Alienoid (Oegye+in 1bu, 외계+인 1부) opens by informing us that, without us knowing it, aliens have been locking their prisoners up in human bodies. And like all prisons, sometimes there will be a jailbreak. We then go back to the 14th century to see one of the aliens try to escape. It’s a wild sequence filled with aliens, robots, wire-fu, a time-travelling SUV and, last but not least, a baby.
If that seems a bit spectacular but somewhat confusing, things eventually become a bit clearer. Guard (Woo-bin Kim, The Con Artists, Runway Cop) and the robot Thunder (Woo-bin Kim in human form and voiced by Kim Dae-myung in orbit form) are aliens. Based in modern-day Korea they’re here to watch over the prisoners past and present, an assignment that’s gone on much longer than Guard likes. In a separate plotline, set in 1391, Muruk (Ryu Jun-Yeol, A Taxi Driver, The Battle: Roar to Victory) a dosa, or tao magician, and Ean (Kim Tae-ri, 1987: When the Day Comes, Space Sweepers) also known as “The Girl Who Shoots Thunder” are searching for a magical weapon known as The Divine Blade.
I’m not spoiling anything by saying that The Divine Blade is actually a piece of alien technology and that the two timelines will end up converging. But with Alienoid running only a few minutes under two and a half hours there’s a lot to go through before we get there.
Writer/director Dong-hoon Choi (Assassination, The Big Swindle) mixes elements from Transformers, The Terminator and The Hidden along with historical action set during the Goryeo Dynasty to create a plot that while it rarely slows down, does get hard to follow and requires frequent doses of expository dialogue. It even trips over itself at one point just after much of the city has been levelled by an alien ship, a few blocks away people act as though nothing has happened. At least until something else happens.
And with the budget Choi had to work with, not only do things frequently occur, they look extremely good when they do. Alienoid does use CGI but they could afford to do it right and VFX supervisor Jay Seung Jaegal (Parasite, Monkey King 3) delivers some impressive scenes of destruction. The CGI of the alien tentacles is also well done, even when there are many of them on screen, The scenes where we see them in their natural form, while not terrible, are noticeably less impressive.
The technology from Aliemoid’s science fiction plot doesn’t always integrate very well with the sorcery of its martial arts fantasy timeline. There are moments that blend them together nicely, such as a scene involving a magic mirror and a pistol. My guess is that Choi’s intention was for the magic to integrate as The Force does in the Star Wars franchise. But they often feel at odds with each other rather than feeling like parts of the same story.
What even more viewers will find jarring is Alienoid’s ending. Or perhaps I should say lack thereof. The translation of its Korean title, Alien+Human Part 1 makes it clear that this isn’t meant to be a standalone film, and it isn’t. The film ends on several major cliffhangers that should be the starting point for Part 2, which is currently in post-production.
Despite its flaws, Alienoid is a fun film to watch and should look even more impressive if you get to see it on the big screen. There’s more than enough going on to keep you occupied, just don’t think about it too much.
Well Go USA will release Alienoid to theatres in the US and Canada on August 26th. You can check their website for a list of cities and theatres and updates on Digital and Blu-ray release dates. And while you wait, FilmTagger can recommend some similar films to kill the time.