Poor old stately Europe. Not a movie season goes by without the dark forces of the latest Hollywood franchise rolling in and trashing centuries of treasured architecture.
Spider-Man: Far From Home doesn’t shy away from indulging in such vandalism. Set in a world still coming to terms with the aftermath of the events unleashed by uber-misanthrope Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, the eponymous webbed one is now expected to cope with a new extinction-level event practically on his lonesome.
Tom Holland delivers an appropriately in-over-his-head performance as Spider-Man/Peter Parker, who is on a class holiday to Venice with a romantic plan to win the heart of big-time crush MJ, played by Zendaya. Before everything goes pear-shaped, we get some glimpses of St Mark’s Square and the lagoon, and Peter buys a black dahlia glass pendant in a nearby jewellery store – really throwing away an opportunity to visit the fascinating glassmakers’ island of Murano. Just as the rest of the class is headed to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, the enormous water elemental shows up, wreaking havoc on buildings around the Grand Canal and the magnificent Rialto Bridge.
But there’s no time to dawdle: the class is swept off on a bus trip through Austria to the Czech Republic. The A10 via Salzburg affords stunning views of the Eastern Alps and plentiful mountain road action.
Once in Prague, the class is delighted to check into the splendid Carlo IV Hotel. It’s the start of Signal, Prague’s festival of light, but superspy Nick Fury has bought everyone tickets to see Smetana’s opera The Devil’s Wall. It’s a challenging work, and even dyed-in-the-wool opera devotees consider it close to incomprehensible, so most of the class quickly flee. (Visitors note: in our own space-time continuum, the real State Opera is closed until January 2020; this part was in fact filmed at the town’s Vinohrady Theatre. This year’s Signal festival begins on 10 October.)
Those familiar with Prague will be puzzled by the location of the boss fight between Spider-Man (as Night Monkey) and the Fire Elemental. The place looks like a smaller version of Prague’s Old Town Square, but something’s not quite right. In reality, filming took place 100 kilometres away in the much smaller town of Liberec, where permission to film was easier to come by.
Just before the film’s final battle, we find ourselves in an idyllic tulip field outside the Netherlands’ Broek op Langedijk, just north of Amsterdam. If there’s no Stark Industries attack drones about, take some time to hire a boat and cruise the flatlands around the area, once known as the Realm of a Thousand Islands.
Most of the remaining action takes place in London around Tower Bridge – a landmark that’s been demolished in so many movies it’s a wonder the council bothers putting it back up. If you can avoid peak times, the Tower Bridge Exhibition is well worth a look, with its vertigo-inducing glass walkway 42 metres above the River Thames. Just a few minutes’ stroll away is the Tower of London and its White Tower, where Harold ‘Happy’ Hogan holes up with Peter’s friends as killer drones pursue them for a nail-biting showdown.