Thursday, 23 October 2014

Things About Sword Movies That Bug Me

   I love costume films. Anything with dragons or swords. I am also quite aware that theatrical swordplay is supposed to be showy and grand and flamboyant. Let's face it, if anyone tried to fight the way they do in the movies, they'd be beaten into a pulp in short order. So, most sword-play is make-believe, and I can watch it as entertainment, but there are these moments that I just cannot let slide.
   It's the 'schwing' that accompanies every sword-draw.
   All swords make a very audible sliding sound when drawn from a scabbard, but the Hollywood 'schwing' is a metal-on-metal grinding sound that, if swords really did that they'd wear down and become uselessly blunt fast. Errol Flynn purportedly introduced it so American audiences would be able to tell when swords are drawn, but it is ridiculous and doesn't say anything kind about the intelligence of the average American movie-goer. This  has expanded to include any motion with a blade in too many serious movies, parodied by hearing that 'schwing' every time they wave a knife back and forth through the air in Rundown which is not trying to be a serious movie.
   Then, there is the non-use of shields.
   Could they at least pretend to use them? Here we have someone with a protective device that doesn't use it. There are people charging forward, shields flailing wildly, dying dramatically from arrows. Arrows that they are carrying shields to protect against. Or fighting one-on-one against an opponent and blocking blows with their sword, damaging the edge, risking breakage, instead of taking the blow on the one one piece of equipment designed exactly for that purpose, which is, again, flailing wildly, doing nothing.
   Yeah, I know it's dramatic, but, again, it says nothing good about the average intelligence of the average movie-goer. Who are also voters, but I digress...
   Then there is the "Saving Private Ryan" invasion scenes. Except for one or two well-documented incidents, landings and invasions were unopposed. Armies were small, compared to industrial 20th Century armies. Navies moved much more quickly along the coast than armies did, and if the army managed to follow along, the invading force would just sail up and down the coast until the land-forces were too exhausted to keep up, and then put ashore. That's why Troy and other epics about the Trojan War that show Greek soldiers leaping ashore under a hail of arrows are so ridiculous.
   Then there is the imaginative creation of vessels that never existed before the 20th Century. Even the initial landings at Gallipoli were made from standard row-boats and virtually unopposed. Modern landing craft were devised based on river barges for the second landings at Suvla Bay, later in the year. Only in the second world war was there no choice but to land against fortified opposition. So when Ridley Scott created landing craft for Phillip's French Fleet to attack a defended beachhead in his Robin Hood remake... it was an eye-rolling moment of utter ridiculousness. However, since The Longest Day, and Saving Private Ryan, it's now standard that all landings must be successfully made against defended positions with great loss of life. One day, someone will look up Dieppe and read about what happened to an unsuccessful landing.
   I'm not even going to go into the sword-abuse that proliferates on screen.
   But I will ask why, if they have a weapon that is optimized for stabbing, are they hacking with it?
Swinging wildly as if it were a club? Yeah, I know.
   It's dramatic.
   It's Hollywood...

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