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March 15 2012

Is Hawkeye from The Avengers the world's worst archer? Apparently Hawkeye might not be doing too much damage in The Avengers. There's a counter-argument here.

Officially my favorite criticism of the movie. Really. If this is the worst it gets for the movie, I can die happy.
My dad told me a story of when he was back in the 60s and did an archery lesson. He didn't hold the bow properly and the string just sliced the skin off his arm when he shot the arrow. He said it was one of the most painful things he has ever experienced.
Archery was my thing in high school so, yeah, his form is off. But, I DON'T CARE! He looks awesome as he shoots at aliens while jumping off a building. I don't think I ever tried that while aiming an arrow.
Sometimes in movies, things just need to look cooler than realistic; sometimes you can have both, sometimes reality just doesnt look that good on film; anyway, he is a super-archer who does impossible things with his weapon, so... not realy caring.

Still... Doesnt this remind you guys of that epiosde of Buffy where Riley, Xander, Anya and her were watching a kung fu movie and Buffy was criticizing the wacky un-realism of it all, how unbelievable and wrong the fight scenes were, much for the annoyance of them all?
Alternate reading: Perhaps Hawkeye is *so* good an archer that his technique is beyond the critic's conventional understanding.

Or y'know, perhaps it's just a movie and it won't affect the story in the slightest :)

I do empathise with poor technique/attention to detail impacting on the verisimilitude of a story. My wife's an ITF Tae-kwon-do black belt (I can never quite remember where to put the hyphens) and she has to bite her tongue whenever we watch the Buffy musical episode. Specifically the slo-mo punching bag shot while Giles is singing "Standing". If she hits a bad guy with that technique, the only thing she's breaking is her wrist :P

[ edited by vocalnick on 2012-03-16 01:36 ]
Great article. I've always thought Hawkeye has a really lame "power", if you can even call it that. He always made up for it just by being a really great character. (And a great costume too of course, although evidently not one they see as fitting the aesthetics of a blockbuster movie. Which is ironic given the insane get-up they've got onto Captain America.)
As an archer (and film stdent), it's not the fact that there are errors, it's the fact that the errors are so easily fixed. I get that all the top level archers would have been training for the olympics this year, but in a massively multi-million dollar budget, surely there was room for even a standard level archery coach???
Really? He's going to criticize the form of a superhero archer who's falling off a BUILDING while shooting? Really? REALLY?

(That's my new thing by the way, I'm just going to repeat the word "really" a lot in an increasingly incredulous tone of voice. It wil be my own unique thing that I didn't copy from a sitcom at all.)

[ edited by Squishy on 2012-03-16 02:07 ]
Now, now Squishy. Falling off a building is no excuse for lack of proper form.

This comes up any time there's a movie that requires someone to be an "expert" at something though. I realize that Whedon and Renner probably didn't overly focus on that aspect, but I do understand why enthusiasts get annoyed.

Even as a hobbyist musician, I usually succumb to apoplectic ranting almost every time an actor picks up an instrument in a movie. I just do.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-03-16 03:44 ]
I've always found it endearing when an actor doesn't have proper form when performing the character's special skill. Like SMG's not-great punching. Or Rupert Everett playing the piano in The Importance of Being Earnest. Adorable!

Although it may hurt my suspension of disbelief, a little rough around the edges of a performance seems to give the piece a little more humanity. I hate perfect art. I need to see a couple bad jokes and a couple plot holes before I know I can really respect a piece. So long as it's still good as a whole.
I'm with the archery critic on this. Given that all the archers in the audience are going to be paying special attention to the archer character, I think it was an oversight not to help the actor achieve passable form, if that's what happened. He doesn't have to actually hit anything, only have his arm, wrist, shoulder and hand in something like the right positions. A forty pound bow isn't all that heavy a pull for a grown man. Having handled a simple bow a few times a long, long time ago, it seems like it would be an easier thing to teach an actor than riding a horse, driving a sports car, dancing the tango or faking playing a piano or any of the Asian martial arts.

