I won’t be surprised if the title brings up a debate, but that’s not going to be what this is about. I’m more interested in why the ancient weapons seem to pop up in modern stories. How often have we seen a movie with guns blazing everywhere and a guy with a sword shows up? Sometimes the character is a joke and other times they’re nigh unstoppable. Yet, they’re there with a weapon that you wouldn’t see in a real world action setting. So . . . why? Here are a few reasons that I’ve thought up:
- More interesting and cinematic fight scenes. With guns, a lot of the action ends up being long distance with a few close encounter dodge/shoot events. It’s really exciting until someone wonders why the bad guys can’t hit the good guy standing in the open and they’re getting nailed while behind cover. With ancient weapons like swords and axes, it’s based more on physical strength and speed than aim and focus. So, you get the hand-to-hand fight with a lot of near hits and a lengthened battle time because you can’t end it as quickly with a gun. Acrobatics are a big part of this too, which you do see with some gun-based scenes. Still, melee weapons come under less scrutiny than dual wielding pistols while jumping through a 5 story window to land on a nearby crane and still hit the sniper two buildings over.
- There’s this odd trope that you can make a character look like a badass if he defeats a small army of gunmen with a melee weapon. This usually isn’t very realistic unless the swordsman uses stealth, traps, and know the terrain. Yet, you see it all the time with a hero rushing those with machine guns and blocking the bullets that never seem to find his/her legs. You end with this visual of a blood-soaked warrior standing amid foes who should have been superior. After that point, the audience may believe that nothing can stop them. Here it’s not so much about the weapon specifically since it can be done with swords, axes, crowbar, pencil, or just about anything that isn’t a range weapon.
- Stepping away from melee, we do see a lot of archers these days. The last decade seems to have seen a sudden rise in such characters like Katniss, Green Arrow, Hawkeye, Robin Hood (again!?), Legolas, and several others. You would think these characters would lose to gunmen, but it rarely happens. Some never face such a foe and others are given superhuman skills such as firing blindly or only running out of arrows when the time is right. One could call them a middle ground between guns and swords, which might be why they hold a strange fascination. There’s a lot of skill involved and it’s connected to ancient times, but it’s range like a modern gun. Another advantage here is stealth, so it fits very well for any character who works from the shadows.
- Maybe another reason is that it’s easier to get a melee weapon than a gun in some places? I mean, I could just go to a store that sells swords and buy one. It’s probably more for decoration than use, but it doesn’t require what’s needed for a gun. This makes it a more accessible weapon. While we’re kind of in this ballpark, these weapons don’t have ammunition. So, one might see an advantage to having this instead of something that has limited use. With the majority of modern melee fighters being stealth-based or at least big into planning, this is something to consider.
Thought I had more in my head, but I guess I didn’t. Skipping the ‘gun vs sword’ argument that appears at times, what do other people think about ancient weapons being used in modern settings? What’s the appeal and/or benefits?