Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days (Hangul: 신과함께-인과 연; RR: Sin-gwa-hamkke – Ingwa Yeon) is a 2018 South Korean fantasy action film directed by Kim Yong-hwa and based on a webtoon by Joo Ho-min, Along With the Gods. It serves as the sequel to the 2017 film Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds. It stars Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-hoon, Kim Hyang-gi, Ma Dong-seok and Kim Dong-wook. The film was released on August 1, 2018.
Along with the Gods : the last 49 days is a sequel. Both movies being shot back to back. Yet. * Sigh*. These are clearly two very different movies.
But lets talk about this one first. Short review, this movie is good 50% of the time and god awful the rest.
I am not good with Korean names, so I will try and use shorter versions or nicknames for the characters. Also, I am assuming you have seen the first one if you are reading a review for this one.
Its difficult to talk about this one without spoilers. So fair warning to the reader.
After the first movie ended, we were left with the fireman’s brother and the three grim reapers. This movie is about the Brother’s trials and his journey through the different kinds of hell. He is accompanied by the Leader Grim Reaper and his Subordinate 1 and Subordinate Kid. The first movie focused mainly on introducing you to the extensive after life, or hell version of this universe. Different souls had to go through trials of different kinds of sins to decide which hells they go to, or if they get reincarnated. The grim reapers are also human souls, who became grim reapers after committing unforgivable crimes. They need to successfully help crossover at least 50 souls (or was it 49) to be reincarnated themselves. Our current grim reaper team has been in this line of work for the last millenium or so. At the end of the last movie, we also get a glimpse at another grim reaper trio. So there are several grim reapers. While I have several questions as how to the rules of this world and crossing over works, I am still pretty satisfied with whatever we are already given. But when a movie series, shot back to back, based on existing material, seems to not follow its own rules, then there is a problem.
Like the last movie, our story begins with the Brother and the grim reapers beginning again from the first hell. But this movie is not about the Brother. We already know his story. He was accidentally shot by his good friend, Private Won Dong Yeon, a kid that very clearly has some mental disorder. The private freaks out and he and the First Lieutenant bury him to cover up the accidental murder. The private more or less blocks out the memory of doing so. While it was quite clear in the last movie, that Brother was still alive, and that the First Lieutenant still wanted to get rid of him, so buried him alive, it is still treated as a mystery in this movie. I understand that the judges in each of the hell are not privy to the fact and so it makes sense that its difficult to prove he was wrongfully murdered in front of them. I am not sure why they wasted so much run time showing us the same thing.
Even then, the main focus of this movie is the Grim Reaper trios story. Sub 1 and Sub Kid are sent to a derelict household, to collect (ascend) a soul that is alive past its due date. The soul turns out to be of an old man, raising a small child alone. But the reason the old man has not died is because he is being protected by a Household God (not sure what that means). Its the buff guy from Train to Busan. The actor killed it in that movie by the way. But, I am not sure why they chose him here. He still does a decent job with the material he is given. He tells Sub 1 and Sub Kid about their pasts and why they are grim reapers on the condition that they dont kill the grandfather till the child starts his schooling. This part of the movie was actually interesting. They added the human side of the story with the old man and his grandson, and also laid out the back story for the grim reapers.
On the other hand, the Leader and Brother go through the different parts of hell. This was the problematic part of the movie for me. The first movie did a really good job of combining the human and the after life part. We explored the human side of things from the Fireman’s back story. But here the human and afterlife part were disjointed. There was not much story, since we already knew what happened to the brother and why he was there. Not many stakes to be honest. The monsters and special effects felt unnecessary and redundant. In the last movie, the Fireman was constantly attacked by ghouls, because his brother had died and became vengeful towards the Fireman. At one point, the Brother legit spells out that he is scared of dinosaurs, and we get low budget Jurassic Park imitations. Whats sad is, they didn’t even copy the good one. It makes no sense why the Brother is constantly attacked by ghouls. The people who killed him are alive. There is no vengeful spirit after him. And with the grim reapers’ stories being the main focus, the stakes with the Brother are even lower. Regarding the story with the reapers, I dont know why they treat it as a mystery. Its quite obvious 10 minutes into the flashbacks who is who. But this was still better than the after life story.
There is a mid credit scene, possibly setting up the sequels (there is a third and a fourth one). But again, I am not sure why it is there. Not going to lie, this movie did feel a lot like setting up the future installments. When the reapers confront each other after hearing about their past lives, and that they infact killed each other, they shrug it off. Because its been a millennium, things are cooled down now. But then what was the point of the whole movie then? They just undid the tension in half the movie , and quite frankly the only interesting part of the movie. And if the Hell King was Reaper Leader’s Father all along, why didnt he say anything besides that Repaer Leader should ask for forgiveness. I am wondering if they plan to expand more on this on the next one, but I am also hoping they leave the story alone. The first movie was fantastic. It was balanced in its story telling and flowed really well. It started out as a weird special effects Chinese Wuxia film style spectacle but transformed into a heartfelt story about the Fireman and his family. This one has all the spectacle but not substance. Dare I say it felt a bit like Crimes of Grindlewald in its desperation for setting up the sequels. The movie ends with the Private now the third contender for a soul to be sent through the after life trials. But we already know his story. Why does it have to be someone related to the Brother.
The movie is extremely convoluted. It does not hold back information where it should to add mystery and only exposits more on the existing story established in the last movie. While the last one was crafted well, this one is just messy. There are parts where the movie just feels like a sad and desperate attempt at copying Hollywood movies. The first one was fantastic and did the superhero/giant monsters theme really well. In this one, any action scene seems contrived and unnecessary even. There are no stakes, hence no tension in the afterlife scenes. I may be hating on this movie more than necessary. Its not bad as a stand alone movie, but given how good the first one was, I am extremely disappointed. The cast is great, the sound is great, and even the effects are not entirely terrible. There are several cameos from popular and some of my favorite Korean actors (albeit those who usually play supporting characters). But the story feels like it was written by a different person and went through several last minute rewrites.
The first movie made a crazy amount of money. Given how good and really just, grand, the last one was, this one made even more money. So I am guessing there will definitely be a third and a fourth. I just hope they can improve the script. This is one of those few times that South Korean ‘Hallyuwood’ has come out with such a big budget series. With a Train to Busan sequel coming up and the success of this series, there will only be more. But I really hope these movies do not go the way of abandoning good writing for big, pointless, special effects.
Edit: Both movies are now available on Netflix.
Until next time