With the insane number of moving parts the director has to look after in this movie, I'm not blaming Mr. Whedon, but one of his subordinates could have taken care of it a little better. I suspect there was a mismatch between archery coach and actor, and they just gave up rather than finding him a coach he could work with.
Yeah, you'd think he could at least get the form right when he's falling off the building in SLOW MOTION. That kind of sloppiness ticks me right off. I say we boycott this movie . . . . Really? REALLY?? (Not really. That's just my thing again.)

Sorry, I don't mean to make light. I do think proper form is important. Because of the verisimilitude thing.

And SMG totally punches like a girl. One of the few great unintentionally funny moments in that whole show was her slow-mo punching in OMWF.

[ edited by Squishy on 2012-03-16 03:51 ]
Not to dis Joss at all, because he's the greatest storyteller since Shakespeare and the greatest thing to come along in film since the invention of the camera... That said, he is such a gentle man and obviously not knowlegeable about weapons. He makes mistakes with the warrior stuff. With guns it's sweeping, trigger wrapping, and the most annoying-- repeated cocking of weapons without ever firing, which sounds really cool, but only causes the unfired rounds to be ejected onto the floor. This was the only flaw I ever found in Firefly, and it drove my late husband (a competition shooter) absolutely nuts.

Having good consultants on set for shooting, archery, martial arts etc. could only make Joss's movies even better. He did it for Summer Glau in Serenity. But the actor is responsible, too. When it comes to handling guns, no one in Hollywood is better than Adam Baldwin and Don Johnson. They took it upon themselves to become expert shooters, and it shows in their work. Jeremy Renner could have done the same.
I see good arguments on both sides, but to me this is like asking why the Bruce Banner's pants don't rip completely off when he turns into the Hulk. No issues with a gamma-irradiated man gaining 5 times his mass, mostly in muscle, turning green, and becoming invulnerable; but if only most of his clothes rip off it's an affront to physics.

So yeah, I love me some attention to detail to help with suspense of disbelief. In a world with Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Loki, Loki's alien minions, a flying serpent spaceship, etc... I'm willing to accept that the way Hawkeye shoots works really, really well.

For the record, I agree it would have been a simple matter for him to learn and act with a better form, and that good form looks just as cool if not cooler. I'm just saying that for the few times his form will be on screen, I'll totally buy it.
I'm not sure if it's really like that because the Hulk's existence in the real world isn't really possible to begin with. Suspension of disbelief starts with the premise.

Hawkeye (colorful comic background and weapon choices aside) is actually one of the few "superheroes" that could actually exist. A guy who is extremely proficient and at the peak of human conditioning. Now true, the number of skills he has (like Batman) may put him into the implausible category. I just think putting him in the category of Banner, Thor, or the Cap isn't really an apples to apples comparison.

And to be fair, the first time I watch a film I NEVER think about that stuff unless the story is so muddled that I have that kind of free time. Again, unless it's a music story and I'm thinking "THAT'S NOT WHAT THAT NOTE SOUNDS LIKE!!!"
"Alternate reading: Perhaps Hawkeye is *so* good an archer that his technique is beyond the critic's conventional understanding."

Exactly. Even with crappy form, he makes perfect shots. If he actually used perfect form, his shots would be so transcendental that people would stop and weep. (Even the people who did not have arrows sticking out of them would weep.) So he keeps it sloppy as a courtesy.
Perhaps he, erm, got lazy with this aspect of The Avengers because that one time he got a character to do archery, the actor (Eliza Dushku in that bow-hunting episode for Dollhouse) already knew what was what. (And Inara's scenes were all cut so no one got to see her working the bow for Serenity anyway.)

Every film has an achilles heel. Sometimes it's the Chinese, other times it's something else.
"Yeah, you'd think he could at least get the form right when he's falling off the building in SLOW MOTION. That kind of sloppiness ticks me right off."

First of all squishy, his technique is flawed in most of those clips, not just the falling of the building. I know it's nit picking, but considering the amount of guns that we see on screen (and the amount of training those actors recieve), it is genuinely refreshing to see an archer in a contemporary action movie. I'm not a comic reader and didn't know about the character before watching Thor, and so smiled widely when someone with a bow and arrow appeared in that film.

