In the weekly “Solved!” column of the Guide, we discuss a vital pop culture issue that you are dying to know the answer to – and fix it once and for all. Everyone knows: Stormtroopers, aka the plastic-looking soldiers of the Galactic Empire, can’t shoot like mad, no matter where you sit on the Star Wars Fan-Ometer TM – from bored mom to die-hard comforter user. This is made plain as early as Episode IV: A New Chance, as Luke and Han rescue Leia from the dark clutches of Darth Vader (dunn, dunn d-dunn) and make their way back to the Millennium Falcon through the Death Star corridors. Wave after wave of stormtroopers lurk at every corner, but none can land a single shot and they collapse like dominoes.
The stolen E-11 rifles from the stormtroopers are used by Luke, Han and Leia, so Vader’s minions can’t even blame their weapons.
Why are they such an awful goal, then? The Guide: Staying In – Register for our tips for home entertainmentContinue readingWell, first of all, it can’t help if they can’t see correctly. Not in the context of “Stormtroopers need to go to Specsavers,” but “I can’t see in this helmet.” as Luke says as he and Han put on the trooper uniforms to support their escape. Is this a design error or anything even worse? In “A New Hope,” Darth Vader says he wants Leia alive. On the Millennium Falcon, he has installed a homing beacon and wants Luke, Han and Leia to escape so that they can lead the Empire back to the Rebel base.
That means they must have been told to miss the stormtroopers.
Perhaps that is why when they get fired they make such a mess about being thrown backwards? They’re not even injured, so they can take an early lunch and do a dive. If they were not told to miss, their target may have been skewed by an invisible presence.
As Obi-Wan tells Han, “In my experience, there is no such thing as luck.” Maybe the Force is making Stormtroopers such bastards? But the explanation may be much more prosaic as well.
After all, how does one become, first of all, a Stormtrooper? Stormtroopers (or more specifically, clone troopers, cloned from the mercenary Jango Fett) were in inexhaustible supply in the old days of Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
But the Empire is so desperate in Episode VII: The Army Awakens that they turn to kidnapping children (like Finn) to send them, with no entrance exam or shooting test, to the Stormtrooper training academy.
Perhaps that’s why they prefer to fire from the hip, which is known to make it difficult to target (although it works for John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Indiana Jones, and, well, Han Solo). Storm troopers battle in armies, and armies have ranks, so they could be sent to the front by the bad ones. What we don’t see are Stormtroopers of the Brigadier General and Field Marshal sipping Château Lafite at headquarters in target practice. Perhaps most notably, only humans are Stormtroopers.
So let’s look at human psychology: specifically, social loafing, a person’s phenomenon of expending less effort while working in a group to accomplish a goal. Your typical front-line stormtrooper is poorly trained, you can’t see, you have been ordered to miss, aim against the power, and you may not want to be a stormtrooper anyway. In the desperate hope that someone else will do all the killing for you, wouldn’t you just fire blindly into the void? Bottom line: Stormtroopers are lazy, so they can’t fire directly. It just doesn’t annoy them.