Following the success of Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds, writer-director Kim Yong-hwa returns with a sequel, with the story picking up right where it left off. I wonder how many underworld trials I would have to go through if I were to be resurrected; I can only hope that it would not be as many as the characters of Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days had to go through…
Gang-rim (Ha Jung-woo: The Handmaiden, Assassination), a grim reaper, believes that the recently vengeful spirit of Kim Su-hong (Kim Dong-wook: The Concubine, Countdown) is de facto a paragon, and not only that; he is ready to give up a millennium of service to the underworld as well as his own reincarnation to prove it. Gang-rim believes that Su-hong deserves to receive a fair trial rather than to be cast to hell.
As he is accompanying Su-hong, Lee Deok-choon (Kim Hyang-gi: Snowy Road) and Haewonmak (Ju Ji-hoon: Asura: The City of Madness, The Spy Goes North) are sent to Earth to collect Heo Choon-sam’s (Nam Il-woo) soul; he is an old man who is buried in debts and is raising his young grandchild – the boy’s mother passed away and his father ran away to avoid debt collectors. However, getting his soul turn out to be less than easy as the God of House, Seongju (Ma Dong-seok), fiercely guards the premises. And this is where the film’s narrative gets even wider.
Kim Yong-hwa explores Gang-rim’, Deok-choon’ and Haewonmak’s backgrounds; however, as much as this might sound interesting, the core story gets lost in the process and the film becomes predictable; its saving graces are the combat scenes, the performances and some of the CGI (definitely not including the scenes straight from Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and Alexandre Aja’s Piranha).
For what is worth, the sequel is not as half-witted as the first part of Along with the Gods; there are certain narrative improvements. They might not have turned out entirely successful, but the sequel is more entertaining, regardless of how chaotic the storyline becomes. The film production went through a roller-coaster; certain scenes had to be re-shot due to Oh Dal-su getting embroiled in a sexual assault scandal, but the film itself didn’t suffer from a lack of great actors. The assembly is superb; Ju Ji-hoon complements Ha Jung-woo on the big screen and having the 18-year-old Kim Hyang-gi at their side adds even more charm to the production. There is no doubt that the gem of the production turned out to be Ma Dong-seok; he elevates the mood each time he appears on the screen, as well as boosts the emotional side of the narrative.
Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days is ultimately a true blockbuster fantasy movie – this genre has never been a strong point of Korean cinema since it’s always been full of inevitable weaknesses, including the moments of typical Korean melodrama. However, technically speaking, the editing by Kim Hye-jin and Zino Kim is first-class and I Saw the Devil‘ cinematographer Kim Byung-so delivered a smooth depiction of the action. With all the actors in harmony with their characters and with some spectacular period moments, Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days offers a good visual spectacle that might entertain many.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © Lotte Entertainment