Alienoid: Return To The Future


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Alienoid: Return To The Future
"It’s all wildly incoherent, and will seem all the more so if you don’t have a grounding in the rules of Korean fantasy magic, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had." | Photo: courtesy of Well Go USA

When I mentioned that I was going to be reviewing this film, my partner asked “Will I be able to understand it if I haven’t seen the first one?” There’s a big assumption there, and that’s that it’s possible to make sense of the first one to begin with.

If you’re wondering the same thing, don’t worry. This film opens with a brief summary of events which, whilst it may leave you with a lot of questions, gives you all you really need to enjoy what follows. The crux of it is that Thunder and Guard, two shapeshifting aliens from a world which stores its prisoners in the bodies of Earth people, travelled back and forth in time between medieval Korea and Seoul in 2022, trying to stop a bad guy and accidentally adopting a little girl, Ean, along the way. She has grown up now and is a formidable warrior in her own right, but with the bad guy about to unleash a deadly chemical which will make Earth’s atmosphere toxic to humans, it’s only by returning to the past and hunting for a lost MacGuffin that she can save the world.

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Exactly what has become of Guard and Thunder remains a mystery for much of what follows, though minor characters from the first film return and get more to do. These include a bickering sorcerer couple whose power lies in crafting magical objects, the mother of one of Ean’s schoolfriends (who turns out to have a secret of her own), and young dosa Muruk, who once saved Ean’s life. Nobody who knows the wuxia formula will be surprised when romantic feelings begin to develop between him and Ean, but they’re largely set to one side as the film focuses on action.

Muruk has his hands full, at any rate, dealing with two cats who also manifest as humans (not an uncommon idea in the region – for most of this sort of thing, check out 2023’s Mad Cats. Left Paw and Right Paw have a secret of their own, but spend most of their time bumbling around trying to serve their young master and engaging in the sort of broad comedy antics which don’t always translate for Western audiences, though kids from all around the world will love them, and this is really an all-ages film. With multiple factions after the crystal blade which featured briefly in the first film, its purpose now revealed, the film spends quite a lot of time on humour, trickery and low-stakes but high quality fights before we get back to the bad guy and the world-threatening stuff.

Min-sun’s mum aside, most of the characters in the first two thirds of the film are located in the past, which means elegant costumes, lots of forest to run around in, and wooden buildings full of platforms and balconies which are perfect for elegant floaty jumps. There are also the requisite tradespeople, who never seem to get much of a break in fantasy of any origin, as their tables get kicked over and their produce goes rolling away. One we go back to 2022, the action takes place on a much bigger scale. Alliances have been formed, allowing for multi-character showdowns. A spaceship enters into the equation, and there’s a great sequence involving tentacles on a train.

It’s all wildly incoherent, and will seem all the more so if you don’t have a grounding in the rules of Korean fantasy magic, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had. Whilst a couple of comedic sequences drag on too long, the pacing is good overall. The CGI spectacle doesn’t detract from the real stunt work, and the actors are sufficiently capable that we can care about these people even if we don’t have time to get to know them in depth. if you liked the first film, this sequel will not disappoint. If you haven’t seen it but you do like fantasy, time travel, martial arts, fabulous clothes and the odd bit of juvenile humour, Alienoid: Return to the Future still delivers.

Reviewed on: 21 Jan 2024
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Alienoid: Return To The Future packshot
Ancient Taoists and aliens travel through time and space in an effort to obtain a crystal blade which could determine the future of the Earth.

Director: Dong-hoon Choi

Writer: Dong-hoon Choi

Starring: Ryu Jun-Yeol, Kim Tae-ri, Kim Woo-bin, Kim Eui-sung, Lee Hanee, Wi Ji-woong

Year: 2024

Runtime: 122 minutes

Country: South Korea


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