(Actually, it would be interesting to go back and check out his technique in Thor as well . . . )
Well, given that Hawkeye never misses his target, I'd have to suggest that maybe it's not him doing anything wrong. Maybe it's everyone else! ;)
Cue obligatory "it's a movie, lighten up" complaints.

Things like this do bug me, because they trigger the "what the?" part of my brain and pop me out of the movie reality. Superman flying, I accept. Superman superspeeding through a newsroom fast enough to be invisible yet somehow not disturbing papers or, you know, sonic booming the office? Annoying as hell. My mind is prepared to believe fantastic elements that are intrinsic to the character, but where that character interacts with the real world and real world physics it must "feel" right for me to work. And it is the responsibility of the director, the actor and the CG team to provide that realism, to make the fantastic that much better.

Check out the same writer's critique of the dead-on archery in the "Brave" snippet.
Adding: not just fantasy movies. It bugs me whenever a movie or TV show uses the over-the-shoulder view of someone holding a gun on someone else and it's painfully obvious the wielder is actually aiming several feet to the side of the target. But it looks cooler!
Also adding: my housemate, a registered nurse, couldn't stand to be in the same room with we were watching "House."
Fun read! My dad was an archery enthusiast and he used to say those same things over and over each time we'd watch a show with an archer. His biggest complaint was the one this article discusses, the way the forearm is twisted so the string doesn't hit when the arrow is released. Its such a tiny adjustment that its almost unnoticeable...until your arms gets a THWAPT from string. I'm glad they spent the time to put into words/pictures what my old man said for years! Its nice just knowing that I'm not the only one out there watching this.

I think despite the "major archery blunders", he looks really cool doing his thing. The real Hawkeye never looked that good. I bet he's a Skrull.
Azzers, I was comparing science, not characters. The science of the Hulk and the others makes no sense in the real world, yet we accept them. Why should the science of archery be required to make sense in our world? The argument seems to be 'because it's important to me.' In which case, all the Norse mythologists complaints should be hears, as should the WWII historians, as should the physicists, etc...

It's a different world, where physics are different. I'm happy to believe archery works differently there. If everything was perfectly accurate to the real world, it wouldn't be a superhero movie.
I'm gonna say this - The reviewer is correct in terms of accepted "best practices", and right about Renner's technical errors, BUT: all that notwithstanding, if he's claiming you can't shoot unless you use precise techniques, I suspect Byron Ferguson would disagree. There are "best practices", and then there are natural shooters who use whatever technique works for them. I've embarrassed more than one pistol "expert" who proclaimed "You can't hit anything shooting like that", only to have me prove that, well, I can, whether you can or not...
99% of the audience won't know - or won't care. I don't care if he pulls it correctly, I just want to see those muscles ripple when he does. Shallow I know, but there you have it.
Glitches like this don't, by themselves, ruin a movie for me. What they do is pop me out of the movie. I'm no longer in the movie, I'm watching the movie, and I'll start noticing any other flaws.

An example: in the sad Daredevil movie, I was ruined long before the bad dialogue and bizarre script. In the first scenes I watched a human man drop dozens of stories and land flat on his feet on a fire escape. Right away his ankles should have shattered, his legs should have been propelled into his abdomen and his spine should have been gone. Nope, he bounced. I laughed and couldn't take anything else seriously.

But if the movie is good enough, and I'm hoping this one will be, it's not as much of a problem. Doc Ock's arms in Spider-Man 2 are unworkable for any number of reasons, but when he threw a taxi and two of his arms first braced themselves on the ground for leverage, it made perfect "sense" to me. In Iron Man, I was caught up in the movie enough that when they also did something ludicrously impossible -- having him impact the ground, twice, without injury, and perform high-G moves without passing out -- I let it slide. I just need a nod to physics and my mental critic is happy.

The fundamental physics -- or, more to the point, the physics I can "see" -- MUST remain recognizable for me or what's the point? Why should I care if Hawkeye is falling, then? The physics are different, he'll probably just bounce.

Obviously your mileage may and will vary. Just explaining how it works in my head.

