Stormtrooper Accuracy

Earlier today, my cousin tweeted a link to an article on Cracked.com called “The Biggest Star Wars Plot Hole, Explained by Science.”

I read through it bemusedly, got a chuckle, and then realized that the article’s own reasoning was flawed. It overlooked a big, glaring factor in the imagined lack of accuracy among stormtroopers and the Imperial military in general.

Being the awful OCD suffering dude I am, I was compelled finally to blog for the first time in while. Work’s left me creatively drained the last couple of weeks, so once my dander was up I had to take the opportunity.

The Supposed Incompetence of the Imperial Military

Some have built careers on one-note Star Wars jokes, and a lot of times fanboys gravitated to their favorite topic. Namely, the perception that stormtroopers couldn’t hit squat. So let’s actually look at the films and see how accurate that is.

Now, I’m going to focus first on the “Original Trilogy” because when you hear “stormtrooper” you think 1977-1983. 1999-Present (really 2002, but 1999 shows why the clones were created) is the era of the “Clone Trooper,” and if you’re going to debate the efficacy of a fighting force that torched the entire Jedi Order…I mean, come on.

Being the orderly chap I am, I’ll organize this into two lists. The first is the list demonstrating Imperial military dominance. The second will be a list of perceived flaws or errors, along with explanations that have long satisfied my own mind and therefore should be sufficient for all. 😛

Imperial Efficiency

  1. Episode IV: Battle on the Tantive IV. The opening battle on the Tantive IV (the ship that’s running away from the Star Destroyer at the beginning of the original Star Wars film) shows the Empire drop the hammer, and hard. They stormed a ship filled with rebels fighting for their lives, in cramped hallways, under the direct command of Darth Vader. It was a clear win.
  2. Episode IV: Jawas. They not only tortured and murdered the poor devils, they made it look like someone else did it. Pretty slick. Only a former Jedi with direct combat experience with what became the Imperial military sniffed them out.
  3. Episode IV: Owen & Beru Lars. They burned them alive, for goodness’ sake. No witnesses, cold and calculating so that, if anyone did figure out it was the Empire, the message would be clear: challenge the State and your powerful Leaders, who know better than you, at your own peril.
  4. Episode IV: Battle of the Death Star. Oh, I’m sorry, they were actually beating the snot out of the rebels until the Son of Skywalker got a late assist from his friend and got in a shot that was, essentially, destined to hit. I’m not going to deduct points when the Universe Itself determines you’re going to lose. Talk about a stacked deck.
  5. Episode V: Hoth. They used five AT-AT walkers and a sparse ground force and nearly wiped the core rebel command out of existence. By comparison, on the Battle of Geonosis (Attack of the Clones), the Republic sent in about a million troops and nearly every ship they had. And that was a draw.
  6. Episode VI: The Space Battle. Again, the Universe turned against them. They were hammering the rebels into oblivion when suddenly, a key component of their strategy crumbled and allowed a handful of fighters to get in to blow up the second Death Star and rout their forces.

Notable Imperial Ineffectiveness

  1. Episode IV: Rebels escape. Which, of course, was part of the Empire’s (back-up?) plan to track them to their base. It doesn’t help, either, when you have (once again) the most powerful Force user in a generation fighting you. You’re basically screwed.
  2. Episode V: Rebels escape. Barely, and only thanks to the droid that originally belonged to the long-lost love of the man trying to capture them. Oh, I’m sorry. Did I just blow your mind?
  3. Episode VI: Forest Battle. This is the one everybody loves to pick out and pick on. Oh, the Ewoks. The Ewoks beat the Empire. Oh, that’s so silly. Except not really. You know who really led the rally against the Empire on Endor?

    Mutha–F***in’ Chewbacca, that’s who! The Ewoks were getting their furry butts handed to them until Chewie swung into action, hijacked an AT-ST, piloted it by himself (it was a two-pilot affair, and he did it solo), and started laying waste to the Imperials. This allowed the Munchkins in Fur to get their act together and spring their elaborate Rube Goldberg Death Traps.

All of this brings us to why, in the words of the snotty, hipster-driven Cracked article, the troopers couldn’t stop “a space hillbilly, a gigolo, a pampered socialite and a furry version of Sloth from the Goonies.” (Gotta love those old, tired jokes.)

