In the extravagantly conceived Korean spiritual adventure “Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds,” dying only starts the journey. Firefighter Ja-hong (Cha Tae-hyun) sacrifices himself to save a young girl, only to find he’s been virtuous enough to receive a rare shot at reincarnation.
With the help of three appointed defenders — a stoic lawyer (Ha Jung-woo), an impertinent security expert (Ju Ji-hoon) and a kind-hearted assistant (Kim Hyang-gi) — Ja-hong must pass seven Afterlife trials about his life on Earth. The topics cover everything from injustice and violence to deceit and “filial impiety.”
Complicating matters is the truth about his fraught relationships with his mute, suffering mother and vengeful soldier brother, which expose Ja-hong to all sorts of afterworld perils. But you’re better off absorbing “Defending Your Life,” Albert Brooks’ gentler take on this notion, unless hectic video game fight choreography, repetitive mythology-explaining and overwrought melodrama are your cup of tea.
Toggling awkwardly between a military mystery in the living world and the fireman’s appearances before a succession of stern-faced gods and goddesses, “Along With the Gods” strains to whimsically entertain, but routinely fails its smaller human-sized moments due to convoluted plot twists.
In between are too many empty battles marked by underwhelming CGI — you feel for the central quartet of actors, who clearly spent most of their days in harnesses against green screen. Director Kim Yong-hwa isn’t done, though — part two of an already overlong saga is scheduled for next summer.
In Korean with English subtitles
Running time: 2 hours, 19 minutes
Playing: CGV Cinema, Los Angeles