Avengers: Age of Ultron (also known as Avengers 2), which opened in theaters across South Korea on April 23, is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated movie of the year. While the blockbuster sequel has already pulled in a hefty US $28.2 million in opening weekend revenue in Korea alone, several Korean media outlets are voicing their disappointment with the “unremarkable” scenes filmed in Korea, citing their lack of distinctive features identifying the setting as the cutting-edge, modern city of Seoul.
Production company Marvel Studios spent 16 days last year (March 30 to April 14) filming The Avengers’ sequel on location in South Korea. According to reports, approximately 15 minutes of the final cut of the film takes place in Seoul. Prior to the start of filming, the South Korean government had even jumped on board to help with production costs in an effort to ensure that the country is shown in a positive, high-tech, and modern light:
“The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism is expected to reimburse up to 30 percent of the expenditure under a state-funded incentive program as the studio is expected to spend more than 10 billion won (US$9.37 million) during its shoot in Korea. Culture Minister YooJin-ryong has said that he was excited with the scheduled filming and that he hopes that this will pave the way for more opportunities in the future.” (Korea Times)
Similarly, Daily Mail reports that
“Kim Young-gun, who overseas the Korean Film Council’s (KOFIC) incentive program for foreign films, said the film could transform the status of Seoul, which has been largely overlooked by Hollywood compared to its regional peers.“
However, upon release of the film in Korea, the initial response from several Korean media outlets was lukewarm at best. Despite Marvel having filmed scenes in Seoul, including the Gangnam district and Gyeonggi Province, Korean critics were not entirely thrilled with the portrayal of their nation’s capital area, making comments such as “the portrayal of Korea is not exactly flattering, and it doesn’t leave a huge impression on the viewer.”
One of the major criticisms stemmed from the fact that for much of the footage, the scenery was not even immediately identifiable as Korea, apart from some visible Hangul (Korean script) on signs. In particular, the Mapo Bridge, which connects parts of Seoul over the Han River, had to be closed down for approximately 12 hours at a tremendous cost to allow for filming, but the fast-paced action and ample use of CG make it nearly unrecognizable in the film.
▼ Seoul’s Mapo Bridge, site of an action scene involving Captain America in the film
Critics also cited that the most futuristic-looking structures to appear in the Korean segment of the film were the Some Sevit, the artificial floating islands in the Han River that are destinations for various cultural and entertainment attractions in real life. In the film, one of these islands serves as the IT institute of Dr. Helen Cho (portrayed by South Korean actress Claudia Kim), a supporting character in the story.
▼ Some Sevit
▼ Actress Claudia Kim (also known as Kim Soo-Hyun) at the Avengers: Age of Ultron world premiere
Despite the comments raised by the various media outlets, South Korean net users as a whole didn’t seem to mind as much about the portrayal of their country. Here are a number of their comments:
“It’s enough that Seoul gets a bit of coverage.”
“They’re being unreasonable. It’s not supposed to be a Korean tourism video.”
“I want to see it because I’m just thankful that the actors came to Korea.”
“The arrangement of the seats on the subway is not how it is in real life.”
“The point of this kind of blockbuster is that it’s flashy and fun, so I don’t really care how the city is portrayed.”
“I’m just really happy that Korea and the Korean language played a role in this large-scale film, increasing people’s awareness of our country!”
“It was the Korean government that was thinking about economic gain and welcomed the filming crews. There’s nothing wrong with the movie.”
“After seeing it, I understood why they’re saying that Seoul didn’t really make a recognizable appearance in the film. CG was also used everywhere, so it felt a bit strange. The only reason I was excited is because a Hollywood movie was filmed in Korea.”
“People who expect too much are often disappointed. Korea just loaned the production some filming locations, but it doesn’t play an intrinsic role in the plot.”
Avengers: Age of Ultron is slated for a May 1 release date in North America and various other countries, and a July 4 release date in Japan. Keeps your eyes peeled for the scenes involving Korea in the film!