In the weekly Resolved of the Guide! In the column, we take a crucial pop culture question you’ve been eager to know the answer to, and solve it once and for all.
Regardless of where you feel in the Star-Wars-Fan-Ometer TM – From bored mom to die-hard quilt owner – everyone knows: storm troopers, also known as the plastic-looking soldiers of the Galactic Empire, can’t shoot for candy. This is clear from Episode IV: A New Hope, when Luke and Han rescue Leia from the evil clutches of (Dunn, Dunn d-Dunn) Darth Vader and fight their way back through the corridors of the Star of Life. Death to the Millennium Falcon. Wave after wave of storm troopers meet at every corner, but none can land a single shot, and they topple like dominoes. Luke, Han, and Leia use stolen Stormtrooper E-11 rifles, so Vader’s minions can’t even blame their tools. So why are they such a horrible target?
Well, for starters, it can’t help that they can’t see properly. Not like “storm troopers need to go to Specsavers”, but like Luke says when he and Han put on soldier suits to help them escape: “I can’t see anything in this helmet.” Is this a design flaw or something more sinister? In A New Hope, Darth Vader claims that he wants Leia alive. He has planted a homing beacon on the Millennium Falcon and needs Luke, Han and Leia to escape in order to bring the Empire back to the Rebel base. That means those storm troopers must have been briefed to fail. Maybe that is why they make such a song and dance about being thrown back when shot? They aren’t even hurt and are diving, so they can go to an early lunch.
If they are not ordered to fail, perhaps an invisible presence is toying with their target. As Obi-Wan tells Han, “In my experience, there is no such thing as luck.” Maybe it’s the Force that turns storm troopers into such trash shots?
Equally, the explanation could be much more prosaic. After all, how does one become a storm trooper? In the old days of Episode II: Attack of the Clones, storm troopers (or, more accurately, clone troopers, cloned of the mercenary Jango Fett) had an inexhaustible supply. But by Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the Empire is so desperate that it comes down to kidnapping children (like Finn) to enter the storm trooper training academy without even an entrance exam or proficiency test in through. Maybe that’s why they tend to shoot from the hip, which, as we all know, makes aiming notoriously difficult (even if it works for John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Indiana Jones, and, well, Han Solo).
Stormtroopers fight in armies, and armies have ranks, so maybe the trash ones will be sent to the front. What we don’t see is the brigadier general and the field marshal’s storm trooper drinking Château Lafite during target practice at headquarters.
Perhaps most importantly, storm troopers are only human. Therefore, we should look at human psychology: that is, social laziness, the phenomenon in which a person will try less to achieve a goal when working in a group. The average front-line storm trooper is poorly trained, can’t see, has been told to miss, is firing at the Force, and may not want to be a storm trooper anyway. Wouldn’t you randomly explode into a void desperately hoping someone else would do all the murder for you? To conclude: Stormtroopers are lazy and therefore cannot shoot directly. They just can’t be bothered.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism