Principle of Evil Marksmanship

Stormtrooper by ch1pm0nk

The Principle of Evil Marksmanship (also known as the Stormtrooper Effect) states that enemy marksmen in action films are often very bad shots and almost never harm the main characters. They are generally only capable of hitting a target if the target is either of no value to the plot or if their death will advance said plot. The term first appeared in film critic Roger Ebert’s 1980 book ‘Little Movie Glossary.’

The theme is commonly seen in cowboy films, action films, martial arts films, and comics, and is often a source of mockery by critics, satirists, and fans. Ebert often uses the term in his reviews. Imperial Stormtroopers in the original Star Wars trilogy possessed overwhelming numbers and firepower.

At the beginning of ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,’ the Stormtroopers are portrayed as lethal when invading a rebel ship, overwhelming it and killing most resistance in what seems like mere moments. At one point Obi-Wan Kenobi even comments on their effectiveness to Luke Skywalker when the pair find the destroyed Jawa sandcrawler, saying ‘These blast-points… Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.’ Despite this, stormtroopers appear to be incapable of defeating the film’s protagonists.

Ebert also refers to the ‘One-at-a-time Attack Rule,’ ‘In any situation where the hero is alone, surrounded by dozens of bad guys, they will always obligingly attack one at a time.’ The real world reason for this is that if the hero is simultaneously swarmed on all sides by enemies, it becomes difficult for the film director to frame the fight scene while still having an unobstructed shot of the action. Though depicted as nearly-invincible warriors (especially when they are the heroes of the story), ninja are often conversely depicted as disposable cannon fodder to be dispatched by the hero character, especially one who is a ninja himself.

Thus, modern entertainment has shown ninja as either expendable ‘redshirts’ attacking in large numbers, or as nearly invulnerable solitary warriors (who are often unmasked in contrast). In effect of this common approach, a single/small group of protagonist ninja often easily defeat waves of incompetent enemy ninja on multiple occasions only to have far more trouble when facing a more competent lone ninja. This seemingly inconsistent portrayal is jokingly explained using the sarcastic ‘Inverse Ninja Law,’ (also called ‘Law of the Conservation of Ninjutsu’) which states that ninja are weaker when they are in larger groups.

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