While I talk about archery. I am the new-ish owner of a 68 inch, 35 pound longbow of breathtaking beauty. I am not a sporty type, due to a combination of a metabolism that never seems to deliver the payoff that exercise offers other people I know; resentment at my upbringing within a culture of reflex adulation for those who achieve in this field, and the contradictory forced inclusion/ridicule-saturated exclusion of those who don’t; and the, well, mundanity of most of its available manifestations. Most sports, until you get to be really, really good, have no use for imagination. Because of its ancient, varied and dramatic history, archery cannot really be separated from its imaginative context. All right, what I mean by that is that you can pretend you’re Legolas. Take that, soccer!
The best thing about archery is the instant gratification. Even as a beginner, shooting at a distance of, say, 20 metres, it will take very little time before most of your arrows will hit the target. Not the middle, but somewhere thereupon. So you feel the tension in your body on the draw, you release it, and you are instantly rewarded with a satisfying ‘thwack’. Also the kit is so goddamn sexy. While I completely understand the attraction of the bells-and-whistles compound bow, or the sensible recurve, the graceful simplicity of line of a longbow is what makes me sigh.
All this is bringing me around to what I really want to do, which is direct you to a series of great posts I stumbled across, while I was in no way Googling pictures of Jeremy Renner. Jim MacQuarrie of Geek Dad has analysed the archery technique of Merida from Brave, Katniss from The Hunger Games, and Hawkeye from The Avengers, and it’s a fascinating read. In brief, he was ecstatic about Brave, was impressed by Jennifer Lawrence, and absolutely took Hawkeye apart.
It seems that the artists on Brave did some serious homework, not only on what good archery looks like, but on the common ways that people screw up. Each of the three archers competing with Merida is convincingly bad:
“all of the guys who are doing it wrong are doing it wrong the right way; that is, they are making the actual mistakes that beginners and self-taught archers make.”
When he gets to Hawkeye, looking at a publicity shot of Jeremy Renner filming in front of a green screen, he spots that there is something you wouldn’t expect about his arm guard, which is used on the arm holding the bow to protect from the occasional whack with the bowstring on release, which can give you a nasty bruise:
“Why would the world’s greatest archer wear two arm guards? Some of my students don’t even use one, so why does he need two? Because he’s smacking the crap out of his arm, that’s why. I bet there are many hilarious out-takes of Renner wincing, shaking his injured arm and cursing a lot after each shot.”
He gives a terrifically detailed breakdown of everything in the actor’s form that makes it unlikely that he could make any of his arrows hit the Chrysler building from 42nd Street. MacQuarrie did write a revised assessment after seeing the Avengers in full, as his original post was based on watching the trailer. He believes that Renner, and probably the editors too, did some work in between the preview and the premiere. On a different blog, he has also applied his expertise to the archery equipment in a range of other works of fiction.