Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Missing The Mark: An Annoying Equipment Anomaly

"Each of them had held the bow the right way up, each had found the cock feather and set it outwards, each had taken hold of the string to draw the bow--most boys who have not been taught are inclined to catch hold of the nock of the arrow when they draw, between their finger and thumb, but, of course, a proper archer draws back the string with his first two or three fingers and lets the arrow follow it--neither of them had allowed the point to fall away towards the left as they drew, nor struck their forearms with the bow-string, two common faults with people who don't know, and each had loosed evenly without a pluck.
" 'Good,' said Robin. 'No lute-players here.' "
--from The Sword In The Stone, by T. H. White.

There are two equipment anomalies that occur in countless movies where bows and arrows are used, and every time I see them it makes me grit my teeth. I have seen them happen in The Lord of the Rings movies and the Narnia movies. I am not a huge expert in archery, but even I know that:

1) A good archer does not release an arrow with a twang; yet expert, even supernatural archers like Legolas and Susan are shown as constantly doing so. I know movie audiences must often have an audio clue to help them follow the action, and by now are used to this one, but surely the zip of the arrow as it's released is enough?

2) Archers, especially in battle situations, are told to hold their draw. This is plain nonsense. The tension of holding a draw in a strain on both muscles and bow; the longer a draw is held the more the muscle quivers and the less likely one is to make an accurate shot. The strain can also snap the string or even the bow itself. I know it is more dramatic and causes expectation in the movie audience, but it is as ridiculous and annoying as the ten-shot six-shooter to someone who knows even a little bit about archery.

In fact, either of these anomalies remind me of the episode in The Simpsons when the Indians draw back their bows and they make the sounds of gun-cocking. They are both as hilarious, and as accurate. All movies depend on the illusion of reality; but paradoxically a good fantasy relies doubly so on accurate details to suspend your disbelief and engage your emotions, so these anomalies are distracting and detract (a tiny bit) from the experience.

1 comment:

AlanDP said...

This is all part of the bias against and ignorance regarding weaponry that is endemic throughout the movie industry and most noticeable when it comes to firearms. We have all seen guns that never run out of ammunition until it is dramatically appropriate for them to do so and the superfluous "threatening cock." There are many, many more such errors that are easy to spot once you know just a little about how real weaponry works.