[ edited by C. A. Bridges on 2012-03-16 17:17 ]
I'm a biologist, which can get very frustrating as a science fiction fan. Writers always seem to get science wrong (especially that whole Evolution thing), which can be very bothersome to me. Often the bad science is necessary to move the plot. I get that and in those situations my suspension of disbelief is willing, despite the fact that I know how impossible what they are saying is. However, very frequently, the things that bother me are when science is gotten wrong and having it be right wouldn't change the story at all. This bothers me because it would have taken so little effort to get right and it would have had such a great payoff in the realm of not pulling people like me out of the film.

Great example is the 2009 Star Trek film. Now, I go into a Star Trek film, I'm accepting that there will be quite a bit of flaws in the science. And I'm okay with that. But something that has bothered me about that movie for years is that they consistently call the things that are creating temporal rifts "black holes." Black holes! Black holes don't work that way! The reason this bothers me so much is that they had a perfectly acceptable alternative name: Wormholes. Wormholes are theoretical tunnels through space time. They are similar to black holes in that they both involve a singularity, but Wormholes have been theoretically postulated to provide travel through time and space where black holes will just crush you forever. This is annoying to me because it is something that would have been so easy to change, but it wasn't and it took me out of the movie slightly.

So I can sympathize with this guy. I don't think he's being irrational at all. If I go to a movie with a scientist character, I expect the scientist to KNOW SCIENCE. Similarly, if I go to a movie with a world-class archer, I expect the guy to KNOW ARCHERY. Considering that I know nothing whatsoever about archery, I wouldn't know either way, but I can tell what this guy means. It's really annoying to see something portrayed in fiction that you personally know something about and have them get it wrong for no good reason.
Dammit! I suspect I will now spend the entire movie minutely examining Hawkeye's archery technique - and this will be despite the fact that I actually know next to nothing about archery.

[ edited by alittlebitbison on 2012-03-18 12:17 ]
There are a couple unverified assumptions that the author and others are making: (1) that any issues with Hawkeye's form are attributable to Mr. Renner; and (2) that his form (or lack thereof) is a result of a blunder rather than a conscious decision to abandon form for the sake of the visual and the story.

I think that in at least some instances, and probably more than we might think, it was a conscious decision made by someone other than Renner -- and that "someone" might well be Joss. The most obvious example, I think, is Hawkeye's horizontal grip on the bow while falling off the building. I rather suspect that every single detail of that shot was meticulously planned, including Hawkeye's unorthodox grip --and planned by someone other than Jeremy Renner. And frankly, I think whoever it was, made the right decision. It looks way cooler this way, so I support it.

So I don't think anyone can fairly call these "blunders" (as opposed to, say, "artistic choices"), and I certainly don't think anyone can fairly attribute them to laziness or incompetence on Mr. Renner's part. We just don't have enough information to make such criticisms, even assuming they'd be warranted.

More generally, I think we can safely assume that any time a movie (especially a movie primarily designed to entertain) touches upon some specialized field, that those with the relevant specialized knowledge will easily find things to criticize. An attorney, for example, will invariably notice numerous aspects of a fictional trial that make no sense and have no basis in reality. This kind of thing is usually no big deal. Dramatic license and all that.

I'm of the view that these archery criticisms fall squarely into the "no big deal" category. Surely there are lots more professional attorneys in the world than there are professional archers, so if the former can lighten up and enjoy the show, why not the latter? This movie was made to appeal to the masses, after all.

At a minimum, I don't think it's fair to start casting aspersions on Jeremy Renner, as the author does here.

[ edited by Squishy on 2012-03-16 18:26 ]

[ edited by Squishy on 2012-03-16 18:26 ]

[ edited by Squishy on 2012-03-16 18:27 ]
It's actually a Wired article so I changed the link to that site and added a link to a counter-argument.
This is hilarious, but as with azzers, I too get all crazy when the actors playing musicians play the wrong chords on their guitar.
Like others said, if this is the worst mistake of the film, its no big deal. However, I fall into the camp that thinks: you can bend the rules, but if you break them (or stick to them too tightly), you risk messing up the suspension of disbelief. So to respond to bobw1o: his other clothes rip, but having his pants rip too would bring up the puerile remarks that plagued Dr Manhattan in "The Watchmen".

