"Bleak, Creepy, Hellish Worldview"
What You Need To Know:
Packed with special effects, most of the action in 49 DAYS almost feels cartoonish, with the exception of some battle scene flashbacks. Children might not be able to handle the violence, scary monsters and strange gods of the various Hells. The movie tries to keep a fun, adventurous tone, but some of its concepts are creepy at best and spiritually dark at worst. THE LAST 49 DAYS has a strong Buddhist worldview, with references to Karma, reincarnation and false gods. It offers a bleak system devoid of grace where people must themselves atone for all the bad things they’ve done.
ALONG WITH THE GODS: THE LAST 49 days is the sequel to the 2017 South Korean box-office smash fantasy about reincarnation, THE TWO WORLDS.
Building on its predecessor, the human lives of the three hero grim reapers/afterlife guardians are revealed as lead guardian Gang-lim defends a new soul from the trials of several hells. Meanwhile, sidekick guardians Ji-hun Ju and Deok-choon go on their own adventure to stop a household god from blocking the death ascension of an old man.
Audiences should use strong caution against a movie with a premise so heavily rooted in Buddhism, karma, reincarnation, and false gods. The spirituality of THE LAST 49 DAYS is anything but biblical, and ultimately preaches the message that people must atone for their own sins and prove their worthiness in life.
For their latest adventure, underworld guardians Gang-lim, Ji-hun Ju and Deok-choon have been tasked with defending Gim Su-hong from the trials of accusing hells. They only have 49 days to prove his innocence so he can be reincarnated. This is similar to the plot of the original movie, but they raise the stakes this time.
Gang-lim strikes a deal with the King of the Underworld. If they can prove that Gim Su-hong was murdered, they will all finally be reincarnated. However, if they fail, they will remain guardians forever. On top of such high stakes, The King of the Underworld also insists that Ji-hun Ju and Deok-choon ascend the soul of a dying grandfather, whose soul is being protected by a friendly homegod known as Seongju sin.
The story bounces back and forth between Gang-lim guiding Gim Su-hong through various hells, including Violence Hell, Indolence Hell and Murder Hell, where various types of grotesque punishments are put on display for the losers of the trials. The trials themselves play out like courtroom trials, with Gang-lim calling witnesses in front of the respective god of the hell, trying to prove Gim Su-hong’s innocence. The road to the various hells is treacherous and filled with monsters trying to stop them at every turn. To pass the time, Gim Su-hong insists that Gang-lim tell him about his human life, and what he did to be cursed to be a guardian.
Meanwhile, Ji-hun Ju and Deok-choon discover that the home god Seongju sin is a friendly and benevolent spirit, caring for the young grandson of the dying man whose soul is owed to the King of the Underworld. They agree not to ascend the soul of the grandfather until they find a new home for the little boy, which proves to be difficult with various orphanages, welfare and adoption agencies. While they wait for a new home, Seongju sin reveals that he was the former guardian who took Ji-hun Ju and Deok-choon’s souls a millennium ago and agrees to tell them who they were on earth, because their memories have been erased.
There’s a lot going on in THE LAST 49 DAYS. The first half feels very uneven as it bounces from the adventures of the underworld, to the sweet and comical antics of the human world, to the backstories of all the three guardians. Fans of the characters will be highly satisfied with the rich character backstories of the three heroes. As their human lives are revealed, it quickly becomes the movie’s most interesting and emotional part.
All the CGI spectacles of the hell trials take a back seat to the human story as: Ji-hun Ju finds out he was an ancient war hero; and, Deok-choon was a caretaker of orphans on the opposing side. This ancient narrative turns into a powerful story of betrayal, compassion, an unlikely friendship, and forgiveness. Regrettably, it’s framed by a story that feels too long. The backstories of the guardians do indeed serve the fans. However, the flashbacks are not organically motivated and almost always feel forced. Only at the very end does the movie bring all the storylines together in a satisfying way, but it’s a bit of a struggle to get there.
Most of the action is so packed with CGI effects it almost feels cartoonish, with the exception of battle scenes from guardian flashbacks. Older children may be able to handle the violence, but younger children might not be able to handle the scary monsters and gods of the various Hell worlds. They pull out all the stops with everything from sea monsters, to lava monsters, to dinosaurs. While only briefly seen, the concepts of some of the hell worlds are rather disturbing, such as “Indolence Hell,” which forces its victims to run in a circle forever as a giant wheel steamrolls those who are too slow. The movie tries to keep a fun and adventurous tone, but some of these concepts are creepy at best and spiritually dark at worst.
THE LAST 49 DAYS is a movie about spiritual realms and the afterlife that has no biblical roots. There are numerous gods, ranging from the gods of hell to household gods, many of which can call out spirits. The guardians have reaper-like abilities that allow them to summon souls to the afterlife, with the ultimate goal being reincarnation. However, the biggest worldview issue lies in the trials themselves. The premise relies on the idea that every man must himself atone for the things he did in life and find a way to earn forgiveness. Even the role of the guardians is a punishment for crimes committed on Earth. The movie ultimately becomes a bleak and heartbreaking look at a false belief system devoid of God’s grace, without Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.