Hux is actually very capable. The films paint him as the mastermind behind both the Starkiller and the hyperspace tracking. Butt of jokes or not, the character is a legit threat, and could make a play to win the First Order for himself.
As to the stakes going into IX, I guess it’s personal preference, but I appreciate that you can stop watching after TLJ and feel satisfied. Probably one of the only things I dislike about ESB is that it doesn’t work as a standalone. It tries to make it up with a happy-ish ending, but it still feels lacking for me. With TLJ, at the end, the Resistance is at its lowest point yet. Their fleet has been wiped out, all they have is the Falcon and a group of maybe 40 people tops. That’d be a pretty rough ending for a movie, so I really like that the film lays down the track so you can see how they have “everything they need” to come out on top.
In my mind, it’s up to IX to set the stakes for itself. I find it to be the same relationship TFA had with TLJ. At the end of TFA, the FO has had a big blow, and Rey has located their savior, Skywalker. Which made it up to TLJ to establish its own stakes. Obviously opinions differ on execution, but I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with the approach itself. Again, personal preference I guess, but I personally would hate it if a Star Wars film ended like Infinity War, for instance.
There was a mutual respect between Tarkin and Vader in An New Hope, which supported the idea, that both these villains are threatening, and competent in their own way, Vader with brute force, and Tarkin with his intellect.
Another way in which people complain that the ST isn’t similar enough I guess. Kylo and Hux hate each other. I find that a much more interesting dynamic than Tarkin/Vader and am very curious to see where that goes now that their leader is gone and it’s just them.
Even in TESB, they never made Admiral Piett seem like a joke for example. While Vader killed several of his underlings, this mostly served to make Vader seem powerful and feared, but never in such a way that the imperial officers seem like incompetent fools.
Vader literally says that one of his officers is “as clumsy as he is stupid.” Piett might not be the joke that Hux is, but he definitely makes me laugh in ESB with his various pants-shitting faces.
This approach made Admiral Piett an effective bad guy in ROTJ, where he actually seemed far more comfortable in his position than in TESB.
An effective bad guy in ROTJ? Really? He’s barely even in that movie. He literally does nothing. I didn’t even realize it was the same guy from ESB when I was a kid. Very little impression from him. The more prominent officer in ROTJ is Jerjerrod, and how could anyone take that guy as a serious threat? He takes Piett’s occasional pants-shitting faces and makes them his whole personality.