Hi there. So this won’t be a typical review style post of mine (though it shares minor aspects of those). Instead it’ll be more like my post on the Fable movies (AHEM AHEM), loosely rambling about them in a bundled post. I should mention that both movies will from here on out simply be referred to by their subtitle, as it’d be too long and clunky to use the full title each time. So anyhow… let’s go.
After perishing in the line of duty, a firefighter (Cha Tae-Hyun) finds himself in the company of three spirit guides (Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-Hoon, Kim Hyang-gi) who have been tasked with guiding him through the afterlife in order for him to potentially earn the right to reincarnate. Based on a webtoon by Ju Ho-min, “The Two Worlds” is an interesting blend of inspirations and tones. Most noticeably, it uses Buddhist philosophy as a springboard to tell an interesting and really fun fantasy adventure story, a morality tale that also happens to have some really fun VFX-driven action and colorful characters. Taking us through visually distinct environments to tell a nuanced fantasy story.
As we follow the firefighter’s journey through the afterlife, we get to know him more and more, seeing what led him to the initial incident. We see why he does what he does, we get to know the deepest inner workings of his soul, and finding out just how complex even the most seemingly good people are. And the way that affects the events of the movie, the ways his guides have to assist him, it makes for some compelling drama and some surprising suspense. So when we get to the climactic trials that are crucial in determining his fate, it put me on the edge of my seat, and also may have caused the waterworks to begin operating. Because while someone might come to this for the spectacular VFX, fun action scenes, or extremely good looking cast, soon enough they’ll also find that this movie has a strong emotional core as well. I am not ashamed in admitting that this movie made me cry. It’s one of those flashy action flicks that also happens to have some truly compelling characters and drama. But it can also be quite funny at times, especially with the quips and general demeanor of Ju Ji-Hoon as the delightful Haewonmaek.
What else is there to say? It’s a big popcorn flick with a great story, plenty of heart, a wonderful cast of characters, and some mesmerizing visuals. I loved it.
Released a year later, “The Last 49 Days” sees our favorite spirit guides as they take on the task of helping a new soul towards reincarnation, all while also trying their damndest in trying to retrieve a fellow guardian (Ma Dong-seok) who’s been living on Earth for a long time. “The Last 49 Days” is once again a blend of things. Fantasy action, historical epic, domestic dramedy, and I think all these individual pieces are great… but together they don’t flow super well. I get that you need all the bits together to tell the complete story, take one piece out and the tower comes crashing down, but there is a whole lotta movie to this movie. And I’m not just talking about runtime, as it’s really only like 5 minutes longer than the first one, but rather it’s how much is crammed into it. There’s an exhausting amount of narrative threads going on at any one time, and while I found all of them pretty compelling on their own, their flow is just almost non-existent. It’s especially horrid near the middle of the movie, where things really begin to drag. You know that deep sigh you make when you’re bored? Yeah, that happened here. It’s just an exhausting drag at times.
So while the story is a mess, the characters do get some really interesting extra depth, which also leads to the actors getting more to chew on. The cast was great in the first one, but they really get to flex their acting chops here, and I think they give terrific performances here. And it’s just nice to have Ma Dong-seok be part of proceedings, the man just slots in flawlessly and brings such a unique charisma.
Action scenes are once again a lot of fun, not quite as flashy as what we saw in the first one, but definitely still highly enjoyable. Effects are still top notch (bar one or two obvious green screens), costumes and makeup are solid, and there’s some really fun cuts and transitions spread throughout. It’s just stellar on a technical level.
So while nowhere near as strong as its predecessor, I can’t say that I disliked “The Last 49 Days”. It still has some great stuff to it. If the first one’s a strong 9/10 for me, then this is maybe a weak 7/10. Hurt by its poor pacing, but still has a lot to admire.
So yeah, I watched and generally liked the “Along with the Gods” movies. Basically if you like big spectacle with plenty of heart and don’t mind reading subtitles, then I can easily recommend them. And apparently there’s a third and fourth one coming at some point… so I’ll be cautiously looking forward to those.
Have a good one.