Anyone who reads this blog (i.e., my mother and Chinese comment spammers) knows that I have an affinity for Zombie fiction, and one of my biggest pet peeves is unrealistic or incorrect portrayals of firearms in media. I’ve previously ranted about slide lock syndrome in Hollywood, and incorrect weapon advice for dealing with the Zombie menace.
This weekend, the two elements combined into a perfect storm for me, in the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead. In one single scene, multiple firearms gaffes ruined my suspension of disbelief and my immersion in what is an otherwise excellent Zombie-themed TV show.
This is a plea to AMC and the producers of The Walking Dead to get a new, qualified weapons advisor for your show. It won’t cost you any more than you are already paying, and it will help keep viewers like myself who actually know what they are looking at when it comes to firearms and zombies. You spend so much time building interpersonal drama, tension, and excitement, with meticulous detail when it comes to makeup and effects. And then you piss all over it with shitty, lazy firearms representations. I would expect better from a SyFy channel Friday-night special movie featuring Debbie Gibson and the bottom-rung Baldwin.
Take a moment to watch the following clip (SPOILER WARNING: Do not watch if you haven’t seen the episode!):
Let’s take one issue at a time:
- LACK OF RECOIL:
I could list these individually, but it colors the entire scene. Notice that when Glenn and Daryl are firing their shotguns, there is ABSOLUTELY NO RECOIL! It appears (though I can’t be sure) that Glenn is firing a Mossberg 12g, and Daryl is toting a Winchester 12 or 20 gauge, but regardless of the size of the gun, they should be experiencing SOME recoil, unless they are supposed to be firing Hollywood blanks. All your weapons advisor needed to do was to teach the actors how to recoil with each shot in a semi-realistic fashion. It is actually easier to do with a pump-action shotgun than with other weapons, as the act of “pumping” the action with the recoil is smooth and natural, as opposed to your actor’s actions of firing (with no recoil, perfectly still), and THEN working the action.
Of course, this isn’t limited to shotguns, as Andrea shows absolutely NO recoil when firing her Beretta 92FS…
SOLUTION: Teach your actors how to recoil realistically, even when firing blank rounds or digitally adding in firing effects afterwards.
- MOTIONLESS SLIDES:
The close-up shot of Andrea unloading from her Beretta 92FS clearly shows that the slide is not cycling between shots. This is underscored by the lack of recoil or her reacting at all to firing (and this omission could have possibly been covered up if she had done that). Once the viewer sees that the weapon is not functioning, the lack of recoil and obviously post-added digital muzzle flash becomes even more apparent. I can see this is not a lack of hardware, as Shane’s Glock has a functioning slide. Perhaps the actress didn’t want to fire the weapon, or the footage of her aiming had the correct emotion but not her firing?
SOLUTION: If the actress doesn’t want to fire a blank gun, at least get her a $100 airsoft gun that has some movement in the slide. If the shot of her not firing is great, and she wasn’t shooting, then digitally add in some slide blur movement. It’s not rocket science.
- INCONSISTENT MUZZLE FLASHES:
Several of the weapons being fired obviously had Hollywood blanks loaded, most notably Daryl’s shotgun. You could tell because of the slow burning ejection of powder flying out of the barrel when he fired (and since he didn’t show any signs of recoil, holding it perfectly still while firing). Other actor’s weapons obviously didn’t have any powder in them at all, as the discharge was only marked by a quick “flash,” obviously doctored post-shooting in after effects, using the standard “muzzle flash” effect. It couldn’t have been more fake if you just added lense flares to the barrels of the guns.
SOLUTION: Use better blanks, or better digital effects. I work in video games. I know that people expect more spectacular muzzle flashes in guns than actually exist. That’s cool. But at least be consistent. If one gun is spitting slow-burning gunpowder, then have them all do it. If one gun is having a quick-flash digital effect, then have them all do it. But, for the love of guns, don’t mix the two!
In conclusion, I love The Walking Dead! This show is awesome, keeps you on the edge of your seat, and pulls no punches. Its setting, characters, and makeup effects are top notch. Now, if only you could find someone who could ensure the same quality for your firearms-related effects and acting, you would be on top of the game.
Maybe you should hire someone who knows what they are doing. Maybe a former Marine. Maybe someone who has trained individuals in firearms handling. Maybe someone who has done this in media before.
There has got to be someone with all those qualifications…