I’ve stumbled upon “Along with the Gods” several times on streaming sites like Viu but I haven’t really paid much attention to it because I didn’t take a closer look at the poster. When my officemate recommended it to me, along with its sequel, it dawned on me that the film actually had a lot of familiar faces in the lead, and unlike other films with a topnotch cast, this fantasy film actually delivered on the hype tenfold.
Synopsis: Firefighter Ha Ja Hong (Cha Tae Hyun) dies in the line of duty and must stand before the seven gods of Hell to earn a chance at reincarnation. To help him in his journey, three guardians are assigned to him –Gang Rim (Ha Jung Woo), Hae Won Maek (Ju Ji Hoon) and their maknae Duk Choon (Kim Hyang Gi). Within 49 days, the guardians must prove the defendant’s innocence against charges filed by the prosecution until King Yeomra (Lee Jung Jae) grants him safe passage back to the world of the living. However, a vengeful spirit makes an appearance, risking Ja Hong’s chances to return to his beloved mother.
Let me just say that the production went all out to create an Afterlife that truly illustrates the stories told by ancient beliefs. While the CGI game was strong in this movie, and it was, in all aspects, a visual feast, I had a feeling that there were times that the special effects team were just having too much fun creating different scenarios because they had a field day with the CGI. Its just a feeling.
I liked the contrast in the personalities of Ja Hong’s three guardians. From the onset, Gang Rim showed a quiet confidence that cemented his role as the leader of the trio. I loved that compared to serious roles that he typically played, Ju Ji Hoon’s Hae Won Maek was pretty laid back and funny. He nailed it, no doubt. I also liked his character’s rapport with their baby/psychic Duk Choon. The difference in their heights plus his affection and pride at his dongsaeng’s abilities was a joy to behold. All in all, these small differences made for interesting chemistry that challenged predictability.
I liked that what seemed like a simple trial for a paragon like Ja Hong became steadily more complicated with the introduction of an unexpected conflict in the world of the living. The fact that the title was “Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds” should have clued me in on simultaneous conflicts happening in the two universes but when the new connections were unraveled from Gang Im’s end, I was still pleasantly taken aback.
While the movie is presented as an action fantasy with the element of the Afterlife, don’t be fooled because there are heavy dramatic elements that come to play, especially when it comes to tackling the subject of Ja Hong’s family.
Actor Kim Dong Wook who played his younger brother Soo Hong was one of the MVPs of this movie for that emotional highlight scene with their mom. I challenge anyone to come out of that scene with dry eyes, and there would only be a handful who would succeed. It truly blows me away how Koreans always manage to inject dramatic elements into even the most action-packed movie and pull it off seamlessly. Years of practice from producing Korean dramas? Perhaps. No matter, the final resolution to the conflict was still a great climax after surviving stage after stage of hellish challenges.
“Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds” is one of the very rare occasions that an all-star cast delivered on expectations mostly because the writer and director Kim Yong Hwa did not focus on giving the actors equal exposure. Rather, the filmmaker served the needs of the script, no more, no less. Actors seemed to be happy with their doing their part to pull off a good movie and their teamwork truly showed. The movie was entertaining from start to finish and it was also interesting to explore different beliefs on the afterlife and creation, as well as the mystic powers that surround it. I for one, enjoyed every aspect of it.
PS. Exo’s DO aka Do Kyungsoo also nails his role as a soldier on the brink of depression in the movie.