The sheer bulk of “Alienoid” could easily have been tiresome, given its many tangents and supporting characters. Thanks, writer/director Choi Dong-hoon confirms its hitmaker reputation by balancing overblown set pieces with disarming screwball comedy and delightful character acting performances. And while flashy costumes, shifting timelines and pumped-up special effects may seem like the most important parts of “Alienoid,” you’re really there to see Choi (“Assassination,” “Woochi: The Demon Slayer”) hold as many plates airborne as he able to.
One of the main charms of “Alienoid” is how hard Choi works to introduce familiar (ie American) science-fiction tropes into a flashy Korean narrative. This at least partially explains why there’s a 14th-century fairy tale at the heart of a time-jumping “The Terminator”-like chase, with casual aliens stuffing their captors’ souls into unwitting human bodies. (Choi also provides some helpful context here in James Marsh‘s South China Morning Post interview)
Time, space, and logic are meaningless to these aliens, whose species, individual names, and general qualities remain largely undefined. All you need to know is that in the year 2022, the smoldering and stoic alien Guard (Kim Woo-bin) and his flying robot companion Thunder (voiced by Kim Dae-myung) must stop an evil alien called the Collector before he can free his fellow alien prisoners from their human bodies. Guard and Thunder are joined by their brave human ward Ean (Choi Yu-ri), who occasionally forces his two surrogate fathers to explain themselves and the stakes of their drama.
Meanwhile, in the year 1391: Muruk (Ryu Jun-yeol), an unhappy bounty hunt dose magician, searches for the divine blade, which is obviously of extraterrestrial origin. Muruk travels the countryside with a pair of mysterious cat people (Shin Jung-geun and Lee Si-hoon) who lives in his enchanted fan. They are joined by a number of competing seekers, most notably the evil masked shaman Jajang (Kim Eui-sung) and his implacable alien accomplice (Ji Gun-woo), as well as the aforementioned lady with a gun (Kim Tae-ri) and a hapless magician duo of Madam Black and Mr. blue (Yum Jung-ah and Jo Woo-jin). Individually, these characters mean nothing, but together, like a migraine-inducing conspiracy, they’re pretty irresistible.