Even though The Force Awakens usurped the expectations of a Star Wars movie as set by the prequel films, it failed in one particular aspect: Captain Phasma. Pretty much every new high profile character was a hit, except for her. Phasma looked great, but failed to do anything noteworthy. People have been comparing her to Boba Fett recently and while the comparison is fairly relevant, the two are not equal.
There was a bit of “to do” surrounding this chromed up Stormtrooper with a cape. If a Stormtrooper has a cooler than normal costume, then they must be ultra cool. Secondly, she was played by Gwendoline Christie, who A. Is a woman. B. Plays a bad ass on on Game of Thrones. There was a bit of a hope that a super cool bad guy could be played by a woman and not be sexualized, which is extremely rare in Hollywood. Plus, why hire an actress who is known for being a tough as nails character on a popular genre show if you’re not going to do something neat with her?
However, it is extremely unfortunate that this was not the case. Phasma does look cool, but she doesn’t do anything that could be considered cool to back up the look. She is effectively a bureaucrat. She yells at Finn and knows how to push some buttons. Then she’s “killed”, though I have the feeling that expanded universe writers will get her out of that one.
The comparison to Boba Fett is correct in one aspect: Fett’s coolness and the obsession with him by the fanbase is mostly based on his looks. His character design is freaking fantastic. And he was mysterious, saying very little. Phasma character design is just as cool in many respects. But the split between the two boils down to this: Fett is seen being competent. Phasma is only seen as necessary for a plot point.
While people love to bag on Boba Fett, in the little screen time he has in The Empire Strikes Back (about 3 minutes), he accomplishes a lot. The powerful Empire couldn’t find Han Solo and friends thanks to Han Solo being tricky. All the other really scary looking bounty hunters couldn’t find him, yet Boba Fett did. Was it just simply figuring out that Solo was somewhere in the area hanging out? Yeah, but nobody else figured that one out so victory goes to him.
Furthermore, Vader’s line of “no disintegrations” aimed directly at Boba Fett gave Fett a ton of street cred. Vader was (and is) the big bad in Empire and if the biggest bad ass is chastising you for doing a bad thing, then that shoots you way up in the rankings. Perhaps if Kylo Ren said something to Phasma like, “You’re super awesome, but tone it down a little.” It might give her some more street cred. Then again, Kylo Ren is no Vader.
Finally, Fett manages to get away with Solo in carbonite. While that may not have been all due to his actions, he was still the one to get away with one of the beloved heroes of the franchise. Vader failed getting Luke, but Fett got his man.
Contrast this with Captain Phasma who basically played the needed roll of a commander to chastise Finn and then later have the knowledge of how to turn off some important shields. They could have just had a Stormtrooper with a shoulder pauldron to do the job, but Phasma looks cooler so one must assume that when Finn turns the tables on her, it’s a pretty big deal.
They fail to show Phasma do anything extra ordinary, which is a shame. Fett didn’t do anything cool, fighting wise, until Return of the Jedi where he used a rocket pack and a wrist rope. Despite dying in a pretty stupid way, at least Fett got to temporarily stop Luke where nobody else was having any success fighting the guy (aside from a lucky blaster shot to his hand later).
I really wish that instead of the melee combat Stormtrooper facing Finn with the lightsaber it would have been Captain Phasma. It would have given her at least one moment to shine. And as the audience we’d be more invested in the fight as it would have been a much more meaningful showdown, instead it’s just some fellow Stormtrooper looking to take down a traitor. She could have displayed some fighting prowess and Finn could have bested her in combat, giving him some street cred as a capable warrior, and perhaps making it more understandable how he could even go toe to to with Kylo Ren for a little while. Instead, Phasma simply gets caught and joins Fett in an undignified “death”.
Another moment where she could have shined is if she double crossed the heroes when they made her turn off the shields. It would have added a nice complication and reinforced her loyalty to the First Order, though it would have thrown off the pacing of the film.
As a side note: It’s interesting that the heroes condemn a captured and helpless enemy to a horrible death. Forget if Han shot Greedo, the way he treats prisoners of war is appalling.
I’m a Star Wars expert and I’ve analyzed what could make her cool again. Here’s my findings, from most important to least:
- A return in the Force Awakens sequel where she kicks a lot of ass.
- An expanded edition of Force Awakens that features scenes of her actually doing stuff.
- Appearances on a Star Wars cartoon/TV series.
- A lot of comic book appearances where she is developed more.
You can see I left out a novel that focuses on her, because a book would definitely not be enough to redeem her coolness factor.
Time can only tell if a cult of fandom will be formed around Captain Phasma like there is for Boba Fett. Fandom is pretty forgiving, but it’s doubtful that she’ll endure much beyond action figures and occasional cosplay. It’s really a shame, since she has such a great look.