, the pill addicted and rugged rugby footballer Matt Simmons, played by “Beast No More’s” Dan Ewing, is shown some favoritism as he becomes the naturally unspoken for leader of the resistance team that includes his girlfriend, Amelia, played by Stephany Jacobsen. “The Devil’s Tomb” actress doesn’t quite mesh well with Ewing; her forced performance is uncomfortably ungraceful during action and melodramatic scenes of her perspectives on the alien culture and Matt’s audacious bravery. Temuera Morrison is a familiar face amongst the mix; the “Speed 2” and regular “Star Wars” mythology actor across many platforms is the passionately driven father, Peter, who desperately searches for his son and wife from whom he was separated during the invasion and Morrison does what the accomplished actor has always done best, being the aggressor and the muscle behind his character, especially when Peter mercilessly caves in alien craniums with scrap piping. When Peter is bashing skulls, he’s being an overprotective daughter to Izzy Stevens, a young actress from Sydney, who provides the teenage angst and, in a rather bizarre move, goes down a road of fixation with the local, older looking bum, played by Zac Garred. The chemistry only sparks here and there until their tunnel of love sequence; by then, they’re full throttle, ripping off clothes like cotton is contagious. Rhiannon Fish, Charles Terrier, Felix Williamson, Jacqueline McKenzie (“Deep Blue Sea”), Trystan Go, and Sci-fi genre vet Bruce Spence (“The Road Warrior”) make up the remaining cast.
Much of “Occupation’s” hefty flaws come from simply being forced. From the acting to the storyline, the pace doesn’t convey authenticity and where the characters should be within the stages of a post-invasion Earth. Oppressive occupation desolate inhabitants and landscape, but the majority of the human race remain not weathered by the conflict and Sparke doesn’t necessarily express that well with still very much clean shaven, well-kept, and strength-retaining displaced survivors with fat bellies and no sign of disease or starvation. In 8 months, the resistance is able to completely organize against an advanced alien race despite being taken by complete surprise. Dynamics are a bit off as well as many motivations abruptly change; for example, Amelia’s brother, Marcus, has a crush fixation with Izzy Stevens’ character during invading period, but the interaction between them go un-nurtured and wither to where a sudden connection between her and the bum form at a rapid pace without so much of a flicker of jealousy Marcus, losing any hope for an internal, tangent subplot. Same can be said between Matt and Amelia; they’re hot and cold relationship teeters on psychotic behavior and bi-polar tendencies that result in questioning where exactly their position lies in this conflict that’s nudges them to wedge apart but pulls them together again like nonchalant magnets without really tackling head-on their own issues.
Lionsgate and Saban Films release “Occupation” on Blu-ray home video. The transfer is in 1080p hi-definition with a 2.39.1 widescreen presentation. Nothing really to note here about the image quality other than the cleanliness of the digital video that sheds many landscape and personal details in the day and the night sequences. The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track has copious qualities for an explosive-laden borderline A/B movie from Australia. Dialogue is prominent and the LFE is quiet sparse though explosion heavy; ships whizzing through the air maintain on a level playing field audio track shared with human’s scampering frantically for their very lives. Spanish subtitles and English SDH are also available. For a two-hour runtime flick, surprisingly, there are no bonus features with this release. Luke Sparke’s “Occupation” is masterfully formulaic as we’ve all experienced this movie before whether be “Red Dawn” or “Independence Day.” Nothing under the satisfactory visual effects is awesome enough to rattle or challenge the mind with the venture of a militia of Australian resistance fighters pitted against ghastly, rubber looking extraterrestrials and that’s the ultimate and fateful bullet in Sparke’s sci-fi action film.
Nuclear war had demolished the quiet rural areas harboring bio-engineering plants and has crumbled societies in a post-apocalypse. The nuclear fallout caused a deadly bacteria to thrive and spread amongst the region, wiping out millions of lives in its path. A group of scientists seek to rebuild the devastated population by devising a plan to send an electromagnetic pulse that will directly input inhibitors in the brain to block the bacteria from overwhelming a dwindling human race, but the success of the pulse came with a severe cost involving the death of every child on the planet. Also embedded in the pulse is a mind altering virus that encoded itself into every person’s brain to act as a mind control device. The only person virally immune, a fallout survivor, is a struggling father, Jake Slater, trying to protect his adolescent daughter, Molly, at all cost as she’s the only child left on Earth due in part to her father’s immunization. Malevolent creators behind the virus aim to get their hands on Molly and experiment on her immunization before inevitably releasing upon the world a much more sinister version of the virus from the pulse tower that only Jake can destroy.
