Review: Seoul’s part in ‘The Avengers’ not worth the fuss

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Review: Seoul’s part in ‘The Avengers’ not worth the fuss

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The Korean government hoped for a significant boost in tourism and an enhanced image from helping the Marvel Studio film a part of its “Avengers” sequel in Seoul. [JoongAng Ilbo]

Big expectations lead to big disappointments. And the build up for “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” has been intense, ever since the filmmakers signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea last year.

Marvel Studio promised to depict Seoul as a cutting-edge IT city to help boost tourism. In return, the Korean government agreed to pay about a third of the movie’s production costs in Korea, amounting to 3.9 billion won ($3.6 million).

But the result is a letdown. The city features in just one scene spanning around 10 minutes. The only “cutting edge” part is a night view of Sebitseom, one of the floating islands on the Han River, where Dr. Cho’s laboratory is located.

The character is played by Korean actress Kim Soo-hyun.

The rest reminds us either how gray or dusty Seoul can look.

A major fight in Gangnam Station’s boulevards, in Sangam-dong and a parking lot in Tancheon is visually enticing, but you can barely tell it is in Seoul at all as the viewers can only focus on the cement roads and pillars that are being demolished during the spectacle.

Sadly, it is clear that the inconvenience caused last year during filming was all for nothing as the government’s estimated 2 trillion won worth of economic effect from the film now seems far-fetched.

Watching “The Avengers” sequel is entertaining enough, however, as director Joss Whedon has wholeheartedly reproduced the spectacle and signature witty moments of the first series.

The playful personality of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) again provides humor in a scene where he stands in front of a metal door and quietly prays “please be a secret door, please be a secret door. Yay!” as it springs open.

Powerful villain Ultron is introduced to the plot, which makes the fighting even more intense. Ultron is a program secretly designed by Tony and Dr. Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to keep peace among humans, but it goes wrong when the system tries to use its artificial intelligence to destroy all.

In-depth character development adds a humane dimension to the story, explaining to the audience where the Avengers’ motives to save the world comes from. It reveals Black Widow’s (Scarlett Johansson) unfortunate childhood and Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) hidden personal life. An unexpected love link between the Hulk and Black Widow breaks out as well.

Moral lessons also prevail, such as the value of teamwork and family bonding when one of the series’ newcomers, the twin Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), uses her telekinetic powers to manipulate the Avengers’ minds and jeopardizes the harmony between them.

But these emotional elements may be a drawback to the viewers who just want the thrills.

The film, which opened in Korea on Thursday is already storming the local box office, having recorded a 96.9 percent pre-sale reservation rate, selling 927,000 tickets ahead of its release.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]


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