This sequel to the 2017 hit Korean fantasy-drama film "Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds," also directed by Kim Yong-hwa, was released last week with little fanfare. The theaters where it was released only gave it one or two screenings a day on a sliding schedule. Since I liked the first film and knew this was also going to be a visual effects spectacle, I wanted to catch the second film on the big screen as well. I had to go out of my way to find a cinema that showed it at a schedule that can fit mine, and luckily I was able to do that.
Events in pick up where the previous film ends, where the three guardians (the captain Gang-lim and his cohorts Haewonmaek and Lee Deok-choon) were lawyering for the soul of Sgt. Kim Soo-hong, a soldier who was the brother of Kim Ja-hong from the first film. Gang-lim needed to prove to the judges that Kim was murdered by his two friends, Private Won Dong-yeon and Lt. Park Moo-shin, and deserved reincarnation. If Sgt. Kim gets reincarnated, their millennium-long servitude as guardians will be lifted.
The Underworld King Yeomra agreed for the case to go to trial on the condition that Haewonmaek and Deok-choon go back to the real world to hasten the ascent of old man Heo Choon-sam within 49 days. However, Heo was under the protection of Household God Seongju who requested to delay Heo's ascent until the grandson Hyeon-dong began school in 40 days. The two guardians allow this on the condition that Seongju tell them their respective histories which had been wiped out of their memories.
Like the first film, "Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days" was also a long movie, running for 2 hours and 20 minutes. There were multiple story threads that were being weaved together in one complex narrative that went from the various hells of the underworld to the harsh realities of the surface world. Problems ranged from mutual fund investments in the present time, to bloody civil wars one millennium ago. I really enjoyed watching all these varied threads were all tied together very neatly and reasonably in a very rich and well-written script.
Because of this broad scope of intertwining plots, the costumes, makeup and production design were spectacular as expected, especially for the scenes set 1,000 years ago. There were even several scenes of wild animals (from tigers to wolves, from raptors to a mossasaurus) interacting with humans realistically done via computer-graphics. The various hells were as they were from the first film -- stunning and treacherous.
It was very good to see all the three main actors Ha Jung-woo (as Gang-rim), Ju Ji-hoon (as Haewonmaek) and Kim Hyang-gi (as Deok-choon) again, and especially as their mortal selves from a thousand years ago as their respective stories were revealed in flashbacks. The actors playing the three soldiers we met from the first film -- Kim Dong-wook (as Kim), Do Kyung-soo (as Won) and Lee Joon-hyuk (as Park) were also back. Lee Jung-jae is also back as the regal God of Death King Yeomra. New cast member Ma Dong-seok (Donny Lee in Hollywood) played Seongju as a lovable character, as we first knew him in "Train to Busan" (2016).
I think it is essential to watch the first film first before watching this sequel. There were several facts about the nature of the afterlife world that have been established in the first film and were not really explained anymore here.
I thought that this sequel outdid the first film in its overall impact. It was able to concentrate on telling its multiple stories without wasting much time on explanatory or descriptive expositions about things already settled in the first film. I already had an emotional connection with the guardians which made it easy for me to engage with their interesting historical backgrounds and connections. 8/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."