The next day after Fiddler, my parents and I trudged out into the snowstorm and tromped around midtown, eventually landing at the doomed, storied (but not really lavish) Ziegfeld Theater, which was showing the new Star Wars movie.
Much has been said about the most profitable movie of all time, so I don’t feel the need to write a proper review. I do feel compelled to comment on the use of Nazi imagery.
In the original Star Wars, the Empire were clearly referenced to the Nazis. They wore Nazi-ish uniforms, they had a total military dictatorship, and their soldiers were even called “stormtroopers”. Now, twice as distant from World War II as the original (!), J.J. Abrams seems to have decided that the audience may have become less attuned to Nazi imagery … and doubled down, to make sure no one is confused.
The new Bad Guys (the First Order) are even more Nazi than Lucas’s Empire. Their uniforms are more obviously Nazi, and the stormtroopers are now helpfully arranged in exactly the formations from Triumph of the Will, only grander. There’s even an Evil commander who does a hysterical Hitler impression while giving a speech in front of a gigantic black, white, and red banner.
In retrospect, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings share a curious commonality: their Bad Guys are simply pure Evil. In action movies the Bad Guy is usually just misguided, sometimes greedy, often wronged and seeking vengeance. There is some intelligible psychology in play. In Star Wars (and maybe LotR), Evil is literally part of the fabric of the universe. It requires no explanation. (This is unlike, say, Star Trek, where there are uneasy detentes, border disputes and culture clashes, but rarely anyone whose only apparent goal is to cause harm.)
If the Bad Guys weren’t coded evil so powerfully — if their color schemes and tones of voice were pretty much like everyone else — I don’t think the movie would work. Viewers would find their attitude unrealistic, or at least unexplained. Instead, it’s very clear. Why are they so committed to being evil?
Because they’re Nazis. Space Nazis.