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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 4, 2018

Along With The Gods: The Last 49 Days - Not Just Special Effects But A More Absorbing Character-Drive Story Than The First Movie

LAST YEAR, the Korean fantasy-driven spectacle, “Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds”, was a big hit. It was ambitious and flashy in scale and scope. Now comes the sequel, “Along with the Gods: the Last 49 Days”, and it’s somehow better than its predecessor as it’s more character driven than the first one which was more reliant on eye-popping special effects.

Based on the very popular online webcomics “Along with the Gods” (2010-12) by Joo Ho-min, the first film is about a firefighter, Ja Hong, who died a hero and was taken to the afterlife by three archangels where he faces seven trials over 49 days to win his rebirth.

In this second instalment, there are so many characters and story lines you have to be fully attentive to catch them all. It begins where the last film ended, with the three guardians promised by the Yeomra (Lee Jung-jae), the king of the after world, their own reincarnations if they’d succeed in their next case following 48 successful ones.

The subject of this trial is Soo-hong (Kim Dong-wook), the cocky brother of the firefighter in the first movie. But because his vengeful spirit caused much mayhem and trouble before, Yeomra will only allow a fair trial if warrior Hae Won-maek (Ju Ji-hoon) and advocate Deok-choon (Kim Hyang-gi) would go down to the real world for a mission.

So we see them spending a lot of time in the world of the living with the task of bringing back an old man, Hur Choon-sam (Nam Il-woo), who has surpassed his own allocated lifespan because he and his grandson, Hyun-dong (Jung Ji-hoon), are under the care of a household god, Song-ju (Ma Dong-seok). Meanwhile, in the afterlife the leader of the trio, Capt. Gang-rim (Ha Jung-woo), can proceed with the trial for Soo-hung’s reincarnation.

The makers of the movie is obviously not bothered by its seemingly lack of focus and they’re more interested in developing new stories for more possible sequels, just like what they do now in Hollywood franchise films. This Korean extravaganza makes use of extensive and spectacular CGI effects showing the afterlife and varied period settings with great production design.

This is combined with moments of touching melodrama and the obvious aim is to pull in viewers of all ages. The actors all play their respective roles well, especially the brash Kim Dong-wook as Soo Hong who can be annoying to Ha Jung-woo as Guardian Gang-rim since he’s not really as smart as he thinks. Their scenes together highlight their antagonistic chemistry as a pair who play off amusingly against each other. Later on, their scenes become quite sharp and moving as Soo-hong starts to finally realize what’s happening and the burden of it all starts wearing on Gang-rim.

The movie is a blockbuster from the country where it originates, having achieved the all time highest opening admission take in Korean box office history. It also registered the biggest opening week for any Korean film in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan as well. Local fans of Korean genre films will surely find it highly entertaining.