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Sci-fi fantasy film 'Alienoid' brings director's childhood imagination to screen

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Actor Kim Woo-bin, center, speaks during a press conference for the film
Actor Kim Woo-bin, center, speaks during a press conference for the film "Alienoid" at Conrad Seoul Hotel, Thursday. On the left is actress Kim Tae-ri and on the right is actor Ryu Jun-yeol. Yonhap

By Kwak Yeon-soo

Director Choi Dong-hoon, who is returning to movie theaters this summer with the release of "Alienoid," explained that his latest project is about bringing his childhood imagination into reality.

"As a child, I was always fascinated by aliens. I thought it would be interesting to infuse cultural elements of Korean folklore with sci-fi and fantasy stories about aliens. Overall, it's an action-adventure film," he said during a press conference for the film at the Conrad Seoul Hotel, Thursday.

Choi, whose previous films "The Thieves" (2012) and "Assassination" (2015) each attracted over 10 million domestic viewers, recalled that it took him two and a half years to finish the script for "Alienoid" and its sequel, which were created together. The pre-production took about a year and the filming of the two films lasted for 13 months.

"It took me a long time to move the script to the screen. There were so many things that I wanted to include, and eventually, the story got much bigger than I had imagined. I thought it would be more dramatic if I divide the story into two parts. I decided to shoot both films at the same time so the actors can fully immerse themselves into the richly imagined setting," he said.

"Alienoid" centers around Taoists in the late Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) who try to obtain a mysterious sword, and humans in the present day who try to hunt down an alien prisoner confined to a human's body. The two cross paths when a time-traveling portal opens up.

Actor Ryu Jun-yeol, center, in a scene from the film
Actor Ryu Jun-yeol, center, in a scene from the film "Alienoid" / Courtesy of CJ ENM

Choi hinted that while Part 1 follows characters in the present-day era who go back in time to the Goryeo Kingdom, Part 2 will center on ancient Taoists traveling through time and space in an effort to obtain the divine sword.

"We put in a lot of effort and time to establish the world the characters are in. The authentic settings represent the tone of 'Alienoid' perfectly, building the atmospheric nature of each scene. The disparity may leave some viewers confused, but I'd like them to know that we really tried our best to make the story flow as smoothly as possible," he said.

The sci-fi action fantasy film features a stellar cast including actors Ryu Jun-yeol, Kim Tae-ri, Kim Woo-bin, So Ji-seob, Yum Jung-ah and Jo Woo-jin.

The cast said they came to star in "Alienoid" because they were eager to work with Choi, a commercially successful director who is greatly admired in the film industry.

"I was so excited to work with Choi, who is a great storyteller. This eye-catching film encompasses various themes and outstanding special visual effects, but beneath them, it is about finding a place for humanity when aliens are introduced into the human world," Kim Tae-ri said.

Kim Woo-bin, who is returning to the big screen six years after being diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer and recovering, said he was thrilled to take part in the project.

"I play the role of a guard, who is chasing after an alien confined to a human's body. When I first spoke with director Choi about my character, I didn't expect to have so many action sequences. I was kind of lonely having to fight off the alien on my own," he said.

"Alienoid" will hit local theaters on July 20.
Kwak Yeon-soo

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