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(Movie Review) 'Gods' is simple, manipulative tearjerker but entertaining

All Headlines 09:00 December 14, 2017

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- There is no perfect person on Earth. Even the great men of history have gotten quite a lot of things wrong.

So, I found the story of "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" based on a popular webtoon series of the same name very interesting. It's about a man who is judged in seven hells -- namely murder, indolence, untruth, injustice, betrayal, obstruction of moral laws of family relationships -- for 49 days after his death for rebirth as in the Buddhist view of the world.

The three grim reapers in charge of defending him in the trials are convinced that Kim Ja-hong (played by Cha Tae-hyun), a firefighter who sacrificed his life to pull a young girl out of a fire-engulfed building, deserves reincarnation. As his past wrongdoings are unveiled one after another, however, they all face unexpected troubles. Actors Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-hoon and Kim Hyang-gi play the three grim reapers named Gang-rim, Haewonmaek and Deok-chun, respectively.

As I didn't have a chance to read the film's original webtoon, I had no idea how the story would turn out; I wondered if Ja-hong would be reincarnated despite his troubles.


[https://youtu.be/5O5PVvHTWRo]

But the film's writer-director Kim Yong-hwa best known for "200 Pound Beauty" and "Take Off" made its otherwise very intriguing story into something like a Korean traditional fairy tale that glorifies filial duty toward parents, brotherly love and the good triumphing over evil.

Ja-hong is described as an uncommonly, almost unrealistically good person -- a pure heroic archetype who always sacrifices himself for others. In addition, the main themes of life and death, sin and punishment, and rebirth are so superficially and simplistically handled that it feels like an action adventure for children.

Audiences may feel both moved and manipulated while watching the movie. If there are tears, they'll be practically squeezed out of you by a tragic plot device: two brothers struggling to live in poor surroundings and their self-devoted deaf mother.

A screenshot from "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds," released by Lotte Entertainment (Yonhap)

Despite the disappointing storyline, the movie will wow you with its spectacular and mysterious CGI depiction of the seven hells and their judges, ranging from a lava hell to a forest of knife-blade trees. It is surely a lot of fun and will keep you on the edge of your seat with its action scenes.

"Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds" is the first installment of the two-part franchise shot simultaneously with the second part by the same director, which is uncommon in the Korean film industry.

A screenshot from "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds," released by Lotte Entertainment (Yonhap)

The first one has drawn much anticipation from movie fans in the country for its star-studded cast and huge production cost of 20 billion won (US$18.3 million), four times the average production cost of films in Korea.

Also among its main cast are Doh Kyung-soo (better known by his stage name D.O. of boy band EXO), Kim Dong-wook, Oh Dal-soo, Im Won-hee and Kim Soo-ahn. Lee Jung-jae, Kim Hae-sook, Kim Ha-neul, Lee Kyung-young and Ma Dong-seok had cameos in the film.

The Lotte Entertainment release is set to premiere Dec. 20.

A screenshot from "Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds," released by Lotte Entertainment (Yonhap)

sshim@yna.co.kr
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