Some of this was owed to the fact that – at that time – I had very good relationships with a solid handful of film distributors here within the United States, and these companies were actively pushing foreign releases almost as strongly as they were domestic ones. Over time, some of these businesses went under, a few were acquired, and even a few more changed their policies, which eliminated me and my outlet from contention of receiving complimentary copies. Regardless of that reality, I realized that I had grown to enjoy these non-U.S. flicks far more than things I’d venture to the nearest cineplex to see. In fact, I often argued that the benefit of a non-studio environment helped these pictures to feel more authentic – sometimes more relatable – meaning that a great time could be had by folks who discovered them, and I was thrilled to be a member of that small contingent.
About the time that many of these relationships were going away, I had noticed that countries like Japan, South Korea, and China had begun dramatically incorporating vastly greater special effects into their projects. I’ve long cautioned that the increase of heavier post-production requirements requires (obviously) more capital, more capital requires more investors, and – ahem – more investors almost inevitably requires – you guessed it – a motion picture studio. This meant that the charm of these foreign films had a shelf life … and – just like that – some of the bigger and bolder yarns began looking like your typical 20th Century Fox attempt at Marvel Entertainment packaging.
Essentially, that’s what you get with Alienoid (2022). It’s a good idea with maybe forty minutes of legitimate storytelling expanded to a bloated two-and-one-half hours … and it’s still incomplete!
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“Alienoid – directed by Choi Dong-hoon and starring Ryu Jun-Yeol, Kim Woo-bin, and Kim Tae-ri – is the first in a planned serires of two epic sci-fi action time-warpers. A tale of two eras, Alienoid follows two Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) shamans seeking a legendary, time-bending blade as they unexpectedly cross paths with modern-era people hunting down a dangerous alien concealed inside a human’s body.”
Just to avoid any confusion right up front, let me clarify all my remarks with this: I liked the premise behind Alienoid.
See, despite its weaknesses (and there are many), the whole project begins with this nifty little idea: let’s take time travel beyond what has conventionally been explored on television and film, combine it with a bit of alien skullduggery, blend it a healthy sampling of Chinese mysticism and classic martial arts, and we’ll have something totally different, totally original, and – ahem – totally entertaining for all ages!
Though others might take issue with my ‘Power Rangers’ attribution, I do want to be perfectly clear on this point, as well: these effects – especially the heavily-loaded CGI sequences – really aren’t that much better than what studios near and far have delivered in franchises like the Rangers or anything reasonably similar. The BBC’s long-running Doctor Who even in its last few seasons (on the Modern Era) have also expanded the canvas so far as heavy use of computer graphics, so dishing out a theatrical release with some undercooked imagery (so far as this viewer is concerned) does not bode well. Yes, they’re good – I’m not discounting their effectiveness – but when home audiences can see better on HBO and Netflix without having to venture to the theaters, we’re risky failure right out of the gate.
Setting aside the technical merits (or lack thereof), Alienoid is still fairly heavy with characters, some of which serve little more than comic relief. Writer/director Choi truly mashes an awful lot of content into this 143-minute running time, and not all of it flows smoothly. It’s one thing to herk and jerk an audience across various time periods, but doing so while continuing to both define and re-define your characters (I won’t spoil it, but identities and secret identities figure significantly into the plot) puts a terrific weight on the shoulders of the viewers … and I suspect some might have trouble keeping up with even a few benign developments.
That said, will folks return for a sequel?
Well, stranger things has happened, and Alienoid isn’t all bad. In many ways, it feels more like a property that could’ve worked with greater efficiency as a streaming series, one that could both give depth and add greater context to its cast and circumstances. If this one runs 2.5 hours and a planned sequel does minimally the same, then why not retool it all, add in some flavor, and make a go of it that way? I realize that may not be what’s intended, but I think a ten-hour series could’ve worked more strongly at conveying the breadth of this world while giving time to its involved plot.
As is? I found it a challenge to stay focused.
Alienoid (2022) was produced by Caper Film. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the good folks at Well Go USA Entertainment. As for the technical specifications? Well, while I’m no trained video expert, I thought the sights and sounds were pretty good, though I will admit to some disappointment with several CGI sequences. They’re good, but I’ve seen better. As for the special features? There’s a brief making-of and some character bits, but it’s pretty slim pickings.
Alienoid is more than a bit long … and the sad thing is that it feels too long. Pacing could’ve been improved, but the film also relies on multiple time periods, a bigger-than-usual cast, and an involved plot that might be too much for a single outing. (FYI: this is only part one to a two-part story, and it’s hard to figure out what could possibly be ‘yet to come’ in this saga.) The mixing of genres does create some interesting moments, and this is a case wherein you may just have to see this one to know whether or not it’s your particular cup of tea.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Alienoid (2022) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.