Imperial Stormtroopers

It is somewhat of a fad in the general sci-fi/fantasy fandom to call the Imperial Stormtroopers from Star Wars ineffective, cannon fodder, etc.  There is even a so-called “Stormtrooper effect” in which the foot soldiers of evil are unable to act effectively.  However, many common criticisms of Stormtroopers, listed below, are based on misconceptions.

“Stormtroopers lack visibility”

The basis for the claim that while wearing their helmets Stormtroopers have poor visibility is based on exactly one line of dialogue from the original film, where Luke complains that he “can’t see a thing in this helmet”.  There is absolutely no indication that this is in any way typical, and it is even noted just a few minutes later that Luke is short by Stormtrooper standards, implying that the helmet would not fit him very well.  Additionally, Han, who is taller than Luke, did not complain of visibility while wearing a helmet.

Putting that aside for a moment, consider what would be necessary for this theory to be correct.  Every significant person in the billions-strong Imperial military and bureaucracy would have have had to look the other way while the Empire was distributing helmets that were major problems for their troops.  There would be either no or very poor inspections, quality control, or feedback.

“Stormtroopers couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn”

The evidence for this claim is usually that Stormtroopers seem incapable of hitting the main characters, the most famous instance being the shootout as the heroes are about to reach the Millennium Falcon and escape the Death Star.  This objection completely ignores a major part of the story: the heroes were allowed to escape so that the Empire could track them to the base.  This is noted within five minutes of the infamous shootout.  In other instances where Stormtroopers are supposedly incapable of hitting targets, they are not trying to shoot to kill, but to capture or scare off (such as in Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back).

Additionally, just because Stormtroopers don’t have perfect aim when they are ordered to actually shoot their enemies does not make them bad soldiers.  Neither real soldiers nor Stormtroopers are always able to hit their targets.  It may seem easy to hit people when playing a video game, but needless to say, any system that allows someone to rack up dozens of kills in minutes is not a realistic portrayal of fighting.

“Stormtroopers were beaten by primitive Ewoks”

This is a gross simplification of the situations.  The Stormtroopers captured the rebel team which assaulted the base extremely quickly, and took them outside.  When the Ewoks made a surprise attack they attacked with effective weapons, large tree trunks and 20-pound rocks, not just bows and arrows.  Even then, the Stormtroopers routed them and pursued them into the forest, winning by any reasonable standard until partially driven off by Chewbacca in an AT-TE.  It’s also worth noting that the detachment at the secret back door was only a fraction of the legion on the moon.

“Stormtrooper armor doesn’t work”

The complaint here is that direct, full-on hits by blasters (powerful plasma weapons, for the uninitiated) are able to kill Sotrmtroopers.  There are two problems with this.  First, we see many Stormtroopers fall down after hits by blasters, sometimes with glowing holes in their armor, but we don’t know how many actually died.  I feel like I shouldn’t have to point this out, but just because someone falls down doesn’t mean they were killed.  Second, this complaint implicitly underestimates the firepower of blasters.  Mere proximity hits are able to kill unarmored individuals, and even Han Solo’s pistol is able to blast large chunks of concrete out of the walls of a starship’s docking bay.

Another variant of this complaint, related to the Ewok one, is that Stormtroopers were “killed” by rocks that the Ewoks threw.  Again, it’s unknown how many died, but the Ewoks were throwing rocks as big as their heads, which must have weighed quite a bit.  The Ewoks presumably have proportionally stronger upper body strength than humans, as do most primates in the real world.  To expect Stormtroopers not to fall over in this situation would be to expect their armor to invalidate Conservation of Momentum, which is not something that any armor can do.

Conclusion

There are plenty of things to complain about in Star Wars, especially the Expanded Universe of books, comics, and video games, but to say that Imperial Stormtroopers are ineffective is simply not accurate based on the films they appear in.

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