REVIEW: ‘Alienoid’ Brings Some of the Best Sci-Fi of the Year

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alienoid - But Why Tho (1)

Android versus android, wuxia-inspired wire-work fights, time-travel, aliens, and magic. There is a lot going on in Alienoid. And yet, this genre-blending sci-fi-action-historical-fantasy film is the right kind of inventive that pushes every limit without feeling overstuffed. Alienoid is directed and written by Choi Dong-hoon and stars Ryu Jun-Yeol, Kim Woo-bin, Kim Tae-ri, So Ji-sub, Yum Jung-ah, Jo Woo-jin, Kim Eui-sung, Lee Ha-nee, Shin Jung-geun, and Lee Si-hoon.

In Alienoid, aliens have been held prisoners inside human bodies. In 2022, Guard (Kim Woo-bin) and Thunder live on Earth, managing alien prisoners who have been locked up in humans’ brains. One escapes and they catch them and lock them back up. But one day, a spacecraft appears in the sky over Seoul and everything changes. But 2022 isn’t the only time period to worry about.

Around 630 years earlier during the Goryeo Dynasty, the hapless dosa (Korean tao magician) Muruk (Ryu Jun-yeol) and Ean (Kim Tae-ri), the so-called “Girl Who Shoots Thunder,” scramble to outwit each other in pursuit of the mystical Divine Blade and claim a huge reward in the process. Enter, two sorcerers in search of the Divine Blade’s secrets, Madam Black (Yum Jung-ah) and Mr. Blue (Jo Woo-jin), and the masked Jajang (Kim Eui-sung), hurdling towards the blade at the same time all while a spacecraft emerges from a river with an ominous red light.

It’s a lot. I know. That said, with interwoven moments of time all pushing towards the same point in the narrative, Alienoid is just as strong when it is in 1391 as it is in 2022. This feat is a hard one, with such drastic changes in visual styles and genre that each one focuses on—more fantasy in the past and more pure sci-fi in the present. And yet, there is never a tip in the balance of making a dynamic film that is as charming and humourous as it is adventurous.

At nearly two-and-a-half hours, Alienoid never had me looking at my watch or checking how much time was left. Instead, each new plot twist and connection between the timelines had me leaning in closer and closer until the credits rolled. Never still, the exciting and fast pace works perfectly for the way it attempts to build on each act. The action is beautiful to watch, the effects are right on target for being both grand and effortlessly blended into the live-action surroundings. But it’s the actors that really make Alienoid more than just a bombastic sci-fi outing and instead, captures you.

alienoid - But Why Tho

For his part, Kim Woo-bin plays multiple characters with different personalities. From the serious and stoic Guard to the cinnamon roll Thunder, he’s a force on screen. Add in the dynamic with his adoptive daughter and we have the trope of reluctant father and child that pushes a lot of the film. Add in the stunning Kim Tae-ri as Ean who shows once again she knows exactly how to handle a gun and Ryu Jun-yeol as Muruk, a perfect historical fantasy leading man, and this all just works.

It’s heartfelt without sacrificing the more intense and absurd developments that come from aliens fighting androids. For the cast in 1391, the director Choi showcases his acumen for nailing historical fantasy and blending it with sci-fi in some of the grandest ways. Told out of order, the film’s third act manages to bring together the film in one solid move that gets erratic without losing what makes it special. Sure, the pacing may be too much here and there, and some comedy may not be perfectly timed, especially when the sorcerer duo is concerned. But those small flaws don’t even begin to detract from the damn near epic adventure we go on.

Alienoid is easily some of the best sci-fi I’ve seen all year. On paper, the film seems too packed to succeed. It has a large cast, different genres, weird tentacle alien things, a story that spans multiple timelines, and a lot of sci-fi elements that should take a lot to explain. However, every single part of Alienoid is a stunning feat of genre love that can’t be beaten. Without heavy exposition, Alienoid throws you into a world that begs to be explored even beyond this one story, and with the way it ends, I need a sequel immediately.

Alienoid is releasing in select theaters from WellGoUSA now.


Alienoid
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Alienoid is easily some of the best sci-fi I’ve seen all year. On paper, the film seems too packed to succeed. It has a large cast, different genres, weird tentacle alien things, a story that spans multiple timelines, and a lot of sci-fi elements that should take a lot to explain. However, every single part of Alienoid is a stunning feat of genre love that can’t be beaten. Without heavy exposition, Alienoid throws you into a world that begs to be explored even beyond this one story, and with the way it ends, I need a sequel immediately.

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