Justice League | 2017
- DIRECTOR |
- Zack Snyder
I don’t need to recycle the details of Zack Snyder’s struggles with this production. These are mainly locations for the 2017 theatrical release, following on from Batman vs Superman, with only one of the titular superheroes still living.
Justice League was based at Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire, southeast England, famously home of the Harry Potter films and of the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour. There’s extensive use of studio sets and CGI, particularly for ‘Gotham City’ though aerial shots of the city are back to Chicago, which was used as far back as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. The S.T.A.R. Lab, where Silas Stone (Joe Morton) works, is added digitally – east of Millennium Park on land seemingly reclaimed from Lake Michigan.
The chaos unleashed by the Man of Steel’s absence impels Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) to fill the void by reaching out to apparent metahumans with good intentions.
It all becomes a bit choppy as the various story threads are established.
In London, a couple of white vans cross the Thames via Tower Bridge (all cinematic journeys in London involve this Bridge, which finally got a featured role in Spider-Man: Far From Home). The vehicles then pass by St Paul’s Cathedral, but is perfectly justified by their destination, which is the Central Criminal Court, The Old Bailey, London EC4.
In fact, the court is familiarly referred to as The Old Bailey (the bailey was a part of the old city’s fortifications), and stands on the site of the notorious Newgate Gaol.
As the name implies, it’s the major court complex for England and Wales and has for decades been the site of major trials, from serial killers to terrorists. It’s been seen on screen before of course, but usually in little more than establishing shots. The Statue of Justice atop the building, sword in one hand, scales in the other, has always been visual shorthand for an important trial – see Alfred Hitchcock’s 1947 courtroom drama The Paradine Case, for instance.
The Old Bailey features toward the beginning of V For Vendetta, when audiences were shocked by the sight of it being blown to smithereens (we were far more sanguine about the Houses of Parliament getting the same treatment).
For such a phenomenally high-security establishment, it’s astonishing to learn that the attack by a “small group of reactionary terrorists” really was staged in the building’s lobby. Fortunately, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is on hand, in her guise as Wonder Woman, waiting in the Scales of Justice, to see off the bad guys and save bystanders.
Bruce Wayne has already crossed paths with Diana Prince and now he’s casting his net wide, turning up in a fishing village in northern Europe to ask help from a, possibly mythological, person who can talk to fish (don’t worry, he has other skills too). It turns out Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) has no interest in joining the alliance.
The tiny village is Djúpavík in the remote region of the Westfjords of northwest Iceland. Consisting of only seven houses and the ruins of a herring factory which closed in the Fifties, although it does have a hotel. Djúpavík is about 44 miles north of Hólmavík, the nearest town, and be reached by car via Road 643 though this may be blocked during winter months.
The towering waterfall and the rusting hulk of a ship, alongside which Arthur/Aquaman returns to the deep, are real.
Over in ‘Themyscira’ a mysterious cube guarded for decades by Amazon warriors flickers into life, only to be stolen and spirited away by Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) and his horde of parademons. The spectacular coast is that of Kleftiko Bay, an area of elaborate rock formations and sea arches on the southwest tip of Milos Island. It’s accessible only by boat. There’s digital enhancement of course but this is still a breathtaking spot.
Milos is part of the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece and, yes, it’s where the Venus de Milo was discovered.
A flaming alarm signal captures the attention of Diana Prince.
Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is introduced in the office of the TV news station where she works. There was much speculation on the net about the Shorts Building in Bedfordshire being used for filming, and what it might represent. Here it is in all its glory. Just don’t blink.
The TV screen in the news office is broadcasting a story about a woman whose husband has been abducted by aliens. As the interviewee’s expletive-laden account is bleeped out, her ‘Lakeview Apartments’ in the background is the Shorts Building, The Highway, Shortstown, built as an admin building for an airship works. The scene was conveniently only a few minutes’ west of the famous Cardington Hangars, where Joss Whedon was filming the post-Snyder re-shoots.
The first of the two huge hangars at Cardington, three miles south of Bedford in Bedfordshire, was built in 1915 to accommodate airships, until the R101 disaster in 1930 ended their commercial development in the UK.
The hangars are the largest structures of their kind in Europe and, rather than being demolished, they’ve been repurposed as enormous filming spaces. Sets for Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception and other films were built here.
The serene lake alongside which Bruce Wayne walks with Diana Prince as they share important exposition about the three cubic MacGuffins is another Whedon addition, filmed at Southill Lake and Woods, Biggleswade, a few miles southeast of Cardington.
The Southill estate is home to a handsome mansion, and sightings of Ben Affleck in the grounds gave rise to speculation that this was to be the next Wayne Manor.
Bruce’s next contact is the geeky, socially awkward but amazingly fast Barry Allen (Ezra Miller). His techno-lair is the old Frogmore Paper Mill, Fourdrinier Way, Apsley in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.
Frogmore Paper Mill was chosen in 1803 by Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier for trials of a newly-patented paper machine. It’s still a working paper mill, and operated by a charity, it’s also a visitor, education and community use centre.
Frogmore Paper Mill, Fourdrinier Way, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead HP3 9RY (tel: 01442.234600)
The old Kent family farmstead in Smallville, repossessed by the bank, was recreated at at Bovingdon Airfield, a former Royal Air Force station southwest of Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. Quite a lot of digital fiddling was needed to get it to match perfectly to the previous version.
Another place convenient for the film studios, Bovingdon has hosted filming for Sam Mendes’s 1917, World War Z, the 'Live Aid' concert in Bohemian Rhapsody, the explosions and stunts on ‘Scarif’ in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and also provided that incredibly long runway for Fast and Furious 6.
The backstory of Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) is largely cut from the theatrical version, but since part was filmed at the Luton Hoo Estate, Bedfordshire, it’s worth mentioning the venerable filming location, seen in productions from Pink Panther sequel A Shot in The Dark to Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.
The town in ‘Northern Russia’, alongside the power plant where Steppenwolf sets up his hideout, was meant to be somewhere like Chernobyl, which – you’ll be surprised to hear – wasn’t available for filming.
The production team discovered Skrunda-1, about 90 miles west of Riga in western Latvia, a small abandoned military town from the Soviet era. Rather than transport cast and crew to Latvia, the town was extensively photographed and scanned in order to be digitally recreated. In case you were considering, it’s closed to visitors.
A couple more brief glimpses:
Diana Prince is interviewed in front of the classical frontage of the British Museum, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1. The museum had previously stood in for the ‘Louvre’, Diana’s place of work, in Wonder Woman.
And Monaco – generously thanked in the credits? Well, if you sat through those end credits in the cinema, you’ll have seen the brief teaser sequence aboard a yacht just off the coast of Monte Carlo. Apparently, there’s to be more of this in the Snyder Cut.