Film Review: ‘Alienoid’ is a Sci-Fi/Martial Arts Hybrid with Plenty of Spectacle

After nearly two years the place the theatrical expertise felt extra endangered than ever earlier than, this previous summer time film season has definitely gone a protracted solution to reinvigorate religion that the act of witnessing thrilling spectacle on the massive display screen was removed from carried out with. After tentpole releases like Dune and particularly Spider-Man: No Way Home began producing greater than respectable numbers on the finish of 2021, this 12 months has seen a lot of huge hits drawing the form of field workplace outcomes that may have been spectacular even earlier than the pandemic, with Top Gun: Maverick specifically being effectively on its solution to cracking into the highest 5 home performers of all-time. And whereas your opinion could differ on the standard of the person movies making buckets of Money (it brings this author no nice pleasure to see that each Jurassic World Dominion and Minions: The Rise of Gru are additionally represented within the field workplace prime 5 thus far this 12 months), there’s something reassuring about understanding that big-budget spectacle nonetheless has a house that doesn’t appear to be going wherever quickly.

While it’s been true for many years that almost all of the movies making massive bucks within the US are ones which can be hooked up to some type of franchise or current IP, worldwide markets are sometimes fast to point out us blockbusters of a special nature, the type that spark viewers’ creativeness not due to a reliance on acquainted characters however due to an abundance of creativity. For a current instance, simply have a look at the outstanding success of RRR, one in every of India’s largest smash hits ever that turned a worldwide sensation largely via word-of-mouth and a loyal following hooked up to its stars and director. And now, South Korea (a rustic with no scarcity of creative and industrial successes up to now few years) has a brand new movie that has carried out so effectively that it dethroned each Minions: The Rise of Gru and Thor: Love and Thunder in its opening weekend by over $1 million.

The movie is Alienoid, coming to us from author/director Choi Don-hoon, finest recognized for his 2012 heist thriller The Thieves and his 2015 conspiracy drama Assassination. For his first movie in 7 years, the filmmaker has doubled down (maybe even tripled down) on style, crafting an epic science fiction/martial arts/time journey hybrid that spans centuries and delivers the form of grand-scale spectacle that’s each bit as spectacular for its bombastic set items as it’s for the cerebral ideas underpinning them. Anyone who’s seen one of many lesser Transformers films will know that monetary success doesn’t all the time (or certainly, usually) translate to any form of creative benefit, however within the case of Alienoid, the filmmakers have discovered that candy spot with a narrative that’s each wildly advanced when it comes to its many shifting elements, but straightforward to have interaction with moment-to-moment.

The specifics of that story do take a while to come back into focus, and certainly there are some plot threads given a variety of consideration whose relevance doesn’t turn into clear till effectively over midway via. But even when it’s not all the time apparent how the disparate eras and characters finally join with each other, they’re all entertaining sufficient to encourage audiences to stay round and discover out. Essentially, the movie takes place in two separate timelines: one, set within the current of 2022, follows a pair of robots named Guard and Thunder (each performed by Kim Woo-bin) who oversee the imprisonment of a malicious alien race. The twist is that the aliens are imprisoned in human brains, making them invisible to a lot of the world, together with to their hosts.

The different half of the story takes place 630 years earlier, in the course of the Goryeo Dynasty, and focuses on a slightly proficient magician-turned bounty hunter named Muruk (Ryu Jun-yeol) who learns of a mysterious weapon known as the Divine Blade that’s at the moment being sought by a number of totally different events for causes each financial and nefarious. In his quest to acquire it, he finds himself in opposition to a number of rivals for the prize, together with fellow sorcerers Madam Black (Yum Jung-ah) and Mr. Blue (Jo Woo-jin), in addition to a mysterious lady named Ean (Kim Tae-ri) who’s also called “The Girl Who Shoots Thunder,” the specifics of which ought to be left for the viewers to find.

How these various plotlines finally relate to one another is one thing that’s solely regularly revealed all through the course of the movie, however past their significance to the story, they do present for a fascinatingly creative mix of subgenres. Interstellar warfare mixes with time journey paradoxes which combine with wuxia-inspired martial arts, with motion sequences using all the pieces from unknowably futuristic tech in opposition to mystical charms and even trendy handguns. Anyone who’s aware of a few of Korea’s largest trendy crossover hits (together with all the pieces from Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and The Host to Kim Jee-woon’s The Good the Bad the Weird) will know that taking part in with tones and style is nothing new on this area of the world. And whereas the sheer weight of all the pieces that Alienoid is making an attempt to do sometimes threatens to unbalance it, Choi’s knowledgeable concentrate on making every particular person scene essentially the most thrilling, amusing, or surreal it may be retains the momentum buzzing all through.

He is enabled by an ensemble forged that’s greater than recreation for all the pieces that’s thrown at them. Kim Woo-bin stands out as a powerful motion lead who turns into extra empathetic in direction of humanity because the movie goes on, and is particularly adept at taking part in a number of variations of himself (showcased in a scene the place he’s taking part in a robotic pretending to be one other robotic pretending to be a human pretending to seduce a middle-aged girl). Kim Tae-ri provides the movie a welcome dose of coronary heart in addition to portraying an ass-kicking heroine that it’s straightforward to root for, whereas Ryu Jun-yeol’s hapless dosa has an endearingly can-do angle it doesn’t matter what challenges are thrown his means. In assist, Yum Jung-ah and Jo Woo-jin are comedic highlights of their depiction of a pair of bumbling but sometimes sensible service provider sorcerers whose contributions to the finale are particularly memorable. So Ji-sub additionally will get to point out off his vary as a beleaguered detective who ultimately turns into the host of an particularly sinister alien.

As one would possibly count on given such a high-concept premise, the movie depends pretty constantly on CGI to deliver its largest concepts throughout, and whereas the outcomes are maybe a bit much less polished than the movie’s American contemporaries, the sheer creativity used of their implementation principally makes up for any tough edges. It should even be stated that, with a runtime of two hours and 22 minutes, the movie does really feel its size at occasions, particularly within the early going earlier than the disconnected storylines start to merge. It additionally ends on a cliffhanger that will show particularly jarring to anybody who doesn’t know that the movie was shot back-to-back with a sequel that’s at the moment scheduled for launch someday in 2023 (stick round for a mid-credits scene that teases just a bit little bit of what to anticipate).

Even with these minor shortcomings, nevertheless, Alienoid is an absolute blast to expertise, and can go away audiences constantly shocked and delighted with every new twist that pulls its sophisticated narrative into sharper focus. Though it does require a little bit little bit of persistence to purchase into, as soon as it actually will get rolling the outcomes will show greater than worthy of the funding. It’s prone to solely see a restricted launch within the US, no less than initially, but it surely’s a movie that lovers of popcorn leisure ought to completely hunt down and luxuriate in on the massive display screen. After all, this type of daring, inventive, barely bonkers spectacle is a giant a part of what’s at the moment retaining cinema alive.

SCORE: ★★★

Alienoid is taking part in completely in theaters August 26th

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