If you’re breathless with anticipation over the impending release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, maybe you should think about investing in a TIE fighter pilot helmet with twin breathing hoses attached to the front. It’s a necessary piece of equipment for flying through space as well as enduring the next 24 hours of hype, and I learned about it after watching a delightfully informative new video from Lucasfilm explaining the design and equipment of every Stormtrooper in Star Wars history.
The 22-minute video, produced for Wired magazine, features Lucasfilm VP/Executive Creative Director Doug Chiang and Lucasfilm’s Collections & Exhibitions Archivist Madlyn Burkert, who explain (in exhaustive detail) absolutely everything about each trooper that appears onscreen in every live-action Star Wars movie. Not only do Chiang and Burkert describe the in-universe stories behind each trooper, but they also offer some fun insights behind the costume design of the various troopers. Things occasionally take a plunge into difficult-to-care-about minutia, particularly as the duo breaks down every different Clone Trooper you glimpse for all of 5 nanoseconds in Revenge of the Sith. But for the most part, the video is a fun and interesting watch for Star Wars fans.
Some of the more fun insights include the design of the classic Imperial Stormtrooper, the cannon fodder grunts from the original trilogy. Their iconic black and white armor was meant to look like a frightening quasi-mechanical skeleton. Actors playing the troopers had to be 5’10” to 6’ in order to fit into the armor. The Sandtroopers who pursue C-3PO and R2D2 took the same design but modified it to look more suited for crawling around a desert planet, complete with backpacks cobbled together from random items found at a local hardware store. Their iconic pauldrons were made from motorcycle armor.
Chiang and Burkert explain that the Snowtroopers from The Empire Strikes Back were outfitted with thick padding and facial shrouds to protect against extreme weather environments (although why they would wear shrouds instead of just regular Stormtrooper helmets that cover the entire head is not explained). Also, they suggest that they Emperor’s mysterious royal guards could actually be droids underneath those masks. Their blazing red armor was chosen because George Lucas is a big fan of hot rods.
The basic Clone Trooper design, as most fans figured out immediately, were designed to look like a blend between Boba Fett and a Stormtrooper as a clue that the clones would eventually become Stormtroopers. Not a single physical Clone Trooper costume was made for the prequels, though – every last one of those guys was created with CGI. And Obi-Wan’s BFF Commander Cody? He was named after Commando Cody, an adventure serial hero Lucas loved as a kid, which is fitting considering the entirety of Star Wars (and Indiana Jones) was also inspired by old serials.
The video even digs into the two spinoff films. Chiang and Burkert point out that the Mud Troopers in Solo were based on trench soldiers from World War I, complete with trenchcoats and gas masks. Meanwhile, the Death Troopers in Rogue One were designed to be the Seal Team Six of the Empire and look tall and spider-like.
The video is truly exhaustive and is well worth a watch for anyone with even a middling interest in a galaxy far, far away. They do discuss some of the new troopers in The Rise of Skywalker, which some folks might consider to be spoiler-ish so proceed with caution. You can check out the video below, and click here to read Collider’s review of The Rise of Skywalker.