Soul and Seoul in the 'Age of Ultron'

Soul and Seoul in the 'Age of Ultron'
Cinema Still : Avengers: Age Of Ultron, starring (from left), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.),

Director Joss Whedon dispenses with all introductions and jumps straight into the action in the hotly anticipated "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

The opening sequence kicks off with the Avengers raiding a HYDRA stronghold in the snowy mountains of Sokovia, kicking, punching and blasting their way to capture Loki's powerful scepter.

From there, the action never slows down throughout the 140-minute film screened for the media at CGV Wangsimni on Tuesday.

But between the heavy gunfire and scorched metal, the "Age of Ultron" slips in an element that the first "Avengers" lacked: a look into the hearts and minds of Marvel's most beloved heroes.

The story of an artificial intelligence peacekeeping programme that takes on a twisted view of its mission and turns against humanity is sparked by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr).

The jesting Iron Man turns somber at memorable points, offering glimpses into his most sincere ambitions. Stark's ideas stir up the inner dilemmas of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who eventually aids Stark in building Ultron.

The film also highlights the Hulk's oscillations between his desire to help the Avengers and his fear of hurting civilians, made more complex and agonizing by a budding romance with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson).

The minds of the rest of the Avengers are opened up thanks to the introduction of an "enhanced" Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), the Scarlet Witch who can manipulate minds and tap into the characters' innermost fears thanks to experiments run by Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann).

The audience gets a firsthand look at what those dark fears look like, with significant time devoted to the hallucinations of Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Black Widow.

A particularly notable effort in "Age of Ultron" is the attention paid to developing the personal stories of the Black Widow and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

The inner turmoil of the Avengers as well as those of the emotionally scarred Maximoff twins (Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the chillingly humanoid Ultron (Jeremy Spade) and mysterious Vision (Paul Bettany) unfold in carefully timed stages between the larger action scenes, breathing soul into the comic-book action.

The movie will be a particular treat for fans in Korea to see roughly 20 minutes featuring the sights of Seoul.

Ever since the cast arrived last year to shoot parts of the film, Korean fans have been eager to see what parts of the nation's capital will be seen on the screen.

The laboratories of Dr. Helen Cho (Kim Soo-hyun, also known as Claudia Kim) are pictured on Sebitseom floating on the Hangang River, the huge statues at the MBC headquarters in Digital Media City fill the screen as the superheroes fly by in the Quinjet, and Seoul's skyline is caught across the glittering Hangang River as the Avengers fight atop Mapo Bridge.

But the highlight is the clash between Ultron's army of robots and the Avengers in downtown Seoul.

Moviegoers see not only the alleys of Gangnam as Black Widow whizzes through on her motorcycle, but also the familiar sights of a Korean train and Korean police.

As a bonus, there are snippets of untranslated Korean being spoken in the film by Kim and other extras, which can only be understood by Korean speakers.

As of Wednesday morning, over 740,000 tickets in Korea have been booked for "Age of Ultron," making up 94 per cent of all movie ticket reservations, according to the Korean Film Council.

With action scenes of immense scale, interesting characters both old and new, and storyline setups that hint at what is to come in future sequels, viewers have good reason to look forward to the film.

However, there is a sense that the movie's storyline buckles a bit under the weight of its numerous characters and stories, without a clean conclusion.

It would be best to watch the film prepared to enjoy it fully, but conscious that it is ultimately a spectacular warm-up for the next big Avengers adventure.

"Avengers: Age of Ultron" opens in local theatres Thursday, more than a week before its US release.

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