Stormtroopers get a bad rap – the army of the Dark Lord of the Sith in the original Star Wars films is probably best known for its lack of aim, even at close range. Stormtroopers were tricked, manipulated, out-maneuvered, shot at, and defeated repeatedly by the heroes of the franchise.
As the ground troops for the Empire, they were faceless and nameless foes for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to fight, but they never seemed like real threats or real people. More recently stormtroopers have moved from the background as minor “bad guys” to tales of survival and redemption in Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Rebels, and the upcoming The Force Awakens. These new stories have proven that stormtroopers have proven that they are full of surprises.
Here are 10 Things You Need to Know About Stormtroopers:
They Aren’t Clones
Contrary to what many fans believed after the prequel trilogy, stormtroopers are not clone troopers. The clone soldiers that were created on Kamino aged more quickly than other humans and died prematurely, and so, the clone troopers had been replaced by Imperial stormtroopers, who were recruited and trained at Imperial Academies.
The clone troopers were in Revenge of the Sith and executed their primary mission, Order 66, but not long after, they began to be replaced. The television show Star Wars: Rebels confirms that the clone troopers were phased out before A New Hope. Many stormtroopers receive training for their role from the time that they were children.
They are Precise Shots (According to Obi-Wan, at least)
Stormtroopers are infamously bad shots in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Seemingly shooting at the films’ heroes from point-blank range, the stormtroopers rarely seem to hit anything.
Of course, this may be a flaw in the execution of the films, but stormtroopers are effective and deadly at certain times in the Star Wars universe. They successfully kill Luke’s Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen, as well as killing a group of Jawas and framing the Sand People. Obi-Wan explains to Luke that it couldn’t have been Sand People who attacked because “only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise.” It may be that their aim varies depending on who they aiming at.
They Take Inspiration from the German Soldiers… and iPhones?
The name “stormtrooper” comes from the German “Stoßtruppe“, which was the name given to shock troopers in World War I and World War II. The stormtroopers were the men on the front lines, trying to infiltrate enemy trenches. They had high casualties, because they were at the center of the action, putting their lives in harm’s way.
In the Star Wars universe, stormtroopers draw inspiration from German soldiers of both World Wars. Additionally, they draw from a variety of sources for some of their major aesthetic components. Their iconic helmet – which gained them the less-than-flattering nickname of “bucketheads” – is reminiscent of a human skull, which gives them an intimidating appearance.
When discussing the stormtrooper redesign for The Force Awakens, Lawrence Kasdan said that they took inspiration from the idea, “What would Apple do?” The new stormtrooper design is supposed to be sleek, modern, and streamlined.
Yes, They Can Be Black
Some purported fans were shocked to discover that John Boyega would portray Finn, or stormtrooper FN-2187. This sparked the controversial hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII, perpetuated by trolls who claimed that the new Star Wars film committed “white genocide” by allowing a main character to be black.
The illogical twitter campaign gained media attention, even though Boyega is not the first black Star Wars character, nor is the idea of a black stormtrooper in any way shocking or scandalous. Since stormtroopers are comprised of volunteers and conscripted soldiers, it would make sense that they would come from a variety of backgrounds.
Boyega’s response to the uproar was simple and to-the-point, replying on Instagram by saying, “Get used to it. :)” Additionally, he has spoken about it in interviews, confirming that racist critics cannot scare him away.
They Can Also Be Women
Female stormtroopers do exist, though they are less common than their male counterparts. In Star Wars: Rebels, women are trained as stormtroopers and there is even an all-female training squad at the Academy for Young Imperials, known as Unit Forn. J. J. Abrams has revealed that female actors were used to portray some of the stormtroopers in the upcoming The Force Awakens, in addition to Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma.
Presumably, there were also some female stormtroopers in the original trilogy. Female stormtroopers wear the same armor as their male counterparts, so it was difficult to distinguish soldiers based on gender. Perhaps Leia’s comment to Luke when he is disguised as a stormtrooper in A New Hope – “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” – was unwarranted.
They Inspired the Real 501st Legion
The 501st Legion, or Vader’s Fist, is a costume-based fan organization and network, created by Albin Johnson (or TK-210). Initially, the 501st Legion was for enthusiasts to dress as stormtroopers, but it has since branched out to include any professional-grade “bad guy” costumes from Star Wars (although many members still dress as stormtroopers).
The group uses its Star Wars costumes to promote volunteer and charity activities. The costumes are created and constructed by individual members, who endeavor for authentic reproductions of original Star Wars costumes. A great deal of research and creativity go into each individual costume. In 2008, the 501st Legion were listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Largest Star Wars Costuming Group.
The group has become so well-known and popular that it became a part of the Star Wars expanded universe. Timothy Zahn included a reference to the Legion in his 2004 novel, Survivor’s Quest, and there have been additional references to the group in other official Lucasfilm branding. Since the creation of the new canon, however, it is unclear if the 501st Legion will continue to be part of the Star Wars canon.
There are Many Specialized Stormtroopers
There are a number of stormtroopers that have been adapted for specialized tasks, whether it is based on climate or ability. For instance, on Tatooine and other desert planets or regions, sandtroopers are used, denoted by their orange shoulders on their uniforms. Their armor is specialized for the climate, and they are trained to ride and utilize dewbacks for patrol. Similarly, snowtroopers are deployed in cold climates, such as the ice planet Hoth. Spacetroopers, magmatroopers, and seatroopers also specialize for military action and combat in different circumstances and climates.
Other stormtroopers receive specialized training to use specific equipment, such as cloaking devices, flamethrowers, grenades, or blaster cannons. Scout troopers utilize speeder bikes and sniper rifles, making them a lighter and more agile opponent.
Even Basic Stormtroopers Receive Extensive Training
The training for stormtroopers shown in an episode of Star Wars: Rebels included extensive mechanized obstacle courses which were programmed with a variety of difficult and dangerous tasks. Stormtrooper cadets are trained to use a variety of blasters and weapons, along with learning how to drive mechanized units, including AT-AT and AT-ST walkers. The training also sought to make troops fiercely loyal to the Empire, even to the point of death.
Additionally, in the most recent The Force Awakens footage that premiered on November 12th, a First Order stormtrooper is shown wielding some sort of electrified weapon that is capable of blocking Finn’s lightsaber.
500 Stormtroopers Invaded the Great Wall of China
In order to promote The Force Awakens in China, Lucasfilm set up 500 stormtrooper models in an array on the Great Wall. Fans took selfies in front of the stormtroopers, posing with lightsabers and costumes along with the battalion of foot soldiers. This publicity stunt may seem immense and expensive, but China is one of the fastest growing movie markets, and it has been estimated that China’s ticket sales will surpass ticket sales in the United States as early as 2017.
Stormtroopers Are Increasingly Being Given Faces and Stories
In the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront video game, players will be able to play as a stormtrooper without a helmet, giving them options for character customization. This is in-keeping with other Star Wars stories and merchandise. While the first LEGO stormtroopers had a blank, faceless head underneath their helmet, in the most recent LEGO sets, there are multiple faces that stormtroopers have been given. Additionally, the stories of stormtroopers are being told in television (Star Wars: Rebels) and in film (The Force Awakens).
This trend has not made all fans happy. Some fans of the Battlefront video game were upset by the fact that the stormtroopers were being given identities – by doing so, they argued, the stormtroopers are made less intimidating.
Are stormtroopers worth the attention that they are getting, or are they just a bunch of bucketheads? Let us know in the comments!