Shoot for the Stars: Archery in Hollywood

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Shoot for the Stars: Archery in Hollywood

Sarah Wang, Staff Writer

Ready, aim, fire! Hundreds of arrows are shot over a castle wall at the rapidly advancing enemy army. Sound familiar? You may have seen these scenes in The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Game of Thrones, or Avatar. Or perhaps you’re an avid fan of arrow-slinging heroes like The Avengers’ Hawkeye, Arrow’s Oliver Queen, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Merida of Brave, or even Diana Prince in the upcoming Wonder Woman movie. Whatever the case, archery has undeniably become more and more present in modern popular film and media channels. Until recently, archery had always been a big part of everyday life in all cultures, whether it be for battle, hunting, or entertainment — and it’s certainly making a comeback!

So how far back can archery trace its roots? The bow and arrow were used all the way back in the Stone Ages by early humans, nearly 71,000 years ago. The Egyptians then took up archery for hunting and warfare purposes, and the bow and arrow also became the symbol of several Egyptian deities. Next, the Assyrians and the Babylonians of the Middle East used archery extensively – in war, hunting, and even on horse-drawn chariots! We can follow archery to the Greco-Roman ages, where archery really spread and became a highly demanded skill. Mercenary archers were always needed and famed archers were widely renowned and praised. Greek culture, best known for its deep mythological roots, also saw many archers among its deities and heroes such as the twins Artemis and Apollo, Hercules, and Odysseus. Over the years, the art of archery spread to East Asia, India, and finally Europe where it would flourish as both an instrument of warfare and a means of entertainment throughout the Middle Ages.

Here in 2017, archery is thriving once more in the form of recreational sports and competitive events such as the Olympics. Today, one can usually find archers shooting with one of three bow types – traditional, compound, or Olympic Recurve. Each type of bow works with each individual’s preference and ability; each type also fits the unique characters, settings, and plots in the media!

The bow that most audiences are familiar with is the traditional bow. The traditional bow or “longbow” is simple — just a piece of wood carved and strung into an arch with a grip and an arrow rest. These bows are the kind you’ll see Merida, Legolas, Robin Hood, or any characters from the “old times” use. Traditional bows are fast, convenient, simple, and the perfect tool for staging any epic battle scene!

Another bow type is the recurve bow, a bow with limbs curving in a “W” away from the archer when unstrung. Recurve bows today are usually seen as Olympic Recurve bows. As its name suggests, the Olympic Recurve bow is the only bow type Olympic archers are allowed to compete with because of its stability, safety, and skill required to succeed. In fact, the U.S. men’s archery team (comprised of 2012 Olympic silver medalists Brady Ellison and Jake Kaminski and first-time Olympian Zach Garrett) took home silver at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. These bows are adjustable to each archer’s height, strength, and abilities, making it the optimal and most popular choice for modern-day archers. Recurve bows also store and deliver energy more efficiently than the aforementioned traditional bows, which is why you’ll see superheroes like Oliver Queen on Arrow and Hawkeye in The Avengers toting these bows around. A variety of accessories and gadgets like sights, stabilizers, and clickers can be attached to recurve bows for accuracy, consistency, and sometimes just for the looks! Of course, devices like Hawkeye and Katniss’ exploding trick arrows aren’t quite on the market just yet.

Finally, the most recent development in the sport of archery is the compound bow — a modern bow that utilizes and stores energy in a levering system of cables and pulleys. The compound bow is astoundingly accurate because it bestows compound archers the mechanical advantage of tension release and time. After what is called the “let-off” point, the archer no longer has to bear the whole draw weight of the bow. This means that compound archers can shoot bows that are heavier, and thus stronger and faster, and can take their time releasing the arrow. Because the compound bow is a relatively new invention, we don’t see it appear in mainstream media as often as the recurve or the traditional. Thus, viewers can only catch a glimpse of Hawkeye’s lesser-used compound in 2015’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron and an occasional appearance on Arrow. Interestingly, Arrow’s Head Archery Technician and Consultant Patricia Gonsalves reveals “When Oliver got a ‘superbow’ in Season 2, the production department wanted a unique bow that wasn’t a compound,” she continues, “He shoots an Oneida Kestrel, which looks like a compound because it has cams, but has limbs shaped like a recurve.” Like Oliver Queen, lovers of both compound and recurve bows can invest in hybrid bows to get the best of both worlds!

So now you’ve seen and know about the wonders of archery! Whether you find yourself wanting to try traditional, recurve, or compound archery — or simply more movies — you can try all three at our local archery range — Pasadena Roving Archers! The non-profit organization offers free beginning classes every Saturday morning as well as monthly “Demo Days” where returning archers can try out different forms of archery from station to station. Whether you venture down to the archery range to shoot like your favorite heroes or you’re content just watching them fight on screen, you can now truly appreciate the beauty and history of archery!

Photo courtesy of BD24.ORG