Bows are Cool! Archery the Latest Trend in Film

Over the past few years the world has slowly been let into the secret that bows and arrows are cool. Being a qualified archery instructor, I have known for a while about this little secret but am now very happy that the rest of the world is now embracing what is very much the coolest weapon out there. In 2012 the London Olympics had people mesmerized watching the talents of the worlds greatest archers competing for that elusive Gold medal. Whether it is in books, comics, TV shows, video games or on the big screen you can see the Bow and Arrow being used more and more, but why now and what has changed?

The earliest evidence of a bow and arrow dates back about 64,000 years ago in South Africa and through the ages has been used in a variety of ways from hunting to warfare. It is also one of the few weapons that can be created from natural resources. Nowadays we get to see the bow used by superheroes, teenage gladiators, vampire hunters and Elves.

The Hunger Games

Katniss EverdeenIn 2012 we saw three big movies that featured a Bow. The first was The Hunger Games, based on the best selling trilogy of books. Having read the books I have to say that although Katniss does have a bow in the books, it is really the visuals from the film that make the weapon stand out. Katniss Everdeen at first uses the bow to hunt using its speed and stealth to kill animals for food for her family and to use for trade. During the early scenes we see how good Katniss is with the Bow and how confident she is by the number of kills she has made. As the film progresses and she is chosen to participate in the Hunger Games where she has to rely on her skills with the bow at first to impress the sponsors and then in the arena to hunt and also as an offensive weapon against the other participants. In the later books, her bow is also used as part of her image and a sign of the warrior that she is to become.

Actress Jennifer Lawrence trained with Khatuna Lorig (four-time archery Olympian) to ensure she was competent with the weapon and it really shows on screen with how she handles the Bow. The Hunger Games has also had a direct impact on the number of girls who have signed up to archery lessons which has increased by about thirty per-cent throughout the UK.

Brave

While in the past it has generally been male heroes to wield the bow, with Katniss things are changing. This is also evidenced in last year’s other female strong Bow wielding heroine: Merida in Disney’s Brave. Before the film came out it was clear that here was a female who could stand toe to toe with the men. Her weapon of choice? why the bow of course and the trailers also should just how skilled she is with it. The shame of it was the actual film had no more archery than what was in the trailer so a real lost opportunity there because the bits she is doing the sport the animators’ got her form spot on every time.

Avengers Assemble

HawkeyeThe other main film of 2012 that featured an archer was what some people called the best comic book movie ever. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble is now the third grossing film of all time behind Avatar and Titanic. It featured a host of super powered heroes and some with no super powers apart from keen fighting skills. One of these “lesser” heroes was Clint Barton also known as Hawkeye, Marvel’s answer to Robin Hood as played by Jeremy Renner. Hawkeye is known as a master marksman and S.H.I.E.L.D’s right hand man to their master assassin the Black Widow. In the movie Hawkeye uses a type of recurve bow and his ability to track targets all around him. A typical archer will always allow for wind and distance to allow for the arrow to drop in the air.

One of the coolest things he does in the movie is his various arrow heads he selects from his bow which then sends a signal to his quiver that then attaches the required effect for that arrow. This was something I never saw in the comic-book Hawkeye. The archer in the comic books was always seen as an outsider with many people dismissing him as a non-super powered member of the team. However Hawkeye the archer will always been seen as a key part of the team and I really look forward to seeing what he can do in Avengers 2 when he is not being controlled by a crazy god. Point to note though is that Renner’s Hawkeye is by far the worst archer on the screen discussed so far, mainly due to his really bad form and stance, but he is an Avenger so we will let him off this time.

DC’s Green Arrow

ArrowThe other well known archer in comics is Green Arrow, the Emerald Archer who has been seen on screen in both Smallville, played by Justin Hartley, and in his own series, Arrow, this time portrayed by Stephen Amell. In my opinion the comic GA was always a bit of an arrogant grumpy hothead who I could never relate to. However in Smallville we got see how good an archer could be on a small scale. Sure, he can’t stop an alien invasion by himself but he can help those who really need it and he is stealthier than your average vigilante. The latest show, Arrow, is much more dark and is about one man’s crusade to right the wrongs of his father and restore his city to its former glory. One of the key difference between the two is the actual bows. Smallville had GA using all types of technical marvels. where Arrow goes with a very basic bow using various arrow heads. In my opinion Arrow really shows off the skills of an archer in the real world and is much more believable.

Other Comic Archers on Screen

Other notable mentions of Bows in comic book movies go out first to Thomas Jane in the second Punisher movie (after Dolph Lundgren’s) who uses the weapon for long range stealth attacks and then Jessica Biel as Abigail Whistler in Blade Trinity. Here Abigail uses a compound bow which also doubles as a kind of ultra violet sword where the strings go. If you think about it, the bow is an excellent weapon of choice for killing vampires as they are really quick to fire, are accurate, have excellent range and the arrows can be made entirely from wood: instant stake through the heart. Another example of killing the undead is in The Walking dead where we have Daryl using his trusty crossbow to quietly get the, erm, kill shot through the brain of the “walkers”.

Fantasy Films

Narnia SusanThe bow has also been seen plenty of times in the fantasy genre with probably the most widely seen example being Legolas in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The wise and youthful looking Elf uses the bow as his primary weapon of choice with a rather sloppy approach to his actual archery skills and supernatural speed of firing an arrow although with his never ending supply of arrows, I would think he would need a larger quiver. The bow’s proudest moment in the films though were by far the Elven archers firing their arrows on masse towards the army of the enemy.

Other Fantasy films with archers include the Chronicles of Narnia series. A certain large man on a sleigh gives Susan a present of a Bow and Arrow set that he promises will always aim straight. Through the film you see her become more and more confident with the weapon and actress Anna Popplewell shows off her excellent archery skills by displaying perfect form in nearly all cases. Then we get Natalie Portman in the supposedly funny action fantasy Your Highness playing a strong female warrior out for vengeance using her bow to battle her enemies. Once again we see that the female actors are much better at actual archery than the men with all of the above ladies displaying better skills than Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Renner and Justin Hartley from Smallville.

So what does this tell us? Well that it seems the female actress want to encourage the sport and respect it by training hard and putting their learning on screen.

Robin Hood

Robin of SherwoodFor most people living in the British Isles the most famous archer has been Robin Hood who robbed from the rich to give to the poor and for those that remember the song feel free to sing it now. Robin Hood has been represented many times on the big and small screen with the most recent being Russell Crowe in the movie and Jonas Armstrong in the BBC TV show. In both of these Robin uses a Long Bow and a type of Recurve bow which was very common in those days as it was mainly used for long range attacks. Not much use for Robin in close quarters mind you. In the 80’s Robin of Sherwood the two main leads Michael Praed and Jason Connery seemed to at least be fairly proficient in archery showcasing their skills in the more supernatural and spiritual Robin Hood series.

Video Games

Even in video games it seems people are catching on with Skyrim, Far Cry 3 and the latest Tomb Raider game all showcasing the Bow as a weapon of choice. So this truly shows that in the last 64,000 years the bow has finally taken its place as a true genre weapon worthy of true warriors.

Now go out and find a club and have a go yourself.

Geek Syndicate Magazine Issue 8

This article was originally published in Issue 4 of Geek Syndicate Magazine. The magazine is our free quarterly publication and it’s jam packed with features, interviews, previews and more. Check out the back issues here.

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