Research is important in your writing. If you’re an academic writer, you’ll probably spend a lot of time researching academic journals and other dense literary or scientific texts. If you’re a journalist, you’ll need to check your facts to make sure you’re reporting accurate information. And if you’re a fiction writer, you’ll inevitably need to research some pretty strange things for your stories and novels.
The thing with research, however, is that some people don’t tend to verify their sources. Serious academic research requires citation of every source used (usually in APA or MLA format, or something similar). An average news article, blog post, or short story, however, probably won’t have a list of references at the end. You can always just say your Muse is your source, but that won’t tend to fly with an Institutional Review Board.
Even worse is when people don’t bother to check something just because it’s “common knowledge” or something everyone takes for granted. Often, the things people take for granted turn out to be more complex than they think, if not just factually inaccurate. As an example, let’s talk about Imperial Storm Troopers.
Everyone knows the Imperial Storm Troopers. Your droids aren’t the ones they’re looking for. They don’t need to see your identification. And they’re definitely far more precise with their blaster shots than the Sand People. In fact, they’re the most deadly and accurate force in the galaxy.
I know what you’re going to say. I hear it all the time. Because “everyone knows it.” You’re going to tell me that Storm Troopers are the worst marksmen ever to grace the big screen. Their aim is so legendarily bad that there’s an entire TV Tropes page dedicated to it. They couldn’t hit the broad side of a Bantha. They couldn’t even hit a Star Trek Red Shirt.
I’m only going to use the movies, since the books, video games, and other expanded universe offerings aren’t necessarily considered canon in some instances. I’m also only going to discuss Episodes IV, V, and VI, since the Storm Troopers in those movies are supposed to be ordinary humans rather than genetically enhanced clone soldiers (and the clones had FAR better accuracy in Episodes I, II, and III). I’ll keep a running tally as I go along, and by the end, I think you’ll be convinced that Storm Troopers are a deadly force that should never be underestimated.
We’ll start with the following clip, the opening battle of Episode IV:
In that opening scene, there are initially 10 rebel defenders. 7 are shot down right away. 3 escape around the corner but they get shot down moments later. Another 7 reinforcements are there around the corner, but a few moments later we see them captured. Grand total that’s 17 rebels taken down (10 dead, 7 captured). I won’t count the captured ones in the tally since we can assume they surrendered. Grand total only 3 Storm Troopers get shot in that scene. Then Leia gets one more before she gets shot and stunned, so that’s another point for each side.
Score: Storm Troopers 11, Rebels 4
After that the Storm Troopers kill a swarm of Jawas when they’re looking for the droids. That’s when Obi Wan says his famous line about how “only Imperial Storm Troopers are so precise.” I won’t count the Jawas, however, since they die off-camera. Still, this is a battle won for the Imperials.
The next time the heroes encounter the Storm Troopers is when they’re escaping from Mos Eisley Cantina. Han, and Han alone, is outside the Millennium Falcon when the Storm Troopers alive. The Storm Troopers miss him and he escapes. He blasts the building to make some sparks to drive the Storm Troopers back, but he doesn’t hit any of them himself. So this scene is a tie.
Score: Storm Troopers 11, Rebels 4
Then we get to the Death Star. This sequence seems like the worst offenders for people who think Storm Troopers can’t hit anything. Except that the Storm Troopers were missing on purpose.
As soon as the Millennium Falcon reaches the Death Star, we cut to a scene where Darth Vader discusses the upcoming execution of Princess Leia. He says, “They must be trying to return the stolen plans to the Princess. She may yet be of some use to us.” We later learn that at this point, Vader hatched a plan to attach a tracking device to the ship and let the rebels escape. It’s therefore logical to assume that Vader ordered all the Storm Troopers not to kill any of the rebels (either that or he used the Force to influence their minds, but either way, he wanted the rebels to escape). Vader and Tarkin don’t even seem surprised or concerned when they receive the alert that there’s intruders in the cell block. Vader just calmly goes off to deal with Obi Wan, because while they want Leia to escape, Vader doesn’t want her to have Jedi help when she gets away.
So any further battles in Episode IV don’t count, since the Imperials are taking a dive. That leaves a final score in Episode IV of: Storm Troopers 11, Rebels 4. The ship-vs-ship battles during the ending don’t count since we’re gauging Storm Trooper accuracy in personal combat, not piloting skills. Let’s move on to Episode V.
