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In the Guideâs weekly Solved! column, we look into a crucial pop-culture question youâve been burning to know the answer to â and settle it, once and for all
Regardless of where you sit on the Star-Wars-Fan-Ometer TM â from bored mum to die-hard duvet-owner â everyone knows: stormtroopers, AKA the Galactic Empireâs plastic-looking soldiers, canât shoot for toffee. This is made clear as early as Episode IV: A New Hope, when Luke and Han rescue Leia from the evil clutches of (dunn, dunn d-dunn) Darth Vader and blast their way back through the Death Star corridors to the Millennium Falcon. Wave upon wave of stormtroopers lie at every corner yet none can land a single shot and they topple like dominoes. Luke, Han and Leia use pilfered stormtrooper E-11 rifles, so Vaderâs minions canât even blame their tools. So why are they such a horrible aim?The Guide: Staying In â sign up for our home entertainment tips Read more
Well, for a start, it cannot help that they canât see properly. Not as in âstormtroopers need to go to Specsaversâ, but as Luke says when he and Han don âtrooper outfits to aid their escape: âI canât see a thing in this helmet.â Is this a design flaw or something more sinister? In A New Hope, Darth Vader states he wants Leia alive. Heâs planted a homing beacon on the Millennium Falcon and needs Luke, Han and Leia to escape so they can lead the Empire back to the Rebel base. So that means those stormtroopers must have been briefed to miss. Maybe thatâs why they make such a song and dance about getting flung backwards when they get shot? Theyâre not even hurt, and are taking a dive so they can go for an early lunch.
If they are not being ordered to miss, perhaps an unseen presence is messing with their aim. As Obi-Wan says to Han: âIn my experience, there is no such thing as luck.â Maybe itâs the Force that turns stormtroopers into such crap potshots?
Equally, the explanation could be far more prosaic. After all, how does one become a stormtrooper anyway? In the old days of Episode II: Attack of the Clones, stormtroopers (or more accurately clone troopers, cloned from the mercenary Jango Fett) were in inexhaustible supply. But by Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the Empire is so desperate it is reduced to kidnapping children (such as Finn) to enter stormtrooper training academy without so much as an entrance exam or shooting-proficiency test. Maybe thatâs why they tend to shoot from the hip, which as we all know makes it notoriously hard to aim (even if it works for John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Indiana Jones and, well, Han Solo).Major lasers ... troopers from Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Photograph: Allstar/Disney/Lucasfilm
Stormtroopers fight in armies, and armies have ranks, so maybe the rubbish ones are getting sent to the frontline. What we donât see are brigadier general and field marshal stormtrooper sipping ChÃ¢teau Lafite over target practice back at HQ.
Perhaps most crucially, stormtroopers are only human. So we should look at human psychology: namely social loafing, the phenomenon where a person will exert less effort to achieve a goal when they work in a group. Your average frontline stormtrooper is poorly trained, canât see, has been told to miss, is firing against the Force, and may not want to be a stormtrooper anyway. Wouldnât you just blast randomly into the void desperately hoping that someone else was going to do all the killing for you? To conclude: stormtroopers are lazy and thatâs why they canât shoot straight. They just canât be bothered.