I believe it was Ron Shelton who, in the "Bull Durham" commentary, pointed out that the one thing actors cannot fake is an athletic act. If they do it wrong, even couch potato viewers will know something is off. Having Hawkeye follow expert technique, so he looks crisper than the average kid with a nerf bow, would subtly reinforce that this guy knows what he is doing. Making amateur mistakes risks pushing people in the other direction. (I wouldn't have known enough to criticize it, but subconscious doubts are the toughest things to dispel.)

Maybe this example helps. Every time I watch "Chariots of Fire", I think: what a bunch of spazzes! But I can believe that 100 years ago, that was the proper running technique. Now imagine that a movie on the modern Olympics *still* had people running that way (or like Phoebe on "Friends"). That would draw the viewers out of the film.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2012-03-16 20:52 ]
C. A. Bridges, thank you so much for the link to the "Brave" clip and accompanying commentary. That was so cool. I would have ignored that movie completely without your link.
Squishy, the author did not disparage Renner, or for that matter, the film itself. He offered a very reasonable critique without any mean-spiritedness at all.

I wish news reporters could write such fair and informative articles.
I think the third paragraph disparages Renner, and for the reasons discussed above, I think it's unfair to do so.

ETA: Happy Saint Patty's Day!

[ edited by Squishy on 2012-03-17 15:36 ]

[ edited by Squishy on 2012-03-17 15:37 ]
Any movie with computers is always totally unrealistic. Apparently we hack by sitting in front of a computer for 4 seconds.

Jumping out of a building with your back to the ground... It's Hollywood, peeps. Enjoy the story.

[ edited by gossi on 2012-03-17 14:04 ]
I liked these articles, I don't think they are unfair at all. I personally hate terrible CPR on TV and in movies and wonder why they couldn't have had someone teach the actors in 30 minutes what regular folk learn in an afternoon. You want to see it done right! I read his Hunger Games article, he was practically fawning over Jennifer Lawrence's form (archery form), so either she already knew how to shoot, or they took the time to bring in a coach.
@gossi: I don't think "It's Hollywood" is a valid response, because that could be used to justify almost everything. The movie creators have a great deal of control, so the question is "why did they chose to do it that way?" If Hawkeye is shooting from the waist in order to show off for the Black Widow, then that is a character decision. If he is shooting with poor technique because the producers didn't think it mattered to get it right, then this article is a valid criticism.

A common trait among successful professionals is that they don't want to put their name on something done half-assed. They want to get it *right*. Lord of the Rings is a pretty good example. By having the set makers/ clothes designers/ artists commit so completely to the Middle Earth environment, they made it easier for the audience and the actors to accept the movie.

The two examples you give don't work, as there are *good* reasons to do them. The first (light-speed hacking) is to keep momentum going, much like most movies skip scenes of characters eating or urinating (unless something else is going on). For "jumping out of a building with your back to the ground", what is wrong with that? I assume he is about to shoot a grappling line back at the building, or targeting whatever was chasing him. And even if he wasn't, I remember from an aikido class that when you get knocked down, you want to fall flat, so that the impact is spread over the most area. (I'll concede that it may not be as practical with a multi-story fall.)
It just struck me... we are the fan base who gives Joss credit for the physics in space for Firefly. I think maybe this illustrates the difference between world building artistic decisions and film makers being required to use almost documentary style realism.

I do wonder if the age of reality TV and over-saturation of naturalism will at some point cause a whiplash away from that style. It seems absurd to me personally that a film maker needs to possess a mastery of storytelling, managing cinematography, sound, working with actors, AND PhD's in every field they plan on telling their story in. Not that I don't enjoy when they get it right, but the threshold is way too high.

Pixar is frequently lauded for getting things right. But the reality is, they can take out a scene (or multiple) and fix it when they discover a problem in wireframe. Something that's fiscally impossible for a live-action motion picture. You can reanimate with computers much more cheaply than you can re-shoot live action sequences.

It's why I don't think B5 was "better" (in the train of B5, Firefly, BSG) because it was the first to do realistic physics. It's just different. And I HATE when people complain about Star Wars or Star Trek for the same reason when both are products of a different artistic demand from the audience.

