Movie Review: (An Afterlife Journey) Along with the Gods (2017)

The afterlife, whether it does exist or not, is really one topic that tickles the mind probably that’s why it’s a relatively common plot used in dramas and motion pictures. We’ve already seen several interpretations of it, but in this K-Movie Corner feature, we’ll gonna experience one of the most interesting depictions of the life after death. So here it is, chingus! Check out our film review of Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds!

[SPOILER ALERT!]

This 54th Baeksang Arts Awards Best Film nominee stars Cha Tae-hyun, Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-hoon, and Kim Hyang-gi, and is directed by 200 Pounds Beauty director Kim Yong-hwa. It has a second installment titled Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days, which is slated for release this summer of 2018.

Cha Tae-hyun in character as the heroic fireman Ja-hong

Based on the popular webtoon Along with the Gods by Joo Ho-min, the film follows the journey to reincarnation of an ordinary fireman named Ja-hong (Cha Tae-hyun), who died a heroic death while fulfilling his duty thus earning him the “paragon” status. Three grim reapers (Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-hoon, and Kim Hyang-gi) accompany him through the seven gates of hell, where he faces different trials that he needs to pass in order to be reincarnated.

Fun fact: Reports revealed that the webtoon will be adapted into a drama as well with a target airing date set in 2019.

Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds is undoubtedly one of the most successful movies last year as it did not only score big time in the box-office, but also bagged several awards and nominations from different award-giving bodies. The movie is the second most viewed local film of all time in its homeland with over 14 million admissions nationwide as of April 2018 according to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).

One thing that I loved about the movie is its jaw-dropping visual effects. It made the viewing experience more realistic especially during the fight scenes and our main characters’ journey through the seven gates of hell. This is why it’s no doubt that the movie won the Baeksang Best Technical trophy earlier this month, and got nominated for the Best Visual Effects at the 12th Asian Film Awards and the 23rd Chunsa Film Arts Awards.

Fun fact: Dexter Studios, one of the biggest film production houses in Asia, is the one responsible for the movie’s daebak visual effects.

Okay, the movie is impressive as a whole, but I have a confession to make—its first quarter felt a little bit dry, well, at least to me. Maybe because the storytelling was too familiar? You know, a good guy died and he is given a chance to be reincarnated, but he needs to go through some trials first. Though I must admit that the movie’s interpretation of the trials, where a soul needs to pass all seven governed by different gods, is interesting.

Kim Dong-wook in character as Ja-hong’s younger brother, Soo-hong

But the storytelling picked up going into the second half of the movie when Ja-hong’s brother, Soo-hong, was revealed to have died unjustly and became a vengeful spirit. This is when I started to fully invest in and appreciate the film. The twist literally left my heart twisted for Ja-hong and his family because all their hardwork and sacrifices for Soo-hong to finish law school all went to waste following his untimely death.

Two more plot twists in the movie are so memorable I feel obliged to mention it in this review. First, we learned that Ja-hong and Soo-hong’s omma knew all along that her elder son almost murdered their family due to their pitiful condition. Second is the revelation that Soo-hong is also a paragon, which is bittersweet.

Acting-wise, the ones that left remarkable impressions on me are Kim Dong-wook, who played the role of Soo-hong; veteran star Ye Soo-jung, who portrayed the character of Ja-hong and Soo-hong’s omma; and D.O., who played the role of Soo-hong’s mentally disturbed hoobae in the military. All the three of them delivered flawless acting performances that lifted the movie to a different level. In fact, Kim Dong-wook won the Best Supporting Actor citation at this year’s Chunsa Film Arts Awards for his role in the movie.

Now let’s meet the seven gods who all gave Ja-hong the not guilty verdict:

vlcsnap-2018-05-21-22h00m19s524
God of Murder Hell (Jung Hae-kyun)
Goddess of Indolence Hell (Kim Hae-sook)
Goddess of Deceit Hell (Kim Soo-Ahn)
God of Injustice (Lee Kyoung-young)
Goddess of Betrayal Hell (Kim Ha-neul)
God of Violence (Jang Gwang)
God of Filial Impiety (Lee Jung-jae)

Hmmm… it makes me wonder. Can we also pass through the seven gates of hell in the afterlife?

Final verdict: Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds is definitely more than just visual effects. 4/5

~All credit goes to Realies Pictures, Dexter Studios, and Lotte Entertainment.

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