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In the scene directly leading up to the

firing of the Starkiller weapon for the first time

General Hux gave a rousing speech to his stormtrooper army

enter image description here

Why does he need to do this? Its an army of stormtroopers. They will do what he says, and don't need a pep rally to get into the mood.

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Everyone likes a pep talk. – Valorum Jan 18 at 22:46
They're kidnapped children raised in a harsh environment. It's a surprise they aren't all on the rebel side as-is. – Axelrod Jan 18 at 23:01
“They will do what he says” — well, FN-2187 didn’t. If you’re going to kill billions of people, you need your army to believe in what you’re doing. That doesn’t just happen. You gotta work at it bro! – Paul D. Waite Jan 18 at 23:08
Part of the reason they do what he says, and don't rebel, is they believe in what he's saying (look at Finn for what happens when one stops believing). Pep rallies and speeches are supposed to help keep people loyal - make them excited for the cause, feel like they're part of a group surrounded by other believers, reinforcing mutual triumph and mutual goals (and lots of "us against them" feelings). I don't think it's a question of need, and it won't stop some like Finn from getting out, but it can help with morale - and the bosses might just like the bragging and cheering, too. – Megha Jan 18 at 23:23
they did it solely because TFO has to look like historical Nazis, just in case you weren't sure they're evil space nazis – Petersaber Jan 19 at 10:12
up vote 39 down vote accepted

This is addressed in the film's official novelisation. It was supposed to be a memorable occasion that the operation's hierarchy (as well as the Stormtroopers) can talk about at the watercooler later.

Also, Hux seems to rather enjoy the whole thing and, let's face it, he's the boss and can schedule whatever he damn well pleases:

The mass rally was impressive. Those who were present would never forget it. Which is the point of such things.

A thousand or so stormtroopers and their officers fronted assembled TIE fighters and lesser machines of war. Around them rose the central edifices of Starkiller Base. Towering still higher above the buildings were the snowy crags of the surrounding mountain range that simultaneously shut off and shielded the central portion of the base from the world around it.

Glorying in the moment, General Hux stood at the head of the assembly flanked by his senior officers, all aligned atop a raised platform backed by an enormous crimson-and-black banner stamped with the insignia of the First Order. Enhanced by artfully concealed amplification, his voice boomed across the troops assembled on the parade ground.

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As in many speeches given by a "leader," I suspect the speech is less about the recipients than about the speaker. Hux is being portrayed as megalomaniacal, and as others have noted, there is an attempted parallel to Hitler - similar to those that existed tying the empire to the third Reich. – David Manheim Jan 19 at 6:03
@DavidManheim Yes, but Richard is attempting to explain the in-universe reasoning. Out-of-universe parallels being drawn are not relevant to his answer, though you are of course correct that this is probably the main motivating factor in having such a scene in the movie. Richard: Don't you just hate those pointless meetings that nobody needs, that the boss schedules just so he can listen to the sound of his own voice? – Wolfie Inu Jan 19 at 6:56
lesser machines of war what's lesser than a TIE fighter? – Azor-Ahai Jan 19 at 7:07
@WolfieInu - That sounds like every staff meeting ever held. – Valorum Jan 19 at 7:08
@DavidManheim - From a purely in-universe perspective, there's no indication that Hitler has even been born yet. Given that we know that Star Wars happened a long (long) time ago, it's more plausible that Hitler is copying Hux, not the other way around... – Valorum Jan 19 at 17:41

Out of Universe: because they were explicitly making the First Order parallel the Third Reich. Down to the name it seems, now that I typed them side by side.

The "propaganda" aspects of First Order appears to have been severely influenced by infamous "Triumph of the Will" by Leni Riefenstahl; let's compare the rally speech; or rally screenshots:

enter image description here

enter image description here

For extra dose of weird, Slate dug out eery similarities between A New Hope medal award Rebel ceremony and Triumph of the Will again: nazi video imagery totally paralleling Rebel.

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A friend of mine made a good point, Hux's mannerisms during his speech are reminiscent of Sutler in the V for Vendetta film, which I believe was also based on Nazi imagery. – user45623 Jan 19 at 21:52
Already in the original Star Wars movie "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope", you could see that the uniforms are inspired by the Third Reich WW II uniforms. – Johan Karlsson Jan 20 at 10:18
@DVK-in-exile I didn't know Dagobah had internet... – user13267 Jan 20 at 12:00

In the prequels and possibly part of the original trilogy, the stormtroopers were clones with loyalty and training implanted at creation. They were then substituted by volunteers and finally, with the advent of the First Order, by children kidnapped and forced to enrol.

So, unlike the clone troopers, the FO's troops are still susceptible to emotions and fear, hence needing encouragement (read: brainwashing) like real-life troops.

I also remember reading in the response to another question that some clones rebelled to the implanted orders so maybe a pep talk would have benefited even them.

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Actually, by the time of the original trilogy (4, 5, and 6) The stormtroopers were mostly normal human soldiers not clones. – pbuchheit Jan 19 at 13:40
@pbuchheit when/why did they stop cloning? – algiogia Jan 19 at 16:08
In the current (non-legends) cannon they stopped using clone troopers sometime prior to the battle of Yavin. From what I can gather the process used to create them had the side effect of accelerated aging, eventually resulting in them becoming mentally unstable. Here is a link if you want to dig deeper: I Also seem to recall there being some information about the process and equipment needed for rapid cloning be lost or destroyed in the old (legends) cannon but I don't recall the specifics. – pbuchheit Jan 19 at 17:12

Stormtroopers can't be guaranteed to just follow orders blindly unless they are clones. That's why they have reconditioning available...

There is a second case of stormtrooper blatant disobedience shown in the movie itself.

Kylo Ren repeatedly cries out "Guards! GUARDS!" - but no guards come. We see two guards turn around and walk away rather than obey his order to attend him.

Now, neither one seems particularly afraid that the other will turn them in as a traitor, which suggests that this behavior is not just common enough to have at least one reconditioning centre, but is in fact endemic.

The guards communicated their desire to walk away with no more than a glance, so clearly the two guards are very close - far closer than interchangeable clones ever were permitted, by design. This closeness was also shared between Finn and the dead "Slip" (FN-2003) who left his handprint on Finn's helmet, and likely also to "Nines" (FN-2199, aka TR-8R), explaining Nines' furious cry of "traitor" and undisciplined impromptu duel with the riot baton.

These aren't unthinking warriors: they're people with emotions. An entire planet of people with emotions, silenced.

At least they got a good speech as a send-off.

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