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[Herald Review] ‘Along With Gods’ all about spectacular visuals

Korean afterlife comes alive in mesmerizing computer-graphic landscape

Dec. 13, 2017 - 17:34 By Rumy Doo
Hit webtoon series “Along With the Gods,” by Joo Ho-min, offered a whimsical twist on the Korean folklore of the seven gates in the afterlife.

The series begins as its central character Kim Ja-hong, who has died, finds himself being escorted to the next world via subway train by two officials who are employees of the afterlife. A lawyer is appointed to each of the deceased -- everyone must face the seven judges, who rule on a person’s lifelong deeds based on sins such as violence, betrayal, laziness and hurting family, and decide whether they proceed to heaven or hell.

The story offers an amusing take on life and death, while its development invites readers to contemplate the nature of judgment, human virtues and what it means to lead a “good” life.

In the upcoming film rendition “Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds,” directed by Kim Yong-hwa (“Mr. Go,” 2013), the overall premise is the same. Tweaks were made for the sake of running time and the big screen -- characters have been rearranged and more melodrama is injected for a tear-jerker ending. The characters in the film, however, despite glitzy visuals, seem oddly flatter than their two-dimensional counterparts. 

Ha Jung-woo stars in “Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds.” (Lotte Entertainment)

The film’s triumph, meanwhile, lies in its computer graphics, which took up a large portion of the budget of 40 billion won ($36.6 million) and were undertaken by Dexter Studios, one of Asia’s largest film production and visual effects studios, helmed by director Kim. Some 300 artists and technicians took part in the film’s production.

Through computer-generated imagery, the landscape of the vast afterworld is created in mesmerizing detail, from the blazing lava pool of hell to immense, empty deserts and towering waterfalls, while the afterlife officials fly like torpedoes through the air and wield fiery weapons.

“Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds” (Lotte Entertainment)

“I hope viewers will judge the film on its own and not compare it to the webtoon series,” said director Kim after a press screening at Lotte Cinema World Tower in Seoul on Tuesday. “I think what’s important is whether the film is able to move viewers.”

“I think people are able to imagine for themselves what each character is like when reading the webtoon series,” said Ha Jung-woo, who stars as an official of the afterworld. “I trusted that the director’s versions of the characters were the right choice to carry out the film’s drama.”

“Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds” (Lotte Entertainment)

“Along With the Gods” stars Cha Tae-hyun as Kim. Joo Ji-hoon and Kim Hyang-gi play afterworld officials, while Lee Jung-jae plays the king of the underworld.

The film, distributed by Lotte Entertainment, hits local theaters on Dec. 20. It was presold to some 103 countries at the American Film Market last month.

By Rumy Doo (