“Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days” is the sequel to 2017’s “Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds” movie that starred the powerhouse cast of Ha Jung Woo, Ju Ji Hoon and Kim Hyang Gil as three guardians of the Afterlife who must defend and reincarnate 49 paragons within a millennium to earn their own reincarnation. I watched the first movie last night and boy was it fun not to have to wait for a year to see the sequel which was just as good as its predecessor but with its own appeal.
Synopsis: After successfully resurrecting his brother, Gang Rim (Ha Jung Woo), Haewonmaek (Ju Ji Hoon) and Duk Cheon (Kim Hyang Gil) must prove that Soo Hong (Kim Dong Wook) wrongfully died and deserves to be reincarnated as well. As Gang Rim prepares for his defense, King Yeomra (Lee Jung Jae) gives them the additional task of ascending the spirit of an old man, Heo Chun Sam who is being protected from the grim reapers by house god Seongjoo (Ma Dong Seok).
While the first movie focused on the Afterlife trials of Ha Ja Hong (Cha Tae Hyun), “Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days” was more focused on telling the backstory of the three guardians and how their lives are linked together even before they were tasked to serve together in the Afterlife. While Gang Rim shares his life story with Soo Hong to get him to cooperate with the trial, Seongjoo, who was one of the reapers who harvested the souls of Gang Rim, Haewonmaek and Duk Choon, strikes up a deal with the guardians to tell their story in exchange for their help in dealing with Heo Chun Sam’s grandson Hyun Dong.
I must admit that the connection between Haewonmaek and Duk Cheon wasn’t much of a surprise, given their relationship, but the systematic revelation of each detail of their intertwined story was quite interesting to explore. It was sweet and touching and quite emotional at the same time.
When the major connections were revealed both in the human world and the afterlife, things got really interesting. Again, I would not say that the twist was a shock given Gang Rim’s secretive nature but the way their stories tied together was a nice touch. The explanation as to why Gang Rim was the only one to retain his memories for the entire millennium was very powerful. It made an impact because it made a lot of sense, given the flow of the story. It tied together to his earlier flashbacks from the first movie too. It worked so well that I’m still reeling from its magnitude. Pro tip though, even after the movie closes, you still have to finish all of the aftercredits to be blown away by how far back these connections go. This is MCU level world building, I tell you.
I love watching Ju Ji Hoon as a carefree character. Of the three guardians, he was tasked to be the comic relief and its actually quite refreshing to see him in a not so serious roleb since he always took on tsundere roles. I liked his character’s rapport with Duk Cheon and Seongju and the transitioning between his two completely opposite characters was actually nice. Ma Dong Seok was great in his role as the tough-looking but softhearted Seongju. In the beginning, I thought that his muscles would play a big role in a major battle but it turns out he has no choice but be a softie to humans because of his designation as a house god. His was more of a supporting role and he did quite well in establishing his role in the overall story.
I was a bit surprised at the drastic change in Soo Hong’s personality though. While admittedly, most of the time he appeared on screen for the first movie involved being a vengeful spirit, his sudden careless attitude seemed like too much of a departure from the previous character he established in the first movie. I noticed this because I watched the movie in succession. Just last night, I was praising his character for delivering on the dramatic aspects of the movie and now, he is dreaming up of raptors ala Jurassic Park. Tsk Tsk.
Honestly, I felt like 2 1/2 hours was too much for the movie. There were points that the film got a bit draggy, especially since it was obvious that the film was trying to milk the historical elements for all its worth. The dinosaur scene was unnecessary indulgence too, as well as several special effects-rich scenes that added nothing the movie except for fan service. But I will leave writer-director Kim Yong Hwa his joy in producing visually stunning scenes using CGI since it did not take anything away from the beauty of the movie, except for time.
There were many familiar scenes like the different types of Hell that fans will revisit — The Hell of Indolence, The Hell of Violence, The Hell of Murder and The Hell of Filial Impiety and even the Hell of Wrongful Death which was not fully showcased in the previous movie. The manner in which Gang Rim reflected on his own mistakes to get the suspect to confess his own sins was an excellent defense position and it was not a surprise how the God of Murder would rule on Soo Hong’s case.
All in all, I loved “Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days” because of its moving multi-layered story, as well as the message of forgiveness and second chances that it offered. The action scenes were really cool, as was the script that focused on family just as much as the first movie, although this time, it comes with the additional message of atonement and peace. Truly an entertaining feast for the senses, well acted and well executed. I would definitely watch another installment and revisit this universe if they decide to pursue more sequels.