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Following in the footsteps of Spider-Man: Far From Home in Prague
Spider-Man: Far From Home took the action out of New York and straight into Europe for a fun-filled, action-packed adventure following Peter Parker and his class on summer vacation. But, of course, it wasn't smooth sailing when the Elementals turned up to terrorize some of the continent's most beautiful cities and Spidey was forced into the conflict to help Nick Fury and Quentin Beck to take them down.
Most of the time with the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies they are shot on a production lot at Pinewood Studios in London or Atlanta, but for Far From Home, director Jon Watts took his cast and crew to the European cities to get a real local flavor and aesthetic.
For SYFY WIRE FANGRRLS, I headed over to Prague to check out some of the shooting locations that featured in the movie when Nick Fury diverted Peter's class to the Czech Republic so Spider-Man could get in on the action. The last time I had been to the city was a decade ago, so it was exciting to get back there and revisit the places where key scenes were shot as well as check new locations I had never been and learn how the VFX brought the major fight sequences to life.
The first stop was Hotel Carlo V, the amazing hotel Nick Fury books Peter's class into after sneakily rearranging their trip to Prague, not Paris. Hotel Carlo IV is located at Senovazne náměstí 13, just north of Prague's railway station and already had a rich cinematic history. Before it was a hotel, the building was a bank and it featured in The Bourne Identity in the scene where Jason Bourne is trying to make his escape from the "US Embassy."
According to Hotel Carlo IV's spokesperson, Lenka Jurášková, the Far From Home crew only shot in the hotel for one day as the business was still operational. "We needed to close off the whole lobby, where they mainly filmed, but we couldn't have it closed for more than 24 hours.
"We had to build our own reception in another room and shift people around in order for the film crew to have the space to shoot the scenes in the lobby and in one of the stairways."
The lobby is where Peter's class learn they won't be enjoying the city's famous Signal Festival but would be heading to the opera instead (to keep them out of danger from the Elemental attack) and though there are later scenes in one of the hotel rooms, it wasn't shot at the hotel, rather a set recreated to look like one. "We had to send them plans and photos of the things in the room so they could match everything perfectly," Lenka explained.
Next on the agenda was a visit to the Vinohrady Theatre where the class goes for a night of opera. The theatre is over 100 years old and previously played host to the production of The Illusionist starring Edward Norton and Jessica Biel. Even though the location features in a short scene, the Vinohrady crew constructed a full opera set and an orchestra was on-hand in the area under the stage to make it look as though the show was about to begin. However, the set is never seen because the scene ends before the curtain gets to rise. It took a whole week to capture everything they needed for the scene, which only lasted a few minutes in the final cut.
When Peter ducks out of the opera soon, to his frustration, several of his classmates follow in order to enjoy Prague's Signal Festival. The festival takes place across the city for four days and showcases an array of light shows, art installations and emerging technologies in brightly colored action. However, the real thing is a little different from what you see in the movie.
Far From Home shows a sort of Parade of Light coursing its way through the city with various revelers and performers in traditional costumes tailored with flashing lights. This was a healthy dose of artistic license on the part of the producers as most of the light shows and activities take place in specific locations and there weren't really any people dressed up in flashing outfits when I walked through the city.
However, there was one exhibition that used a similar sort of projection mapping technology that Quentin Beck "invented" and used to make it look like the Elementals were terrorizing the various cities across the world.
The next stop was Charles Bridge, one of the most famous landmarks in Prague that joins the city together over the Vltava river in Prague. It was ready to use at the beginning of the 15th Century, having begun construction in 1357 and it takes its name from King Charles IV, who was the first King of Bohemia to become Holy Roman Emperor.
His statue stands on the Křižovnické Square side of the bridge and can be seen in the background when Peter and MJ walk across it. Now, this location is one hell of a tourist trap, with visitors walking back and forth across it, day and night, so it's certainly odd to see the two lovebirds have the walkway entirely to themselves. But hey, it probably wouldn't have looked as romantic if there were some tourists taking selfies in the background, right?
The final stop on the tour was Náměstí Dr E Beneše. For those familiar with Prague, you might have been shocked to see the final battle between Mysterio, Spider-Man, and the "Molten Man" take place on a square located an hour away from the city but that's Hollywood for you. The production used the city of Liberec as a backdrop for Prague, building a funfair complete with a Ferris wheel, food stands, and game stations to serve as an extension of the Signal Festival.
The square was taken over for several weeks and a few of the landmarks were used for key shots including the town hall and fountain. The crew built a replica section of the historic building to shoot scenes where Spider-Man is hanging off it, and the Fountain of Neptune had a new statue built over it so it could be blown away during the fight.
Obviously, the Molten Man does a lot of damage during this scene but that's where the VFX team came in during pre-production. "Our team helped to evolve ideas for shots and flow of action in the early stages through previsualization," Far From Home's visual effects artist Brian Carney explained.
"When we were visualizing action for scenes [on location] we looked at and tried to make the most of local landmarks so we could stage the action for a real-world location ahead of time and help to identify the considerations for camera placement and logistics on the shooting day."
"One of the key challenges was looking at ways the characters could fight and interact that looked cool and also supported the ruse of illusions," Carney added. "For our part, the inspiration for Molten Man came from thinking about how we'd utilize the rules to have Spider-Man actually fight the monster.
"It involved close collaboration with the VFX team to figure out the choreography of how to fight a villain that our hero couldn't touch."
Quite often Marvel movies are criticized for spending too much time in front of a green screen, but after traversing Prague it's clear to see how much can be achieved when the action takes place on location. It makes the movie feel real and reachable and in a movie like Spider-Man: Far From Home, where the fantastical takes place at every turn, it's great to see how much a backdrop can truly ground it in reality.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is available to buy & keep in the US and UK as well as from Sky Store.