Lucasfilm Explores the History of Stormtroopers in a New 22-Minute Video
Throughout the last 42 years, Star Wars fans have seen several types of stormtroopers in action. And with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s release finally upon us, this is a perfect time to dive into their storied history. That’s why WIRED recently recruited Lucasfilm’s VP and executive creative director, Doug Chiang as well as collections and exhibitions archivist Madlyn Burkhert for their latest video. Over the course of 22 minutes, Chiang and Burkert go through every single stormtrooper class and explain their respective designs and functions.
Chiang and Burkert’s stormtrooper retrospective starts where it all began: with the original Star Wars in 1977. This film marked the first appearance of the classic Imperial Stormtrooper, a personal favorite of Chiang’s. In fact, the look remains so iconic that it was only slightly updated for the sequel trilogy.
“The idea for that was that George [Lucas] wanted to create these sort of iconic imagery that looked like living skeletons,” said Chiang. “And that’s why you have the stark black and white. And so when you see the armor coming out of a black room, you just see the armor, and it’s a very terrifying moment for you.”
They continue to explain that although certain trooper classes may look identical, fans can tell them apart by subtle differences. For example, the Imperial Sandtroopers can be identified by their shoulder pauldrons as well as the hefty backpacks they wear. According to Burkert, these backpacks were “created out of found objects from just a local hardware store.”
Of course, not all stormtroopers get to see action in the field. Some of them, like the Imperial Royal Guards, have more important jobs, like protecting Emperor Palpatine. As Chiang noted, the unique design of their masks gives them an extra layer of mystery. But apparently, the inspiration for the guards came from a rather unusual place.
“The bright red is meant to provide a stark contrast to the set design, but it’s also kind of an homage,” said Burkert. “George Lucas was very much a fan of classic hot rod cars. So this cherry red is definitely a color that was influenced by his love of those cars.”
A major franchise turning point came in 2002 when Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones hit theaters. In this movie, fans got to witness the stormtroopers’ origin. But instead of actors wearing armored suits, the Republic Clone Troopers were all CG characters. And in the time between that film and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, we saw seemingly endless variations on the same striking concept.
“That was a really fascinating design exploration because George wanted to connect Boba Fett with the classic Stormtroopers,” revealed Chiang. “And he was leading up to the fact that stormtroopers were going to be clones.”
You can check out the full sit-down with Chiang and Burkert below. Were there any stormtroopers that they missed? Which stormtrooper design is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section!
Recommended Reading – Ultimate Star Wars, New Edition: The Definitive Guide to the Star Wars Universe