One of South Korea’s all-time biggest hits, the 2017 special-effects extravaganza “Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds,” told the story of a recently deceased fireman overcoming elaborate tortures on his path toward a potential rebirth. The sequel “Along With the Gods: The Last 49 Days” doesn’t so much continue the saga as refocus it on the three guardians who defended the fireman’s soul.
While the original dipped into the mythology of the death gods Gang-rim (Ha Jung-woo), Haewonmak (Ju Ji-hoon) and Lee Deok-choon (Kim Hyang-gi), Part 2 goes even further, combining the reapers’ own quest for reincarnation with flashbacks to their past lives.
At times, “The Last 49 Days” is confusingly busy. Writer-director Kim Yong-hwa weaves between three narrative threads: the aforementioned flashbacks; a new series of afterlife trials undertaken by an angry spirit (Kim Dong-wook) with Gang-rim’s guidance; and a mission on Earth in which Haewonmak and Lee Deok-choon try to retrieve an old man who won’t die.
The tone of each is wildly different, jumping from epic medieval fantasy to maudlin domestic melodrama to superhero adventure. They’re primarily unified by the incessantly buoyant musical score and some choppy-looking CGI.
But while “The Last 49 Days” is awkwardly bloated, it does eventually develop some momentum. Once viewers get accustomed to a movie that can move within minutes from courtroom drama to dinosaur attacks, they may enjoy the overwhelming spectacle of it all.
‘Along With the Gods: The Last 49 Days’
Running time: 2 hours, 21 minutes.
Playing: Starts Wednesday in limited release