Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Choi Dong-hoon’s Alienoid

You might think it would be easier to fight off hostile aliens in the year 2022 than back in the Fourteenth Century Goryeo Korea, but Earthlings would be technologically outclassed in either era. At least back then they had magic and superheroes. In addition to all of the above, this film also has time travel, so it pretty much has it all. However, it will not necessarily be clear which alien from the future is inhabiting which human character from the past in director-screenwriter Choi Dong Hoon’s wildly inventive Alienoid, which opens Friday in New York.

630 years ago, the Earth’s resident prison warden, simply known as “Guard” and Thunder, his AI assistant, drove their SUV into Goryeo times to recapture a fugitive alien. Guard represents a galactic order that imprisons the consciousnesses of their criminals inside the brains of humans on Earth. In most cases, both the host and the imprisoned remain unaware of the situation. However, when the aliens are awakened, they can take control and run amok. In this case, their fugitive sought to escape into the past. Guard and Thunder nabbed their quarry, but the collateral damage left infant Ean an orphan.

Stone cold Guard was willing to abandon her to fate, but the stealthy Thunder smuggled her back to 2022 for Guard to raise as his daughter. He is not an affectionate father, but parenthood helps establish his human cover. However, Ean is smart for her age, so she suspects Guard is involved in something weird.

Meanwhile, six centuries earlier, Murak, a clumsy, but sometimes powerful Taoist dosa magician is on a quest to find a legendary blade. Initially, he finds himself competing against the mysterious “Girl Who Shoots Thunder,” who wields some very contemporary firearms, but the real threat comes from a cabal of alien body-snatchers.

is a crazy kitchen sink movie, filled to the rim with every possible science fiction and fantasy element imaginable. Yet, it is also highly refreshing, because it creates a whole new science fiction universe that is not tied into and carrying the baggage of the Marvel or DC Universes. Hollywood just doesn’t have this kind of originality or ambition anymore. Is this really the safest or most cost-efficient way of imprisoning criminals? Probably not, but it certainly provides the impetus for a lot of crazy and thoroughly entertaining mayhem.

As the Goryeo gunslinger, Kim Tae-ri is a terrific action lead. Again, a Hollywood studio would break its arm patting itself on the back if they made a movie with a strong female butt-kicker like her, but it is business as usual in South Korea. Ryu Jun-yeol can be a little schticky playing Murak, but he still has good chops for action scenes. Choi Yoo-ri is a solid young performer, who plays Ean as a smart kid, rather than a cloyingly precocious little moppet. Yet, Kim Woo-bin really takes ownership of the film as the severe Guard and also shows great comedic range, when Thunder impersonates the intergalactic prison warden, with uncharacteristic flamboyance.

If you want to see something new, this is it. It is also big, loud, and flashy, as well as a weirdly touching story about family and adoption. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys martial arts, time travel, magic, or body-snatching movies,
Alienoid opens this Friday (8/26) in New York, at the AMC Kips Bay.