“Blue World Order” is the martial arts, post-apocalyptic, science fiction flick from first time feature directors Ché Baker and Dallas Brand. Baker and Bland co-wrote the screenplay with Sarah Mason that flaunts a major concept, perhaps better suited as a major Hollywood studio concept, but wouldn’t quite cross that threshold of positive public opinion stemmed from cramming too much into the a non-stop, action-packed contiguous acts laid simply out to illuminate an aged old theme of power hungry Government against meager do-right resistance. To further add on top of all that doesn’t feel right about this film, we’ve all seen this film before or, perhaps, a similar rendition of it. The 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme film, one of many Van Damme guilty pleasures, “Cyborg,” blends martial arts with a futuristic wasteland decimated by a deadly plague and while the gritty and dark “Cyborg” carries itself vastly different from Bland and Baker’s more flashy and glossy approach, the story’s core is virtually the same with oppositions desiring to save the world for an interior motive.
Since this is an Australia production set on location in Australia, seems like a no brainer that Melbourne born actor, Jake Ryan (“Wolf Creek” the television series), would snatch the lead of Jake Slater. Ryan’s beefy build and rugged appearance have him a prime candidate for a hero, a fighting father, in a world in turmoil, but the way the film’s edited, Ryan comes off a bit aloof and a droll warrior. Ryan is joined by a few other familiar Australians and New Zealanders such as Jack Thompson (“Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones), Bruce Spence (“Mad Max”), and Stephen Hunter (“The Hobbit” trilogy) as a screw loose rebellion leader with a awful martial arts stand-in that dons a lighter shade wig. There’s also Billy Zane. Zane, a native of Illinois, has a knack for hitching himself onto foreign products; his last venture we reviewed was a Greek production entitled Evil – In the Time of Heroes, but Zane’s a remarkable actor whose able to morph into the essence of any character, especially characters that sport lopsided power like his character Master Crane, a martial arts instructor turned catastrophic savior post-fallout. The cast rounds out with newcomer Billie Rutherford, Kendra Appleton, and Bolude Fakuade.
One headache smoldering as a consistent motif throughout is the lack of character development. Before his calling as the one to save humanity, a dream sequence exposition touches upon Jake Slater’s time before nuclear war. Slater’s seen engaging in a friendly, if not slightly competitive, martial arts bout with instructor Master Crane. The two have an important, intrinsic history, involving Jake contracting a debilitating disease and able to bounce back with rehab through Master Crane’s teachings, that goes sorely unexplored. Most likely, the lack of development can be a direct result of the aforementioned with too much jammed into an already cluttered heap that jumps from one thought to the next without a proper seque. Even the introduction and the removal of characters has a nauseating sway. For example, when Stephen Hunter’s Madcap is introduced, he suddenly runs up to a fleeing Jake Ryan and the overweight, disheveled, rambler is able to best the physically fit, martial arts instructed, desperate father in more than one occasion. More instances like these can be exploited throughout, but we could be here all day breaking down the details or lack there of.
Random Media delivers Ché Baker and Dallas Brand’s fantasy-action “Blue World Order” onto DVD and VOD nationwide. A DVD-R screener was provided and can’t officially comment on the presentation or the audio tracks, but if there’s one issue to be said about the image quality, the special effects are horrendously Sy-Fy channel cheap with superimposed flames reaching six feet high in a monolithic-like pose. With effects like that, the indie Sci-Fi picture’s intended purpose is to solely entertain on a round house kick and uppercut punch level and not to invoke too much thought into a series of concepts. Instead, to sell the next Billy Zane installment, the selling point long shot of a “Back to the Future” Delorean car chase through the Australian desert is nice and attractive and proven to work. Shoddy blaster sounds and crumbling CGI put the last few straggling nails into “Blue World Order’s” vast coffin for a film that aimed really high for the bar but missed really low with unfocused material and devastating plot holes on a world-ending scale.