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Overall Rating
4.25

Awesome: 25%
Worth A Look75%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings


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Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds
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by Jay Seaver

"Seven kinds of amazing to look at."
4 stars

The thing that will likely throw non-Korean viewers about "Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds" is that it's not as much about the heroic fireman journeying through the afterlife on the way to potential reincarnation as one would surmise from the way he's centered on the posters - or indeed, as much as it probably should be. The first half of a two-part series, its plot is torn between Ja-hong's story and setting up "The Last 49 Days", and even together that's not enough, although the filmmakers deliver enough impressive visions of hell to keep the audience's interest.

Make no mistake, firefighter Kim Ja-Hong (Cha Tae-hyun) died when he was supposed to, on 28 April 2017, saving a little girl while who was trapped in a burning high-rise, leaving behind a sickly mother (Ye Soo-jung) and a brother, Soo-hong (Kim Dong-wook), intent on finishing law school after his military service. Ja-hong has lived a good enough life to be classified as a Paragon, eligible for immediate reincarnation should he pass the seven trials in 49 days, which is good news for his Guardians and advocates as well - he would be the 48th Paragon that Gang-rim (Ha Jung-woo), Deok-choon (Kim Hyang-gi), and Hewonmak (Ju Ji-hoon) had shepherded to a new life, one short of the number necessary for them to reincarnate as well. But even Paragons can fail the trials, and Gang-rim must soon journey back to the living world because there appears to be a vengeful spirit connected to Ja-hong, and its existence has their 49 days speeding up and the group beset by hell-ghouls.

Ja-Hong's life is what drives the story here, and while we should all aspire to be considered a paragon when we die, it can be a little hard to wring a lot of drama out of that. There's a pattern set early of the trials uncovering that Ja-hong has sinned in the past, but generally for a noble reason, and he's such a good person that he can basically be waved past one or two stops but so out of his element that he can't directly contribute to his own defense (his trials are not punishing tasks but bits of courtroom drama with prosecutors, judges, and exhibits). It's fortunate that actor Cha Tae-hyun is able to project a very genuine-seeming, modest decency in the flashbacks and adds an unstated feeling of trauma to his time in the world of the dead; scenes that seem like that they could entirely be Ja-hong protesting too much about not being that good a man or being kind enough to be insufferable work a heck of a lot better than the dry going through the motions that seems like a straightforward acceptance of him being a Paragon would lead to.

The conflict built around Ja-hung's life is actually a step removed, and Gang-rim dispatching himself to deal with it is where the movie starts to get into the stories of the Guardians (who pointedly don't remember their previous lives), though much of that is being saved for the second part. Gang-rim is presented as a lead detective with supernatural abilities, and Ha Jung-woo gives that the right sort of maverick gruffness with a dash of whimsy when the script calls on him to be eccentric. It's an enjoyable performance that plays well against the other guardians, with Ju Ji-hoon making Hewonmak friendly despite being a little put-upon or burned out while Kim Hyuang-gi channels the right combination of youthful excitement and capable experience as Deok-choon (who at least presents as an early teen). They play well against each other without having the film having to resort to overly-stylized banter or bickering, or any of them being given that one trait that defines them. They get to play off a fine cast of adversaries, from Oh Dal-su and Lim Won-hee as the prosecutors opposing them, Lee Jung-jae as the imposing King Yeomra who will be the final arbiter, and a brace of lesser judges.

Those seven court scenes and the perilous routes between them are where The Two Worlds finds much of its appeal - the depiction of Buddhist hell that screenwriter/director/producer Kim Yong-hwa and his team create is downright stunning, with each new environment feeling like something new to discover with new details in every corner that nevertheless feels connected. You see that in little things like the Guardians' outfits morphing from one function to another, sharply differentiated but also clearly part of the same whole, and how great a fantastic but mostly practical location like a courtroom in the shape of a missile launch station looks. The digital effects are plentiful to the point of maybe stretching the budget more in the direction of quantity than absolutely maxing out the quality of every single shot (the opening fall from the building is kind of strained, and a later bit with the characters descending through the Vacuum Sinkhole in the Hell of Violence looks like it would work better in 3D) - most, though, look excellent, and Director Kim is good at presenting a shot with impact and shifting into quick, good-looking action when the time comes.

He and his crew are also good at the smaller things that stitch a big movie together, too - the pace never gets too high or too low, the Earth-based storylines are well worth following and never feel like they're a distraction from the big, weird things that can't be the entire movie. Kim and his cast find the spot where the Guardians and such come across as supernatural beings who know and interact with the modern world without losing what makes them kind of cool. That sort of detail goes a long way, even if in this case it's the distance between a movie with big script issues and the entertaining thing on-screen rather than a solid story and something excellent.

Fortunately, it ends on a dual cliffhanger that promises both fun new characters, more drama, and a potentially great denouement in the finale. With only eight months between the two releases, that could make this just the relatively long first act of an epic fantasy when it's all put together.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=31808&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/09/18 23:37:52
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User Comments

1/24/18 Bob Dog Loved this hybrid action / melodrama - can't wait for Pt.2 this summer! 5 stars
1/08/18 smith kukal This film has a new vision 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Dec-2017

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-Dec-2017


Directed by
  Yong-hwa Kim

Written by
  Yong-hwa Kim

Cast
  Tae-hyun Cha
  Kyung-soo Do
  Jung-woo Ha
  Lee Joon Hyuk
  Won-hee Im
  Gwang Jang



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