The Karate Kid | 2010
The locations for The Karate Kid in 1984 were around Los Angeles but the revamp shifts the action to the Far East, as Sherry Parker (Taraji P Henson) is relocated with her son, Dre (Jaden Smith), from Detroit to Beijing.
Most of the filming is in Beijing itself – even the ‘Detroit’ apartment from which Dre and his mother move is the Staff Residence Building 3 at Beijing Forest University.
There’s no stinting on the tourist shots, so the cab ride to their new home naturally takes them past the instantly recognisable Bird’s Nest Stadium built for the 2008 Olympics Games, and the strangely angled headquarters of CCTV (China Central Television), 44-storey skyscraper on East Third Ring Road, Guanghua Road in the Beijing Central Business District.
The ‘Beverly Hills Luxury Apartment’ into which they move was an empty seven-story building which on the backlot of the old Beijing Film Studios, the film’s HQ. The adjoining park, where Dre is first confronted by the local bullies, was also the backlot, as was the house and garage of maintenance man Mr Han (Jackie Chan).
The backlot housed a maze of siheyuan courtyard houses – the traditional style of Beijing residences – separated by hutong (passages), which avoided having to close down the narrow streets for filming. The Karate Kid was one of the last productions filmed at the studio which has since closed and is being demolished.
Dre’s school, with its elaborate gates, is Beijing Luxun Middle School, 45 Xin Wen Hua Jie, in the XiCheng District.
Out with his mum, Dre sees hundreds of scarlet-uniformed students practising their morning lawn routine at the prestigious Beijing Shaolin Wushu School, No.386, Changping Road, Dewai Xisanqi Hui Long Guan. Established in 1991, the school features education with a wushu-style (martial arts) philosophy.
There are more landmarks to promote, so the school trip takes the kids to the Forbidden City. The entrance is via the Tiananmen Gate on Tiananmen Square. Built between 1406 and 1420, the Chinese imperial palace served as the home of emperors from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It now houses the Palace Museum. You can of course see more of the imperial palace in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, the first feature film ever authorised by the government of the People's Republic of China to be filmed within its walls.
The China Film Group Film Base, located in Huairou, about 90 minutes outside of Beijing, is a modern film studio with its own hutong backlot, called Fei Teng. This was dressed as a lantern-lit village, and packed with vendors offering traditional cakes and incense sticks for the Qi Xi Festival, on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar (sometimes called Chinese Valentine’s Day), to which Sherry insists the reluctant Mr Han come along.
It’s here that the shadow theatre, where Dre and Mei Ying (Wenwen Han) share their first kiss, was constructed. The apartment and temple interiors were also built here (as was the school auditorium where Mei Ying later auditions).
Photograph: Wikimedia / Gisling
Mr Han takes Dre on a train journey through the conical mountains of Wudang to discover the spiritual origins of kung fu, where Dre must climb to the top of the mountain to drink from the ‘Dragon Well’.
The Wudang Mountains, also known as Wudang Shan, a small range in the northwestern part of Hubei Province, south of the city of Shiyan, are known for their many Taoist monasteries, academic centres for the teaching and practice of meditation, medicine and, of course, martial arts. According to tradition, this is the birthplace of Tai Chi and the Wudang ‘internal’ style of martial arts, specific to southern China, as opposed to the Shaolin school more prominent in the north.
The temple at the peak of the mountain is the Golden Summit, and it’s by the Nanyan Temple that Dre sees the graceful practitioners. The lake alongside which Han teaches Dre is Dragon Spring Lake, near the trail leading to Care Free Valley.
It zips by pretty quickly in the film, but the rail journey from Beijing to Wudang Shan Station can take around 20 hours. There’s a 20-minute bus ride from the station to the scenic area but, once you arrive, there is a cable car if you’re not up to climbing those steps.
Back in Beijing, Dre and Mei Ying bunk off school to Wang Fu Jing Snack Street, a famous area known for its interesting snack food – such as fried scorpion (though for the film, mock-ups were made out of flour before being deep-fried).
The pair play in the fountains at the Olympic Watercube, before heading to Taito Station, 277 Wangfujing Street, a branch of the Japanese games arcades, where Mei Ying shows off her moves to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face.
From the alongside the Wan Chun Pavilion atop Jingshan Park, which gives those fantastic views over the entire Forbidden City, Mei Ying gets a call to tell her she has minutes to get to her violin audition.
For the rest of Dre’s training, Mr Han decides that, naturally, the best place is atop the Great Wall of China. Specifically, Tower 14 of the Mutianyu section in Huairou County – which is about 45 miles from Beijing.
This section of the wall, built in the 6th Century (the Northern Qi Dynasty) to guard the capital and the imperial mausoleums, is a bit further from Beijing than the most-visited stretches, but it’s one of the best-preserved and less crowded. There are buses to Mutianyu from Beijing’s Dongzhimen Station.
But of course, it’s finally back to Beijing, to find the ‘People’s Auditorium’, where Dre and the bully, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), finally have to face each other. This is the Feng Tai Sports Arena, 8 Fengti South Road, in the Fengtai district, southwest of the city centre.