With it now being a year and a half since the release of Dong-hoon Choi’s Alienoid (2022), I felt that it was worth revisiting, mainly to refresh my memory before delving into its upcoming sequel, Alienoid: Return to the Future. It was still as wild and wacky as I remembered and got me more excited for the sequel.

Alienoid: Return to the Future picks up near enough exactly where the first film left off. The opening gives you a quick recap of what has come before, although I would still advise watching the first film beforehand, as there is a lot going on here. Like the first film it involves a variety of weird and wonderful characters, with a multitude of genres seemingly thrown into a blender, with comedy, sci-fi, fantasy and period-drama all blending together to make up an exciting whole.

Following on from the cliffhanger ending of the first film which found the alien invasion in full swing, causing Guard (Kim Woo-bin) to flee back in time to the 14th century along with the young Ean. With Aliens following them through time in order to find the powerful Eternal Blade, the grown up Ean (Kim Tae-ri) must team up with Ryu Jun-yeol’s Mureuk to put a stop to the invasion once and for all, with them jumping between timelines to face off against an assortment of deadly aliens.

A less talented filmmaker would probably struggle bringing all these disparate ideas together, but Choi for the most part makes it work. Those turned off by the first film’s seemingly excessive length will be pleased to hear that the sequel runs roughly two hours, although even with this shorter run time, Choi’s film still feels slightly overstuffed, what with its large roster of characters and multiple timelines that make up the crux of the film.

Choi still manages to keep things fun, with the pace hardly lagging, with each action set piece building on what came before. With a fine mixture of martial arts, gunplay and full on alien action, Alienoid: Return to the Future certainly makes for a spectacular sci-fi actioner. Those who complained about the CGI last time around shouldn’t have much cause for concern, other than the odd dodgy effect. Even so, this is still impressive work and is definitely better than what normally passes muster in a Marvel film.

While there is no shortage of action, Choi’s sequel is missing some of the first film’s heart due to the absence of Guard and Eun’s relationship, a major component of the first film. Other than a few brief flashbacks, Kim Woo-bin’s Guard is missing from the film, which somewhat dampens the story as it progresses. Kim does at least show up again in the final third as the shapeshifting Thunder, so it’s not a total loss.

With Kim Woo-bin’s screen time being limited, more time is afforded to the remaining cast members as well as some new additions. Ryu Jun-yeol still impresses as the clumsy Mureuk, although I did expect his character to have progressed beyond the silly shenanigans after the events of the first film. Ryu has fine comedic delivery, but considering their fighting to save the world, it feels a bit misplaced.

Like the first film, Ryu at least still gets to show off a more serious, dramatic side to his character, especially when he realizes his body is housing an alien. The twist around this aspect of the character is well integrated and was a nice change to what I was expecting after the cliffhanger ending of the last film.

Kim Tae-ri once again excels as the take no shit Ean a.k.a. “Girl Who Shoots Thunder”, with her emerging as the film’s true hero, even if her character takes something of a diversion at the midpoint, putting her against the rest of our heroes. The budding romance between her and Mureuk that was hinted at previously isn’t fully developed, but there are still hints throughout that they will become more than friends. She and Ryu Jun-yeol continue to work well together, further developing their chemistry which makes you believe they’d put their life on the line for each other.

Yum Jung-ah & Jo Jin-woo return as Taoist magicians/conmen Madam Black and Mister Blue. Like before, their roles are more comedic in nature, with them bringing a bit of lightness to proceedings, sometimes it could be argued a bit too much. Even when faced with what appears certain death they find time to pull a funny face or come out with a sarky quip. In any other film this could be distracting, but the tone that director Choi Dong-hoon creates, their characters end up being an entertaining double act and fit in perfectly.

Choi has even saw fit to include his own variation of Zatoichi, with Jin Seon-kyu’s Neung-pa searching for the Eternal Blade with the belief that it can cure his blindness. His story ties into the modern day segment where his descendant Min Gae-in (Lee Hanee) is involved in the fight to stop the Alien invasion. Some may remember Hanee from the first film, where she appeared to just be a horny single parent with designs on Guard. It turns out she is more integral to the main plot than initially anticipated, with her being a tough Customs Agent with her own set of skills.

Hanee has already impressed in several roles, with the recent Phantom (2023) being a perfect example. Her character may seem more like a plot point here than an actual character, but Hanee injects a good deal of personality into her role to make sure she stands out.

To properly enjoy Return to the Future, I would suggest watching it together with the first film, as essentially it’s one long story that just so happens to be cut into two parts. Viewing it like this will definitely give you a better appreciation of the films overall, with everything coming together to make for an entertaining whole.

As much as I have enjoyed each of the films, part of me does think that Alienoid could probably have been cut down to one film, with the sequel covering similar ground as its predecessor, just with additional characters. I will admit I did have fun when the film revisited scenes from the first film but from a different perspective, similarly to Back to the Future 2 (1989), but as enjoyable as these scenes are they don’t seriously add to the film’s plot.

A streamlined approach wouldn’t have seriously hurt the plot in the long run, even if it would have meant Dong-hoon Choi would have to cut back on the number of action scenes.

Even so, I’m not going to complain that I was given too much of a good thing, as Choi’s sequel is still an enjoyable spectacle that whilst not the director’s best work still puts many Hollywood blockbuster to shame.

It will be interesting to see where Dong-hoon Choi goes from here. Personally I would like to see him go back to crime capers he built his career on like Tazza: The High Rollers (2006) or The Thieves (2012). Perhaps he could even go back to his planned remake of Alan Mak and Felix Chong’s Overheard (2009) which he planned to make with Alienoid star Kim Woo-bin. Whatever his next film will be, I’m sure Choi will give it his own unique spin to make it seem fresh.

Plot: 3/5
Acting: 4/5
Action: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.6/5



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