@gossi - The Social Network wasn't too bad on that front. They showed coding competitions which I've been a part of before. Or one of my personal "shorthand" favorites, Captain Picard hits two buttons to bring up the lyrics from H.M.S. Pinafore. Quite a specific keypad they had apparently on that shuttle craft.

@OneTeV - Look at the Hawkeye fall again. If you need a good reason, realize that the frame is more balanced with Hawkeye in that position. In proper form, all the weight in that composition would be to one side unless they filmed him straight/diagonal. I can see a visual reason deeper than "looks cool" for that choice. I also have a question if someone could actually draw a bow from a free fall without causing an axis of rotation if he were in normal form. And this is from a guy who does see merit in some of the criticism.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-03-17 22:32 ]
"It's Hollywood" works for me for the same reason lots of things aren't realistic in movies or TV. Because it's the story that matters. I mean, Serenity opens with, as the script describes it, a ship roaring past the camera in space. And indeed, it does roar. Except there's no sound in space. Does that make it a terrible movie because it fails in the first few frames? Nah. It's Hollywood. It doesn't mean it's half arsed either - half arsed is where the movie sucks.
Last night's episode of Steven DeKnight's "Spartacus: Vengeance" featured rebel slave Mira (Katrina Law) wielding bow and arrow in an attack - and very convincingly. Everything MacQuarrie talks about - economy of motion, ease of release, proper form - were on full display. Law looked every inch an archer. I wouldn't have paid as much attention if not for this discussion.
Are you referring to an episode of the TV series? What you describe does not match my recollection of the opening of Serenity the movie.
I would never notice this if it wasn't pointed out to me. So now on the plus side, I'm now more educated than I was. And on the negative side, I'm now more educated than I was. I'm really hoping that the movie is so kickass that I can ignore what I now know. (I knew shouldn't have looked, but watching this non-spoiler thread go to 40+ comments was just too tempting for me. *sigh* Bad me.)

Oh well, at least he isn't throwing bullets. I can hardly watch Jimmy Stewart in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" even though I love the movie.

I do wonder though why he apparently looks so bad. Especially since it's pretty much standard practice in Hollywood to get trainers and consultants for any special skills in a big film... But I guess we'll never know for sure.
But archery is Hawkeye's talent. It is the only reason he gets to exist as a superhero. Of course he should have skills with a bow.
I'm surprised no one's mention Katniss. Her form is practically flawless. I think both movies stand in similar ground, so it's rather curious to see Katniss work her bow so well while Hawkeye commits basic mistakes.
I can tell they're basic cause I'm only a very novice archer and I can see them.

learning proper form is not even that hard, and I don't have a coach.

so it seems a gross error, it would've been very easy to fix.
not to mention that hawkeye uses a compound bow while katniss uses a longbow, which is about a thousand times harder. and yet she manages it great.
archery-wise, I'm far more excited for THG, although I do love Hawkeye.
I have to say that I'm a fan of Jeremy Renner and I was (still am) looking forward to his portrayal of Hawkeye, but learning that he evidently didn't think it was worth his while to learn better archery technique doesn't make me very happy. I took archery in High School and I loved it, it is a fun sport, and it doesn't take that much time or effort to learn to do it right. Evidently Jennifer Lawrence really did a great job preparing to play Katniss in Hunger Games (people say that she could try out for the US Olympic team, but of course that is probably an exaggeration); clearly she knew that this was the role of a life time and it was worth her time and energy to do it right. Renner's lack of form as Hawkeye makes me suspect that he felt it was a small role and it wasn't worth his time to train.... That (which may be an unwarranted assumption) is disappointing to me.

Oh well, even if my assumption is right, I'm sure it won't ruin his acting skills, and I'm sure it won't spoil the movie. But I am still feeling disappointed.
I wouldn't assume that claims that Jennifer Lawrence should try to compete are exaggerated -- Geena Davis made a run at Olympic qualifying. Actors can be good at things!

The columnist didn't spend much time on it, but far less realistic than Jeremy Renner's form is the collapsible compound bow.
Interestingly enough, though, someone actually designed and patented one back in 1977:
Folding compound bow

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