Episode V starts off on the Ice Planet Hoth. Early on, we have a long, epic battle between the rebels and the Imperial forces. By the end of this battle, the rebels flee, and their base is completely overrun:
Unfortunately, there’s not really a lot of “ground troops” fighting. The Imperials use the AT-AT walkers to do most of the damage, and by the time ground troops enter the base, there’s really no one left to shoot at. So the Battle of Hoth is definitely a win for the Imperials, but it’s not something that can really affect the score. Still, every battle the Storm Troopers have been in so far in both movies, they’ve won. Counting the raid on Leia’s ship, slaughtering the Jawas, and raiding Hoth, that’s three major wins for the Imperials. The only time the rebels won anything was when the Imperials let them escape.
The next time we see Storm Troopers is in the cloud city of Bespin. They blast C-3PO to bits, so that’s another point for them. Then Luke arrives and Vader gives them orders to lure Luke to the carbon-freezing room. So when the Storm Troopers see him, they take a few shots at him to drive him off, but they intentionally miss again. Then just after Boba Fett takes off with Han, some Storm Troopers ambush Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca. Chewie manages to kill one Storm Trooper there. So far, that’s putting us at Storm Troopers 12, Rebels 5.
After some lightsaber dueling between Vader and Luke, we see Leia shoot a Storm Trooper. Then one misses Chewie, and both Chewie and Leia kill one more each. Chewie drops two more while R2D2 is opening the door to get to the Falcon. And Lando kills one when they get outside. That puts us at Storm Troopers 12, Rebels 11. Then Leia drops one final Storm Trooper right before the Falcon takes off, and the Rebels catch up, Storm Troopers 12, Rebels 12. Near the end of the second movie and we’re finally tied.
Moving on to Episode VI, we start off on Tattooine fighting brigands and bounty hunters. There’s no Storm Trooper action until we get to the battles at Endor.
Right before the speeder bike chase, Chewie shoots one Storm Trooper and Han takes another one down in a fist fight, so that’s 2 more points for the rebels. Luke throws a Storm Trooper off his bike to steal it, so that’s 3. Luke shoots one and that one crashes into a tree, so that’s 4. But then a Storm Trooper shoots Leia’s speeder and knocks her off, so that’s 1 for the Imperials. That same Storm Trooper crashes into a tree stump and dies, but that was his own stupidity and not anything Leia did, so no point there. Then the last Storm Trooper throws Luke off his bike right before Luke cuts his speeder in half with his lightsaber, so 1 and 1 there. Grand total, the speeder bike scene is 2 more for the Storm Troopers, 5 for the rebels.
Grand total for the movies is now Storm Troopers 14, Rebels 17.
Unscored Bonus: The last Storm Trooper in that scene got three perfectly-aimed shots off on Luke at the end. The only reason they missed is because Luke deflected them with his lightsaber.
Leia takes down two more Storm Troopers after she meets Wicket, putting the score at Storm Troopers 14, Rebels 19. Then we spend a lot of time with the Ewoks before we get back to any action.
No shots are fired getting into the back door of the shield generator. But then the big epic final battle with the Ewoks starts. This is the fight where the rebels finally start seriously kicking ass and taking names. Han alone takes down four, five, six Storm Troopers in a row, and the Ewoks are bashing heads like nobody’s business. There’s so many Storm Troopers being dropped in this scene that I couldn’t even keep accurate track of the score anymore.
So let’s look back and analyze the Storm Troopers’ performance across all the movies. Not counting any scenes where we have reason to believe the Imperials were losing on purpose, we have an interesting pattern here. In the first movie, the Storm Troopers have back-to-back victories and they easily kill twice as many rebels as the rebels do them. They continue to have steady victories through the second movie until they very end, when the heroes manage to score some kills during their desperate escape from Bespin. Then, finally, the rebels start pulling ahead in the third movie and they pull off a victory in the end.
To me, this pattern doesn’t show any signs of incompetence on the part of the Storm Troopers. Instead, it shows signs of the rebels constantly improving. They go from a ragtag band of heroes who barely pull off victories in the beginning to eventually become a well-organized force that can finally go toe-to-toe with the Imperial elites. That seems like a fitting way for a trilogy of movies to play out, with the heroes improving more and more as they go along. It shows that they earned their victory at the end through hard work, determination, and perseverance.
Bringing this back to the original point I started this blog post with, I analyzed this carefully, scene-by-scene. It was also a good excuse to marathon the Star Wars movies and spend 6 hours writing this blog post. Hopefully this demonstrates how an assumption can be reanalyzed and seen in a new light. Looking at each of the pieces step-by-step not only showed the inaccuracies of the preconceptions, but also showed a pattern that developed throughout the films. This pattern led to new conclusions which were supported by evidence.
Of course, it’s always possible you’ll have a different conclusion than mine. If so, I hope you cite your sources.