So aliens have been imprisoning the worst of the worst among their criminals inside human bodies for centuries, solving a big warehousing problem for them and explaining a whole LOT of not-quite-humans scattered amongst humanity.
Hellooo, Mister Musk.
One of the places and times they’ve been stashing their villains is the present day, and another is 14th century Korea, the Goryeo Dynasty, as a title tells us. Because plainly this is a “true” story and historical accuracy matters.
The one-man prison guard keeping the peace is the Guard, and he’s helped by his all-knowing, shape-shifting late model SUV — going out on a limb here and saying it’s a Hyundai Galloper. That helpmate sometimes takes the form of Hello Kitty-cute droid, other times he’s just the truck, and occasionally he even impersonates the Guard himself.
Apparently, keeping the prisoners locked in their human bodies is far tricker in the sword and sorcery and flying martial artists past, as they’re busting out all over. And the magic of the dosa — Master Hyun, Mister Blue, Miss Black, Dog Turd ( I s–t you not.) and even the punk Mureuk, who carries two feline/human sidekicks (Left Paw and Right Paw) for help in his magic fan — is hardly a match for these tentacled monsters.
That prison break mayhem spills over into present day, where Earth could be poisoned for alien habitation, wiping out humanity.
The Guard must take on Terminator 3000 guise and drive his Hyundai through a “gate” in time to tidy up the past. And that kid he ended up having to raise when one of his inmates killed her host/mother is done acting-out at school and complaining to her teachers and the cops about being “kidnapped” by an alien who is up to no good. She ages out of middle school and finds herself taken back to 1391 as well.
But she’s not stupid. Lee Ahn brought a semi-automatic pistol with her.
For you kids who’ve at long last outgrown the ever-evolving clutter of “Dragon Ball,” have I got an over-populated, crazy-ass Korean eye-candy, action martial arts comedy for you. That’s the set-up of “Alienoid,” a martial arts and magic spectacle like few others.
Writer-director Choi Dong Hoon (“Assassination”) serves up a sort of homage to the wide range of Asian martial arts fantasies, psychotronic supernatural nonsense with A-level effects and a Hyundai, galloping through time.
Do Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi know about this?
“Alienoid” is so stuffed with characters and chock-full of superpower-heightened wire-flying martial arts brawls, magic talismans (“Divine Dagger”), aliens and alien spacecraft, it’s nigh on unfathomable.
Every sequence delivers something, even if the scenes within that sequence can seem superfluous, even if coherence is sacrificed to make way for the next “cool part.”
But a light touch prevails throughout. The helper-bot is a softy who is the one who talks The Guard into taking the orphaned baby girl from the 14th century back to the present day. The robot knows reverse psychology.
“Should we kill her?” the bot wonders, in Korean with English subtitles. “Let’s EXPERIMENT on her!”
Kim Woo-bin simmers in cool and stylish futurewear as The Guard and Ryu Jun-yeol brings a nice befuddlement to the monk/magician/swordsman Mureuk, a bit of a jerk always getting in over his head, despite the help of Right Paw and Left Paw.
Yum Jung-ah and Joo Woo-jin, as the monks Miss Black and Mister Blue, are pretty funny every time they show up, mystified not just at the alien stuff, space ships included, but at that damned Hyundai and the girl “who shoots thunder” when she has the ammo to do it.
And every time Kim Tae-ri‘s Lee Ahn is thwarted by magic, alien powers, alien tech or villains who don’t know when to quit, she hilariously whips out a pistol and ventilates them or whatever force field or imprisoning spell they throw at her.
There’s an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quality to this, and I can’t say that’s necessarily a good thing. The sequences are easy enough to follow, but the connection between them, jumping back and forth in time and geography, aren’t. The film’s epic length doesn’t mean that screen time is used to make everything clearer.
And hell’s bells, this is the first half of a two-part epic.
If I sound on the fence about it, I am. It’s all eye candy and spectacle, all a bit much and pointlessly hard to follow. But make no mistake, this is something to see, even if making sense of it can feel more trouble than it’s worth.
Rating: unrated, lots of violence
Cast: Kim Woo-bin, Kim Tae-ri, Ryu Jun-Yeol, Yum Jung-ah, Joo Woo-jin and
Credits: Scripted and directed by Choi Dong-hoon. A Well Go USA release.
Running time: 2:22