If there’s one complaint that American audiences are prone to have, it’s that there’s never anything original hitting theaters. It’s all superhero stories, remakes, reboots, or some kind of sequel. It’s incredibly risky for studios to make original stories, so opting for familiar in-house intellectual property (IP) affords a certain safety net. Three things for this: just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it’s safe, just because it’s original doesn’t make it better, and just because all you see are retooled IP doesn’t mean that there’s not something else out there. In this vein, we turn toward director Choi Dong-hoon’s Alienoid, an ambitious first film in a two-part sci-fi fantasy adventure story that hit theaters worldwide in 2022 and now comes to home video in the U.S., courtesy of Well Go USA. Buckle up, this one is a wild ride.
If you’d like to learn about Alienoid without the risk of spoilers, please go check out the initial release review. Moving forward, there will be no avoiding details in order to properly explore the home release edition.
At some point in the past there was a war among sentient beings that resulted in the losers locked in a special prison far away from either of the originating worlds and inside of the minds of random inhabitants on Earth. In the present, a guard (Kim Woo-bin) ensures that none of the prisoners escape, a job made more difficult when a complicated breakout occurs in order to free the leader of the opposition. In the past, a dosa named Muruk (Ryu Jun-yeol) tries to recover a prized artifact known as the Destiny Blade, while a secret organization, several other powerful dosas, and a girl with a handgun race him to collect it. These events occur centuries apart, yet the choices they each make impact the other.
In a regular reviewing year, I watch a minimum of four films a week. With that frequency, I cover approximately 192 films in a year, far more than the average filmgoer, and so the desire to see something that inspires emotion of any kind is strong. Thankfully, I screen films for which some curiosity is already there, so it doesn’t matter the genre or narrative approach, my curiosity for the story leads me forward. Sometimes this works to my advantage and I see films that are creative and inspiring, whether a profound horror (Resurrection), a faux documentary (Something in the Dirt), a historical fiction (RRR), or proper documentary that twists the format into something extraordinary (Framing Agnes). A film like Choi’s Alienoid fits into this list, taking elements of traditional period folklore, alien invasion, time travel, and love, placing them all in a blender and hitting purée. As a collection, one may presume that it shouldn’t work and, due to the great deal of exposition required to build the world audiences explore, there are moments when everything feels far too heavy in order for it all to fit, and yet, not only does it fit, one comes away energized and ready for the next part of the story. On the rewatch, these elements not only shine brighter, but one is able to see the path Choi places us on so that each timeline folds in on itself perfectly. One can forgive the exposition because we not only know where the road leads, but the characters are so much damn fun in their design and execution that it doesn’t matter if there are a few too many conversations spelling things out that wouldn’t do so if they spoke normally (i.e., without trying to cater to a viewing audience). The jokes continue to land well, the action is still thrilling, and the concept itself is both complex and simple, leading to an ending that is a little expected yet leaves one excited to see how it all ends.
As for specific things in the home release that play better on a rewatch, one of the bigger issues in the theatrical release is the noted difference between CGI characters (like Guard in its natural versus humanoid form) and their real-world sets. Watching the film via stream initially, unless all the characters were real or everything was CGI, there is a visible difference between what’s real and what’s not, ruining the imagination of the moment. Perhaps it’s the higher bit-rate of a physical disc versus a streamed edition, but the discrepancy between real and CG is far more seamless and no different visually than, say, portions of various Marvel Studios productions (Captain America: Civil War’s airport fight and Avengers: Endgame’s final battle are prime examples of the noticeable discrepancy). This doesn’t make it perfect, but it’s certainly better. Other distributors and studios have put out home releases with minor tweaks to coloring, shading, and other details (see: Thor: Love and Thunder and every new version of the Skywalker Saga), so I wouldn’t put it past Alienoid to do the same (but that’s unfounded conjecture when the answer is more likely simply bit-rate). Additionally, the sound is also far improved and more immersive thanks to a DTS HDMA 5.1 audio track on the Blu-ray. With all the fights in the present and past utilizing lasers, guns, and magic, sound plays a big part in how well the audience syncs into the adventure.
Turning toward the home release specifically, the physical U.S. edition includes two featurettes, a trailer for the film, and three previews for other Well Go USA projects (some available now, some coming soon). The nearly-three-minute “Making of” featurette has a heavy promotional feel, trying to sell the home viewing audience on the excitement and ideas of watching the movie, which suggests that this may have been used to promote the project ahead of the theatrical release. It includes Choi and members of the cast and crew discussing the making of the film while footage of the various pre-CGI sets and locations are shown. It’s a nice way to get a sense of how the final polished film was developed while also learning about the concept and approach to making the film at the same time. Similar to the recent Hansan: Rising Dragon home release, a nearly-four-minute character trailer is included that acts as a sizzle reel for each of the central characters of the film so that potential audiences can get a sense of the various characters, their relationships, and their skill sets. It’s not much, but frankly, it’s better than nothing at all. One can only hope that either Part Two will have more *or* that a two-film collection will be released with more on-set or behind-the-scenes content.
Be advised: if you like a more high-def experience, there is a 4K UHD edition, but you’ll need to look for the German import to get it. In the U.S., only the Blu-ray, DVD, and standard HD digital version is available.
Alienoid is a fun film, packed with a little too much exposition, yet all of it is necessary in order to set up what’s sure to be an exciting conclusion. For folks, like myself, who had a good time with Alienoid, the home release offers an opportunity to revisit the film at one’s leisure and, even if the bonus features don’t provide as deep a dive as one might want, the film itself is enough to make the purchase worth it.
Now on to Part Two!
Alienoid Special Features:
- Making of Alienoid (2:52)
- Character Trailer (3:45)
- Trailer (2:08)
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital December 6th, 2022.
For more information, head to Well Go USA’s official Alienoid webpage.