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‘Alienoid’ review: South Korean sci-fi epic has everything and then some

Try to keep up.

Alienoid is an epic South Korean film that is reminiscent of an outrageous Hollywood blockbuster with elements of science fiction, time travel, martial arts, and robots. Except the plot takes place in two distinct eras and involves aliens being trapped in human bodies, sorcerers and magicians, and a hunt for a mystical blade. And that is before a time portal opens!

To say there is a lot going on would be a huge understatement. Writer-director Choi Dong-hoon is not afraid to keep adding more layers to his story. This is seen in the runtime which comes in at almost two and a half hours. Along with all of the elements that are introduced, Alienoid includes a large number of characters. It is all very hard to keep track of.

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Adding to the difficulty is Alienoid interweaves what seems to be two separate stories that take place during two time periods. In the present, a synthetic humanoid named Guard works with his transforming partner Thunder on Earth where they watch over prisoners. Meanwhile in 1380, a cast of characters that include a bounty hunter, magical cats, and a Girl Who Shoots Thunder are all searching for the Divine Blade.

It should all be a convoluted mess that does not work, and frankly, this sometimes is the case. But as the film progresses, the story starts to come together. It never gels as well as it should – there are just too many moving parts – but it still ends up being highly entertaining. This is partially due to Choi’s handling of the characters. With a cast this big, it is too easy for someone(s) to be come inconsequential. This never happens in Alienoid and everyone remains important.

The script also never lets the audience get too caught up in trying to follow everything that is happening. Instead, Alienoid often gives its viewers the chance to appreciate individual moments. The interactions work to develop the characters and there are a number of laugh out loud funny moments. There are some well done action scenes. The battle scenes in the 14th century have a much better feel and look than those sent in the present day, however.

It may disappoint some to know that after the long run time, things come to an inconclusive ending. This was done intentionally as this is just the first of two parts. The real question is, does Alienoid do enough to interest people in a sequel? The movie presents a long and twisting story, but along the way it also introduces characters and ideas that should leave people wanting more.

Alienoid comes to digital, Blu-ray, and DVD December 6

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