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Sunday October 21st 2018

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra | 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film location: Danube House, Karolinská, Karlin, Prague
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra location: the 'DeCobray laboratory': Danube House, Karolinská, Karlin, Prague

Slam-bang toy-inspired fun from Hasbro as the pieces are put in place to kick off a franchise. The technology is new, but the plot is strictly old school with arms manufacturer McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) bent on world domination.

The production was based in California at Downey Studios, Downey, southeast of Los Angeles, were created out of the former Rockwell International plant, where Space Shuttle orbiters and vehicles for the Apollo space programme had been assembled. Rockwell closed in 1999 and the site was used for numerous movie productions including Stephen Sommers’ previous Van Helming, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, Iron Man and Cloverfield.

In 2012, Downey Studios were demolished to make way for the 1.5 million-square-foot Tierra Luna Marketplace (Earth Moon in Spanish) development of shops, restaurants, cinema and office space.

Apart from California, some practical locations were found in Paris, but mainly were in the Czech Republic.

Set in 'France, 1664', the prologue foreshadows Destro as the face of McCullen’s duplicitous ancestor is encased in a permanent metal mask by a French court.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film location: Hrad Kost, Sobotka, Czech Republic
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra location: the 'French' castle: Hrad Kost, Sobotka, Czech Republic | Photograph: Wikimedia / Hejkal

The 'French' fortification is Hrad Kost (Kost Castle) a couple of miles northwest of Sobotka in Northern Bohemia – about 50 miles northeast of Prague. Kost is famous for its Bílá Věž (White Tower) which, unusually, has a trapezoidal ground-plan with corners facing the directions deemed most likely to suffer attacks by catapult. Although privately owned, Kost is open for tours.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film location: Hrad Kost, Sobotka, Czech Republic
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra location: the 'NATO Weapons Command': Corinthia Hotel Prague, Kongresová, Prague, Czech Republic | Photograph: Wikimedia / ŠJů

In the ‘not-too-distant future’, when we see McCullen’s descendant, the CEO of weapons development company MARS giving a presentation on his nanotechnology warheads to NATO, we know it’s not looking good for France. The gleaming high-rise 'NATO Weapons Command' HQ is the five-star business hotel Corinthia Hotel Prague, Kongresová 1655/1, across from the Prague Congress Centre in the Vyšehrad district south of the city.

The testing of the nanomites – microscopic metal-eaters – on an M1A1 Abrams tank was filmed at Bicycle Lake, Fort Irwin, California, a dry lake bed normally used as an airfield by the military.

When the Organisation takes a four-pack, Duke Hauser (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are tasked with collecting the not-yet-weaponised warheads from the MARS facility in ‘Kyrgyzstan’. We’re staying in California, where the mountain fringed desert is the familiar terrain of Lone Pine on Route 395 in Central California.

The transport of the warheads is disrupted by an attack on the convoy is ambushed by an army of ‘cybermen’ under the control of the Baroness (Sienna Miller), who – crikey! – only turns out to be Duke’s ex, Ana. Small world, huh?

Duke and Ripcord are rescued by a covert multi-national team which turns out to be the G.I. Joe squad, and are soon recruited into the crack military unit by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid).

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film location: Zamek Koloděje, Podzámecká, Praha-Koloděje
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra location: the DeCobray chateau: Zamek Koloděje, Podzámecká, Praha-Koloděje | Photograph: Wikimedia / Packa

Ana has become the Baroness by marrying scientist Baron DeCobray. The couple’s lavish ‘French Chateau’ is Zamek Koloděje (Koloděje Chateau), Podzámecká 1, 190 16 Praha-Koloděje, to the east of Prague.

The chateau has an interesting history, having been confiscated by the Czech government in 1948 after the owners were accused of having collaborated with the Nazis during WWII. After many years of wrangling, the ruling was overturned in 2009 and returned to the original family, as a private home.

The flashbacks that fill out backstories of the main characters are all filmed in Los Angeles, so when Duke proposes to Ana on the terrace of a 'DC hotel' overlooking the Washington Monument, we're still in LA.

The relationship turns sour when Duke fails to prevent the apparent death by friendly fire of Ana’s brother, Rex (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), in ‘East Africa’ – which is no more than a collection of old buildings on the Downey lot.

Guilt-ridden Duke distantly watches the funeral of his pal from his bike in Los Angeles National Cemetery, 950 South Sepulveda Boulevard, in West Los Angeles. The military cemetery is the last resting place of several Hollywood names, including character actor Royal Dano (a familiar face from films such as The Red Badge Of Courage and The Trouble With Harry) and Grant Williams (who found fame in 1957 as The Incredible Shrinking Man).

