In 'Alienoid Part 1,' past and present mix and match via wormhole

From left, actors Kim Eui-sung, Yum Jung-ah, director Choi Dong-hoon, actors So Ji-sub, Kim Tae-ri, Kim Woo-bin and Ryu Jun-yeol pose for the photos at a press event to promote their film "Alienoid Part 1" at Conrad Seoul in Yeouido, western Seoul on

Choi Dong-hoon, the hitmaking director behind "The Big Swindle" (2004), "The War of Flower" (2006), "Jeon Woochi: The Taoist Wizard" (2009), "The Thieves" (2012) and "Assassination" (2015), is now trying his hand at sci-fi, with "Alienoid Part 1."

The film is Choi's first in seven years, since "Assassination," which set box office benchmarks of success with the sale of 10 million tickets.

The lead roles are taken by actors Ryu Jun-yeol, Kim Tae-ri, Kim Woo-bin, So Ji-sub, Yum Jung-ah, Jo Woo-jin and Kim Eui-sung, and two story lines run in two different times. In one, a chase is on in the late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) to find a fabled holy sword. In the other, set in 2022, a supernatural being named Guard tries to hunt down an alien prisoner locked inside a human body.

"When I was a child, thinking of the presence of aliens was horrifying yet exciting," Choi said at a press event for "Alienoid Part 1" at the Conrad Seoul in Yeouido, western Seoul on Thursday. "It was a piece of imagination that made my childhood more enjoyable, and I wondered how it would be if that imagination were brought to life. I thought it would be entertaining to bring folk tales, and elements of our own Korean magic, to a film. This film is a sci-fi-fantasy-adventure story where characters from different spaces and time cross paths with one another through faith."

Sci-fi has generally been avoided in Korea due to the big budgets needed. Netflix did make "The Silent Sea" (2021) and "Space Sweepers" (2021), but there's been little else.

"After 'Assassination' ended, which was a realism film for me, I wanted to try something completely opposite," Choi said. "I wanted to create a film in which two stories collide — in one sense, people would think, 'those sorts of stories would never happen in reality' and on the other hand, think, 'what would it be like if they were to happen?' — I think that's what sci-fi is to me."

The director also sets the precedent of dividing his film into two parts from the outset. "Alienoid Part 1" releases in local theaters on July 20. According to Choi, Part 1 will transit from the contemporary era to the past, while the latter will be in vice versa.

Due to the complexity and the length of the narrative, Choi spent two and half years writing the script, pre-production took a year and 13 months went to filming.

"I decided that the narrative structure would become more dramatic when the film is separated into two parts," Choi said.

The director also explained reasons why he picked the timeline of Goryeo Dynasty.

"When I thought of the narrative, I imagined that it would begin from the contemporary era as aliens and their spaceships arrive, and as forces attempt to resist them, they are suddenly whisked to the past, and there waiting for them are not ordinary people, but taoist gurus," he said. "As I deliberated on which era would best fit the gurus, I thought maybe that it could be the Goryeo Dynasty when the last true gurus were active in the world."

"I also wanted to portray the attire and spaces of that era," he added. "I hope the audience can feel how stylish the era was through my film."