This star-studded sci-fi, fantasy action film has received mixed reviews, but was there, in fact, some kind of genius behind the madness? All I know is that for 142 fast-paced minutes, we were curiously entertained.
For years, aliens have kept their prisoners locked inside human bodies. But a jailbreak now threatens humanity’s existence, and the Earth’s future now depends on futuristic time-traveling alien robots, powerful mages and shamans, and a mysterious woman in Goryeo with a gun.
When Amazon Prime Video’s homepage offered the Korean film Alienoid on a quiet weeknight, I was skeptical. It had a mediocre 6.3 IMDb score, and fellow Gwenchanoonas had warned that it was a mess — a beautiful, but glorious mess.
But the all-star cast had me intrigued. With the likes of Kim Woo-bin (Our Blues, 2022), Kim Tae-ri (Twenty Five Twenty One, 2022), Ryu Jun-yeol (Reply 1988, 2015), and So Ji-sub (Doctor Lawyer, 2022), I thought to myself, "How bad could it possibly be?"
While the opening credits were rolling in, I took a minute to browse the audience reaction in Korea, and found out that the film was pretty much a box office flop, with ticket sales not even reaching half its $27 million budget. With space ships in ancient Korea, a flying robot that can pretty much transform into anything, Goryeo-era magic users with supernatural powers, and constant shifts between stories taking place in the 1380s and 2012, it’s not surprising many viewers found it confusing.
But before my husband and I could change our minds and click the back button on the remote, a jeep was flying through a portal in the sky into a Goryeo village, and a strange fight scene between masked archers, an alien with tentacles, and futuristic robots was unfolding before our eyes.
We were confused, yes, but we were also curious. Let’s give it 15 minutes, we said.
An hour later, despite still having no clear grasp of what the plot is, we couldn't peel our eyes away. Maybe it was because of Kim Woo-bin’s entertaining turns as the one of the colorful alter egos his companion flying robot turns into. Or the constant introduction of a new character played by an A-lister throughout the first half of the movie (hello Honey Lee, Jo Woo-jin, and Kim Hae-sook?!). Or the expensively executed action scenes, with Marvel-worthy CGI reminiscent of the alien attack on New York.
Or maybe it was all of these seemingly disparate elements somehow coming together to keep us constantly, curiously transfixed, until we reached the “aha” moment when the story suddenly, finally clicked.
Writer and director Choi Dong-hoon, who was also behind the award-winning 2015 film Assassination, must have been drunk with creativity — or simply drunk — when he conjured this experimental mishmash of genres. Critics might have not appreciated it, but apparently 93 percent of Google users and 89 percent of Rotten Tomatoes audiences did.
Is Alienoid so bad, it’s good? Or was there, in fact, some kind of genius behind the madness? I’m not quite sure. All I know is that by the end of the film's fast-paced 142-minute ride, the biggest question in our heads was: When is part 2 going to come out?
Stream if: You're willing to suspend disbelief (and not ask questions) for a 142-minute mindless joyride.
Skip if: You prefer clearly crafted sci-fi and fantasy worlds with logical plot progression.