Friday, September 21, 2012

Archery and Reality: A Primer

Try again, Kevin.

I love my bow.  It is one of the few physical possessions that actually sort of matter to me.  I'm no expert, but I love shooting, and I love watching others make great shots.  Over the years, I have had a good time watching the many movies which prominently feature archery.  Among my favorite archery-intensive movies have been various incarnations of the Robin Hood story, Braveheart, The Lord of the Rings, King Arthur, Avatar, and assorted dystopic/post-apocalyptic action flicks, most recently The Hunger Games.

Let's face it:  Archery is one of those pursuits, like combat driving or sky-diving, that is inherently, universally cool.  Movie goers can't seem to get enough of bow-and-arrow wielding heroes and heroins.

As an archer myself, however, reality matters, too.  There are many more wrong ways than right ways to shoot a bow.  Most archery movies bug me, at some point.  With that in mind, I offer the following list of archery movie cliches and goofs, in approximate order of how much they annoy me.  Writers, directors, and actors, please take note.

1.  You don't draw your bow and hold it drawn while waiting for the deer/orc/fellow gladiator to present itself as a target.  First of all, it's unnecessary--drawing and firing a long bow is pretty near instant, anyway.  Second, holding a bow at full draw for more than a couple seconds will cause your bow arm to become unsteady, which shoots your accuracy right down the toilet.  Unless, of course, you're trying to hit the toilet.  Then it will probably shoot right down the bathtub.

The only exceptions to this rule are 1.  if the archer has super-human strength, or 2. if the bow in question is too weak to kill anything bigger than a mouse, or 3.  if the bow in question is a compound bow, with all those wheels and pulleys and doohickies on it (these are almost never featured in movies because, let's face it, wheely bows just aren't that cool) or 4.  if the director is trying to build drama by making the archer work a whole lot harder than he/she needs to.  Otherwise, it's draw, anchor, and shoot, in one fluid motion.

2.  Cool as Legolas looked zapping three arrows into that mammoth's neck, one would have done just fine.  In fact, a real archer would never try to shoot two or more arrows off the string at once, except maybe as a goofy trick shot.  I'm sure it's technically possible, but even if he avoided breaking a string, an archer would lose so much range and/or penetration that it wouldn't be worth it in any combat or hunting situation.  Actually trying to hit two targets at once, a la Costner's Robin Hood?  Forget it!

3.  Speaking of Costner, here's a good place to begin:  You aren't going to get very good arrow flight with the cock feather pointed toward your bow.  No one else noticed this?  Robin Hood would know better.  Of course, Robin would know better than to speak with an American accent, too, so what do you expect?

4.  Ah, Prince of Thieves, there is so much, so very much I could say, but how about this one:  Azim, you really can't blow out a flaming arrow with your breath.  Do you think flaming arrows might have to endure wind while, oh I don't know, flying through the air?  Hello.

5.  And finally, the observation that inspired me to get started on this rant in the first place:  Assuming Katniss' bow was strong enough to kill something bigger than a mouse, which of course it was, her arrow would have passed straight through Cato's hand and skewered Peeta as well.  And considering it was a point-blank shot, it probably would have gone straight through Peeta and killed Cato, too.  I suppose both outcomes would have saved everyone involved a lot of trouble in the long run.

That's it for me.  If any fellow archers are reading this, do feel free to add your own observations in the comments.  Until next time, shoot straight and try not to do anything incredibly stupid and/or impossible.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Tom! I am enriched by knowing better now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. my favorite one is pulling an arrow from a quiver, nocking it and firing in one motion without lowering the bow. i did see sum cool videos on how the huns fired crazy fast but not with quivers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yorHswhzrU

    ReplyDelete