I could talk at length about a number of scenes in The Force Awakens, but one scene that really stood out to me in my first viewing of the film is when General Hux, played by Domhnall Gleeson, addresses an assembly of First Order soldiers and officers on Starkiller Base. With a massive First Order flag behind him and a sea of white armor and black uniforms spread out below him, General Hux delivers a charismatic speech lambasting the Republic and “loathsome” Resistance. I was immediately captivated by what Hux was preaching, drawn in by the raw hatred bleeding off of every perfectly annunciated word as he railed against a Republic “regime” that “acquiesces to disorder.” I could easily imagine the soldiers and officers in attendance feeling empowered by their commanding General, their resolve to make the galaxy “bow to the First Order” strengthened.
It hardly needs to be said but this scene gives off some pretty intense Nazi-esque vibes, the setting visually reminiscent of a Nazi Party rally with General Hux playing the role of Adolf Hitler. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Domhnall Gleeson prepared for this particular scene by watching videos of Adolf Hitler speaking, given how closely Hux imitates Hitler in demeanor and oration.
Hux isn’t just mimicking Hitler, though. Oh no, he is also mimicking another Chancellor we are all familiar with: Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. Recall the scene in Revenge of the Sith where Palpatine gives an impassioned and empowering speech to the Senate about the “Jedi rebellion” and the physical scars he received from the Jedi. He then follows this with a chilling declaration:
In order to ensure the security and continuing stability, the Republic will be re-organized into the First Galactic Empire!
While the context of General Hux’s speech is different than Palpatine’s, both none-the-less mirror each other in an important way: by calling for the end of the Republic. Using his authority as Supreme Chancellor, Palpatine proclaims the formation of the Empire, washing away the Republic even though he does not, at that point, disband the Senate. On the other hand, Hux vehemently and viciously exclaims more than once that the end of the Republic is nigh, which comes to fruition when Starkiller Base is used to destroy Hosnian Prime, the planet hosting the current session of the Republic Senate.
Two charismatic and authoritative figures declaring and then executing, in their own ways, the same outcome – the death of liberty and democracy.
But while Hux parallels Palpatine in declaring an end to the Republic, this shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that the two individuals are exactly the same, or that the organizations they represent are perfectly comparable. Frankly, even though the First Order was born from the remnants of its Imperial predecessor, they are not the same thing. Both share some obvious similarities, like the use of Stormtroopers, Star Destroyers, and TIE Fighters, but the two entities have much different motivations and goals. And this is precisely why this short scene is so critical to the film – Hux might be inspiring his soldiers with his harsh words, but he is also speaking to you and I, giving us direct insight into the First Order and how it stands apart from the Galactic Empire.
Honestly, what better way for the film to teach us about this mysterious organization, the new villains in the Star Wars universe, than by allowing us all to participate in a secret gathering on their secret base?
So, what did YOU think about this scene? About General Hux? About the First Order?