Close this search box.

Alienoid: Return to the Future – Film Review

Alienoid: Return to the Future is a fitting conclusion to an epic that’s as fun as it is mad, but it relies a little too heavily on action this time around.

There are often certain expectations that come with being a ‘part two’. It needs to be in keeping with part one but also its own thing; it needs to continue the story without simply rehashing the best bits, and it needs to offer both a worthy conclusion and an exciting stand-alone experience. Thankfully though, Choi Dong-hoon’s Alienoid: Return to the Future is up for the challenge. It’s a satisfying follow-up to 2022’s Alienoid, drawing the writer/director’s time-bending, extra-terrestrial epic to a close in a manner as fun, visually impressive and, frankly, as bonkers as one would expect.

Picking up right where we left off, Lee Ahn (Kim Tae-ri) finally has the Divine Blade, and must now travel back to 2022 in order to stop the alien atmosphere exploding and destroying every human in its path. However, she and Muruk (Ryu Jun-Yeol) must face the secrets buried within themselves to determine the fate of the future, and outrun the Controller to do so.

As with part one, Alienoid: Return to the Future is a film that isn’t afraid to go for broke. It’s simultaneously a historical epic, a cat-and-mouse chase, a slick sci-fi and a smash-bang-wallop action flick all rolled into one stylish and compelling package. A brief voiceover refresher kicks things off, and then the film pretty much dives straight back in to the action. It’s not completely inaccessible for newcomers, but having part one as a means of establishing the film’s tonal, stylistic and narrative quirks definitely helps.  

Choi leans a little less heavily on humour this time around, leaving a lot of the sillier moments in part one to focus on concluding the story in a meaningful and surprisingly heartfelt way. There are still elements of broader, slightly slapstick style comedy, but the film deftly weaves that lightness in with its more poignant, emotional beats to avoid feeling too jarring. The objective here feels like a more serious and linear path, with the majority of the first half taking place in the ‘past’ before heading back to the future. It’s less convoluted but no less compelling, getting the emotional weight settled on each character so that the finale packs the punch it’s meant to.

a character runs in a still from Alienoid: Return to the Future, reviewed at Loud and Clear Reviews
Alienoid: Return to the Future (Well Go USA)

But it’s during said finale wherein what is perhaps the film’s biggest flaw is most obvious. There’s less hand-to-hand combat this time, with a lot more focus on the – admittedly very impressive – CGI action sequences, and it means the film runs the risk of being tarnished with action fatigue. There’s a weariness that comes when the character stuff is buried under a destruction-drenched third act, and while Choi still imbues things with quirkiness and bolder ideas, the smashing and crashing feels a little repetitive after such a fun, time-hopping journey to get there.

Alienoid: Return to the Future feels like a worthy successor to what was a surprisingly fun, sprawling and ambitious part one, and a fitting conclusion to the story Choi set out to tell. There’s the sense that the writer/director relished giving the story time to breathe. Both films start rather sedately, but are paced well enough so that by the time they’ve picked up their steam, they’ve got the audience investment and are really compelling. Neither Alienoid nor this film are hugely groundbreaking when it comes to individual narrative beats – bad guy needs special object to enact horrible plan, good guy must stop them from getting it and save the day –, but the films have enough charm, style and confidence that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to retrace some ground in this instance.

Impressive performances, even more impressive visual effects, and a good dose of humour make Alienoid: Return to the Future the ending this story needed. It’s a film from a director willing to be a little bit bonkers, and exactly the kind of fun one might expect from a historical epic come action adventure come extra-terrestrial sci fi.

Alienoid: Return to the Future will be released in US theaters on January 26, 2023. Read our review of the first Alienoid movie.

Alienoid (2022): Film Review – Loud And Clear Reviews
Choi Dong-hoon’s Alienoid (외계+인 1부) is a really entertaining, time-bending sci-fi that’s packed with action, laughs and impressive ideas.
Thank you for reading us! If you’d like to help us continue to bring you our coverage of films and TV and keep the site completely free for everyone, please consider a donation.