As aliens enter the Goryeo Dynasty in pursuit of one of their prisoners, a mysterious blade may hold the solution to everything. Or be the worst thing that’s ever happened to humankind.
Written and directed by Dong-hoon Choi, this sci-fi-action time travel wire work martial arts comedy drama is as all over the place as it could be, yet it’s fascinating to watch and somehow manages to make it’s almost 2.5 hours runtime feel like it’s flying by. There is so much in here that some will think it’s too much and give up, but it’s the kind of film that gains from paying attention fully and just being down to join the ride. It’s absolute madness at times and it mixes everything from sword fighting to gunplay to martial arts to time travel to magic to family bonding and so much more. It’s a film that’s hard to describe and yet so easy to love. Some viewers will get completely lost as the film bounces from time period to time period with characters being older in the past than in the current days and with all the stories crossing with each other while other viewers will absolutely adore it for exactly that. The story and direction make the film feel very much alive and doesn’t rob the characters of their development, there is plenty in here, it’s a film that knows what it wants and go for it like a child on Red Bull and too much cotton candy who remains the sweetest, cutest insane being ever.
The cast here shines, everyone seems to be really on point, giving performances that fit the material. This means that some folks are magical being and see this as completely normal, some are martial artists who can just jump to the second floor like it’s nothing, some time travel and don’t really question it. The performances here make the most of the material because the performers have accepted this universe they find themselves in. Playing the little girl at the center of it all, Ean, is Kim Tae-ri who is fantastic here. She really goes for it with her performance and gives her character courage, vulnerability, and a little something extra that makes her shine here. Playing Guard, or her sort of dad, Kim Woo-bin who kind of gets a few parts here, without spoiling annything, he does great with them. The part of Guard is more stoic and his performance works with that, the other bits he gets here give him a chance to stretch out a bit and it’s definitely fun to watch. Other performances that are noteworthy here are those of Ryu Jun-yeol and Lee Ha-nee. The film overall has strong performances from pretty much everyone, helping the viewer really get into the story, even when it becomes pure madness.
The film also boasts some great cinematography by Kim Tae-kyung with some truly active sequences shot in a way that allows the viewer to see everything going on, something many recent big budget films could learn from. The editing assist in creating these active scenes and in giving the film a life on the screen that helps move along the story while keeping the viewer involved. In terms of visual effects, this film has a ton. These are done under the supervision of Jay Seung Jaegal and they work here. They aren’t perfect, but they are really strong, with a few characters being 100% CG, they do the most of currently available technology. Will these age well? Well, probably, but also with the speed at which the tech advances, a few years down the road, they have look a bit dated. For now, they look good even though it is obvious that these characters are fully CG beings.
Overall, Alienoid is a fun ride with so much crammed in it that the almost 2.5 hours runtime doesn’t feel that long. It’s entertaining, it’s breathtaking in spots, and funny. There is a sequel for it that is already shot and ready to get released next year. The film does lead right into the sequel so while it’s a first in a series, because of its ending, it’s not exactly a standalone film. However, this first of two is plenty good all on its own and makes this viewer wish it had been released in a theater nearby as the spectacle would only have been better on a massive screen.