The Final Reason They Couldn’t Stop the Heroes

Because they’re the heroes.

We get enough source material to show that the troopers are actually fairly efficient and good at their job. We get enough to let us know that they’re dangerous. That’s what we need to know.

So there’s your explanation. Stop trying to turn everything into Star Trek by over-analyzing everything through the filter of a half-assed understanding of science.

Otherwise, I’m going to start harping on the fact that Worf got slapped around like a b*tch so much on TNG that he had to leave the show and go to DS9. Tough aliens were showing up just for the chance to bounce him around like a super–ball, and he’s supposed to be the tough one on the crew? Blow it out your Warp Coil.

In Conclusion

Sorry for the cheap shot at Star Trek. It’s just that every time one of these things comes up with Star Wars I’m reminded of how much Trek is allowed to skate on these sorts of things.

But in short, stormtroopers get short shrift and you should totally write me in as your next President.

12 thoughts on “Stormtrooper Accuracy

  1. Script immunity notwithstanding, why could the Stormtroopers not hit Han, Luke, Chewie, and Leia when they were in the cramped confines of the detention hallway? Your own explaination of their badassness shows that having Rebels cornerwd in a hallway should be easy for them (and on their home turf, no less).

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    1. Actually, those shots would have been very hard to make, even without Lucas occasionally speeding up the film to make it more exciting. They weren’t just up against the wall, they had conveniently-person-depth cover behind which to hide. The troopers, meanwhile, were pretty much walking into a duck shoot to take the shot.

      In short, taking the time for precise aim at that moment guaranteed instant death for the troopers. They had to take quick shots and move. That will undoubtedly affect accuracy.

      You might ask why none of the rebels gets wounded by even a grazing shot. That one, I can only fall back on script immunity, budget and time.

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      1. I just don’t see any way to explain away how woefully harmless the original stormtroopers were, compared to what we’re now led to believe ie Cody and Wrex. But that’s ok, they weren’t as important to the story at that point.

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        1. Classy wordplay on your username, I like it!

          I outlined above how they weren’t harmless. It’s the power of perception – regardless of fact, once something is accepted as the truth (be it this canard of Imperial ineffectiveness or bumper-sticker-sized politics), then no matter what evidence is brought to bear, at least 40% will remain die-hard in their beliefs; I’ll never convince them.

          My appeal is to those level-headed sorts (of which you seem to be one) that’s willing to look past what is “accepted” with this.

          But if you just can’t let go of it, and if you want to get really super-technical about it, there is another “expanded universe” explanation that goes into how devastating the loss of Jango was. It’s out there on Wookieepedia.

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  2. Seriously, you’re knocking Kevin Smith, a star wars lover that pays homage to the series in every movie he does? [For the record, its even in Jersey Girl]

    That aside, while I agree with you in principle, you’ve missed the most obvious answer… luke, leia, and han are chock full of metachloriens, which are known to deflect laser bullets as long as the metachlorien-full person thinks, “oh crap, I hope I don’t get shot” which is also why the jedi are all killed so easily by order 66.

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    1. Kevin Smith’s a funny guy and even seems like someone I’d be happy to hang out with as he’s moved through the same milieu I have. However, his movies have gotten ridiculous and the jokes are just old. I don’t even bother watching anything he does now.

      I give ‘script immunity’ as the viable response for the heroes, to borrow a term from Tony, but your midichlorians reasoning fails to account for the fact that Han lacks the Jedi flavor. He’s just a thoroughbred badass like Jango. 🙂

      Good to see you back, Hater though you are.

      And really, I think you’re the second person I’ve ever met who openly volunteered that they saw Jersey Girl.

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  3. In empire strikes back. Leia, chewie & lando shoot 8 stormtroopers. Six of them in one scene. Three of them get shot by Leia. The second gets shot below the belt. While he was running. If she could shoot so accuratly at a moving target. Why can’t they hit them.

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    1. The stormtroopers that get shot in empire strikes back let leia and crew escape. So leia didn’t have to shoot the stormtrooper below the belt. If the shot were inches further in it would have gotten him in the groin. If she could shoot so precise they probably could too. If they were trying.

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