The bitter rivalry of young Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow leads to the death of their Master at the martial arts school which, in reality, is the Japanese Garden of Huntington Library and Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, east of Pasadena, California. The Huntington is a favourite location, its grounds appearing in American Wedding, Serenity, Indecent Proposal, The Nutty Professor (1996), Memoirs of a Geisha and many other productions.

Storm Shadow, turning out to be a bad ‘un, teams up with the Baroness to snatch the warheads from 'The Pit', the vast GI Joe underground HQ beneath the desert of ‘Egypt’ and transport them to Paris where they can be fully weaponised at the unwitting Baron’s ‘DeCobray Laboratories’.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film location: Karolinská, Karlin, Prague
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra location: Duke and Ripcord don the million-dollar Accelerator Suits: Danube House, Karolinská, Karlin, Prague

The laboratory is Danube House, Karolinská 650/1, a brand new office block in the River City Prague complex on the banks of the Vltava River, in the Karlín district of Prague. A busy place, this is also where Bond earns a 00 ranking with his first kill in the b&w opening prologue of 2006’s Casino Royale.

There’s a glimpse of the real Paris as the GI Joe vehicle negotiates the Quai des Grand Augustins alongside the Seine by the Pont St Michel and on to the elaborately decorated Pont Alexandre III (remember Bond leaping from this bridge in A View To A Kill?).

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film location: Karolinská, Karlin, Prague
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra location: Snake Eyes leaps onto the roof of Scarab: Karolinská, Karlin, Prague

As the Baroness and Storm Shadow exit the Laboratory with the now-deadly warheads, the GI Joe team is instantly on hand – in Prague – at the foot of the pedestrian bridge crossing Karolinská, where Duke and Ripcord don the million-dollar Accelerator Suits and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) leaps onto the roof of Scarab, the Baroness’s Steel Crusher APV.

It’s briefly back to Paris as Scarab roars up the Champs Elysées and through the Arc de Triomphe, closely followed by Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) on her bike with Duke and Ripcord in their expensive suits not far behind.

Trying to shake Snake Eyes from the roof, Scarab is racing west along Zikova toward Thákurova and the domed Theology Department of Charles University  in the Dejvice district of Prague, north of Malá Strana. Clearly a good out-of-town spot for spectacular set pieces, it’s at the crossing of Zikova and Studentská that countless cars are sent spinning through the air. Amazingly, these are not CG effects but real stunts – the production is claimed to have trashed more motors than The Blues Brothers.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film location: Haštalská, Stare Mesto, Prague
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra location: Scarab roars into the 'Parisian' square: Haštalská, Stare Mesto, Prague

As Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui) realises that the Baroness’s target is the Eiffel Tower, Snake Eyes is fires shots into the roof of the bad guys’ APV careering along the southwest end of Haštalská in Prague’s Old Town into what appears to be a charming ‘French’ square.

This is actually just opposite Kozi – where Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) picks up an unattended phone as he flees through the streets of ‘Moscow’ in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

For a second, there’s a glimpse of the real Paris again as the chase seems to be heading toward the Opera Garnier, but once Scarlett is thrown from the bike and hurtles through the air, it’s back to the Dejvice location in Prague.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film location: Oldřichova, Vyšehrad, Prague
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra location: the Baroness launches missiles at Duke and Ripcord: Oldřichova, Vyšehrad, Prague

Getting a little pissed off, the Baroness launches missiles at Duke and Ripcord on Oldřichova, a normally quiet little street running west of Nuselský most (Nusle Bridge) in the Vyšehrad district south of the Old Town. It's only a short distance from the Corinthia Hotel (seen as the 'NATO' HQ at the beginning of the film), and since another hotel missed its precious moment of product placement with a fake name, the ‘Chez Michel’ is the Hotel Sunflower at Oldřichova 427/31).

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film location: Vitkova at Křižíkova, Karlin, Prague
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra location: Scarab is hit by the French train: Vitkova at Křižíkova, Karlin, Prague

Snake Eyes, now clinging perilously to the underside of Scarab, wisely lets go as he realises it’s heading for rail tracks.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film location: Vitkova at Křižíkova, Karlin, Prague
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra location: Scarab crashes to the ground after hitting the train: Vitkova at Křižíkova, Karlin, Prague

It’s on Vitkova at Křižíkova, back up north in the Karlín district near to the laboratory location, that a CGI train smashes into the Baroness’s van, but it’s too late to save the Eiffel Tower from those voracious nanomites.

There’s plenty of plot left, but from here on – apart from establishing shots of snowy landscapes in Norway standing in for the 'Arctic', I’m afraid it’s largely studio filming.