Alienoid – London Korean Film Festival 2022

David Cunningham

Written and directed by Dong-hoon Choi

Alienoid, has high production values yet Dong-hoon Choi, who writes and directs, behaves as if it is a straight-to-DVD cheapie and shoves in a complex story combining elements of myth with science fiction as if worried the audience might stop paying attention.

An alien race is using earth as a prison for their criminals. The personalities of malefactors are inserted into the minds of humans who carry them without knowing. But the system is not perfect and occasionally the villainous personalities emerge along with associated superpowers. Robots from the alien planet hunt down the villains but the human hosts end up dead as collateral damage. A villain known as The Controller plans to change the earth’s atmosphere, so it is breathable by the aliens even if that wipes out the human race. A problem for the heroes is identifying which of the humans is carrying The Controller’s personality.

Okay, now things get complex. The movie opens in a Korean village in 1380 A.D., a pair of alien robots, named Thunder and Guard (who, conveniently, can take on a variety of forms- human, Terminator style robot, car or flying drone) travel through time to track down and dispatch an escaped villain. This leaves an orphaned infant who Thunder disobediently takes back with them when they return to the 21st Century. Ten years later the child, Yian, figures out her father, Guard, is not human (not too difficult as Thunder in the form of the family car is in the habit of talking to her). She tracks him and witnesses the aliens insert the villainous personalities into humans.

Meanwhile, so to speak, back in the 13th century Mureuk, a young wizard in training/bounty hunter, gets mixed up in a scheme to trace a Crystal Knife which gives the bearer mystical powers including the ability to travel through time. Among those he encounters is a mysterious woman of his own age who has a gun (and apparently an endless supply of bullets) from the 21st century. Bet you can guess her true identity. As timelines collide some characters are killed or corrupted and the identity of The Controller is revealed.

The plot, although over-complex, does not stand scrutiny. One might assume a race capable of transferring personalities would have found a way of eradicating crime or at least devising a more secure way of storing prisoners. It is hard to see how an audience is supposed to regard people who have used earth as a dumping ground as heroes; although Guard does advise his superiors to cease the practice – so that’s all right then.

Somewhere in the sprawling epic storyline a simple clear plot is trying to emerge. Director Dong-hoon Choi manages to tie together the various loose ends to explain the interrelationships between the characters but cannot resist over-egging an already rich pudding. Mureuk has a pair of helpers who, among other things, can change into cats and his entry into a building is a tribute to Mission Impossible -dropping from the roof on a wire.

The idea of aliens forming a symbiotic relationship with humans has been used by authors like Heinlein and Meyer but having the ‘good guys’ force the merger adds a moral ambiguity which the simplistic approach of the movie cannot tackle. It is tempting to draw comparisons with earlier movies like Star Wars or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But the closest comparison is the simplistic good guy/bad guy set up of the Transformers movies where alien robots fight it out on earth for vague reasons hard to comprehend.

Identifying the target audience for Alienoid is not easy. The violence is cartoon style- characters are thrown across rooms and slam into walls but bounce back up having suffered no harm. But children may find disturbing scenes of people choking during an alien gas attack. Dong-hoon Choi adopts a screwball comedy style for the humour which adults may find juvenile – efforts by a pair of wizards to overcome paralysis are complicated by their hair catching fire.

Alienoid might work better as a television series where the complex storyline could be spread over several episodes and explored at more leisure than is allowed by the breakneck speed of the movie. Even after almost two and a half hours the movie ends on a cliffhanger. In its current form the movie is a high-energy diversion but one likely to leave the audience a bit confused rather than satisfied.

The 17th London Korean Film Festival 2022 runs from 3 November – 17 November in cinemas across London. For more info:https://www.koreanfilm.co.uk/

The Reviews Hub Score:

High energy confusion

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