New to Blu: Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds (2018) - Reviewed

Along With the Gods (2018) was the second-highest grossing film of all time in South Korea and it's easy to see why--its mixutre of fantastical elements and tear-jerking emotion are a compelling mix.

The story is based on a web comic by Joo Ho-min and it follows the plight of a recently dead fireman named Ja-hong (Cha Tae-hyun) who discovers that the afterlife is a lot more complex than he imagined. If he is to be reincarnated in 49 days he has to undergo seven trials in the underworld and prove his worth. Luckily he has public defenders who will represent him and hopefully keep him from languishing in purgatory.

Ja-Hong's trials are easily the most creative part of the film and the visuals are fantastic for the most part. Each level of hell he goes to has its own unique look to it as well as a judge who oversees it. Those who are familiar with Buddhist philosophy will find a lot to unpack as it does a deep dive into a lot of the mythology. This spectacular fantasy story is brought down to earth a bit by the second plot line concerning Ja-Hong's past and his mute mother. Korean films love to pile on the melodrama and this movie is no exception. Viewers will want to get the tissues ready. 

Most of the acting is earnest and it's easy to empathize with the characters. Even if one doesn't watch many Korean films, this one is quite approachable. It could use about twenty-five minutes cut out of it as it goes on way too long. I didn't think they would actually show all seven trials and it feels even longer when they start going into Ja-hong's backstory. Some of the CGI looks a bit suspect too, but that's inherent inmost effect-heavy film. The set-pieces have great designs which goes a long way in making it feel believable and there are a few neat action scenes thrown in for good measure. 

Overall, this film might appeal to those who crave a giant blockbuster film with supernatural elements which is something that isn't explored much here in the West. If you can get past the maudlin emotional beats there is much fun to be had.

--Michelle Kisner