As I sit here 15 pounds overweight in my cozy basement office space, typing into my MacBook Pro, I remain an enthusiast of military tactics. It’s not so much that 1986 calls to ask for my hot takes back so much as they fax to ask for them back.
Yet I soldier on, armed only with a lay persons’ perspective. Because if my Limited Edition Coca Cola Star Wars Thermal Detonator replica isn’t evidence enough that I have smart thinky thoughts about military tactics, then I don’t even know what passes for real credentials nowadays.
So, let’s talk military tactics in Star Wars.
The Star Wars galaxy is filled with blasters, bowcasters, thermal detonators, and lightsabers. The movies illustrate tactics in engaging ways. Rogue One, for example, wonderfully illustrates the importance of explosions.
While Return of the Jedi showed us a timed explosion is a handy negotiation tool when threatening, Rogue One reminds us that sometimes the boom is the whole point.
As Stormtroopers poured out of blast doors, blaster fire sizzling past Rebels tasked with creating a diversion. To chuck a thermal detonator into the troopers just before you charge is good thinking. It might not even kill anyone directly, but that’s not the goal. The detonator makes the Stormtroopers scatter and break formation for a moment, which buys the Rebels a precious second or two as they sow further confusion.
But, first, let’s spare a thought for Aurra Sing. If you don’t remember Aurra Sing, it’s understandable. Her only appearance in the films was a cameo in The Phantom Menace and–if you’re like me–you might not revisit the prequels often.
But Aurra Sing’s appearance was notable because it was among the few instances where a sniper rifle was featured in Star Wars. There is a variety of reasons why sniper rifles aren’t featured more, the primary being that they make poor entertainment. You want your characters up close and personal with one another.
But there are some tactical reasons as well. First Person Shooter (FPS) video games have ingratiated sniper rifles to us. Video games are all about headshots, scopes, and shooting while prone. Like Aurra Sing on Tatooine, video game players can often lie flat and disappear into the landscape.
Let’s hope we get to see more sniping during The Mandalorian‘s run on Disney+. But let’s hope we don’t see too much of it. Because wild gun fights are fun to watch.
The Mandalorian brings the type of shoot-from-the-hip gunfights we’ve come to love in Star Wars. Gunfights in Star Wars are not long-range affairs. Most combat happens face-to-face, with wild shots spraying out, seemingly hitting everything except their intended target.
Despite Obi-Wan’s assertion, Stormtroopers have notoriously dubious marksmanship skills. But the heroes aren’t much better. When Luke, Han, and Chewie raid the Death Star detention cells, their strategy is to fire off shots until everything’s dead. So much for precision fire like you’d expect from a sniper rifle.
Star Wars is a pretty brutal setting actually. It takes a toll on heroes even: Luke loses a hand and Leia an entire homeworld. But it’s the up close, rough-and-tumble combat that reinforces this, even if we don’t shed a tear for the scores of Stormtroopers that lie scattered about.
Sure, saying that Star Wars combat is like Old West hip-shooting isn’t exactly deep analysis, but I’m writing this with crayons stuffed in my mouth and two pencils up my nose. Sometimes the best analysis is simple.
So why are we wasting time discussing tactics if all we care about is if it’s filmed to be dynamic? Oh, I very much do think The Mandalorian will exhibit military tactics, they’ll simply be improvisational ones.
From the trailer alone, we’ve seen point-blank blaster shots, quick switches to vibe-blades, and wrapping up a pursuing foe. Yes, we even saw the Mandalorian line up a long rifle shot.
Goodness, I can’t wait to get more of all of that. Sure, it might leave us wanting more if our expectation is to have serious discussions of real-world military tactics, but it promises to be darned entertaining. And that’s what I want.