As I headed into my first viewing of The Force Awakens, I was under the impression that Captain Phasma would be one of the primary villains in the film, on par with Kylo Ren and General Hux. Well, she is certainly villainous, strutting around with a Vader-esque swag in one of the coolest looking outfits created for a character in the Star Wars universe. Plus, on those occasions where we hear her speak, she is incredibly intimidating, her voice projecting calm, collected authority.
And yet, Phasma barely shows up in the film. Given how much the chrome armored Phasma, played by Gwendoline Christie, appeared in promotions for the The Force Awakens I was pretty shocked by how little she factored into the movie. But this doesn’t mean I’m specifically disappointed with Phasma as a character. Really, I thought she was fascinating, someone who even in her brief appearances really captivated me and left me wanting more. Ultimately, my disappointment stems from the fact that Phasma was entirely underused, not once seen leading soldiers into battle or firing her blaster. And while she does give a few orders in the film, they are insignificant in relation to the overall plot of the movie. In fact, her biggest role comes in her last appearance where she is captured by Finn, Han, and Chewbacca and they force her to lower the shields that surround Starkiller Base. But here, in her final act, I felt she was entirely misused, neutered of any authority as she is man-handled by the three at gun point. As THE leader of the stormtroopers in the First Order, it made no sense at all that Phasma would be so willing to let these three individuals order her around. Wouldn’t she rather die than betray the First Order? Apparently not…
Going forward into Episode VIII, I can’t imagine a scenario in which Captain Phasma doesn’t play a larger role. It would be silly for writer/director Rian Johnson not to utilize Phasma in a more direct way, particularly now that Starkiller Base is gone and, presumably, First Order and Resistance forces will be fighting a dirty and gritty war. Besides, with many fans expressing disappointment over how little she appears in The Force Awakens, it would make practical sense just to give us more of her.
But while I am hoping we get more Phasma in Episode VIII (and even IX), I had another thought: Captain Phasma would be a GREAT character for a stand-alone Star Wars film.
Now, I am under no illusion this will actually happen but I’m still gonna dream about it because I believe Phasma is precisely the type of Star Wars character we all tend to love – a mysterious and intimidating figure shrouded in unique armor. Along these lines, I would actually liken her in a lot of ways to Boba Fett and even wonder if Phasma was created with everyone’s favorite bounty hunter in mind (she even drapes her cape over the same shoulder that Boba Fett drapes his). Plus, like Boba Fett, Captain Phasma need not say/do much of anything for us to know she is someone you do not cross. Honestly, while I do think she was underutilized in the movie, I give J.J. Abrams a lot of credit for creating a character who, with very little screen time, radiates an incredible amount of badass.
But whereas we were given a young Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones, along with Jango Fett (who Boba looks like as an adult since he is a clone of Jango), I would go so far as to suggest that in a Phasma film, the chrome helmet needn’t come off. In fact, the only exception to this would be if the helmet were to be knocked off in the heat of battle. Otherwise, we already know what Gwendoline Christie looks like, and we can simply us our imagination to conjur up images of her intimidating expression. If there were a scene with a young Phasma, I would even suggest that the child keep her training helmet on. In short, a Phasma film, set prior to the events of The Force Awakens, would be an excellent way to establish the duty and devotion she has to the First Order, duty and devotion so entrenched she is always wearing her gear.
Does this mean she wears her gear to bed or when showers? Of course not, that would be silly. But we wouldn’t need, nor should we want, to see Phasma in the confines of her quarters. Seeing Phasma in her downtime would take away from the badassery that surrounds her. Besides, I can’t imagine Phasma being the type of figure who decides to take a nice, hot bubble bath after a long day of work. No, what I want to see is a character so duty-bound, so devoted, so loyal to the First Order that nothing else matters. For Captain Phasma, there is ONLY the First Order.
Leave a comment and let me know what you thought about Captain Phasma’s role in The Force Awakens.
I love this post! It’s funny: I’d also been toying with the idea that Phasma might be my daughter’s generation’s Boba Fett.
They’re both mysterious, menacing characters who wear kickass masks and armor. In both cases, the roles they play in the movies is disproportionate to the excitement they generated in their audiences’ collective imaginations. There’s an interesting tension too, I think, between the audience’s interest in them as menacing figures and the comedic roles they ended up playing. Third grade Joshua walked out of Empire Strikes Back thinking that Boba Fett was the most badass thing he’d ever witnessed. Sixth grade Joshua cried a little (on the inside) after seeing Return of the Jedi, where Boba Fett ended up starring in a slapstick comedy routine that concluded with him falling into the sarlaac. Forty-something Joshua couldn’t wait to see Brienne of Tarth play a heartless, battle hardened storm trooper, only to cry a little (on the inside) when she became the butt of a joke about trash compactors.
But that observation about the cape….
Damn, Jeff. That’s brilliant. I completely missed it.
Here’s a thought though about Phasma I’m still puzzling over–a difference between her and Boba Fett that worries me.
So, I’ve been considering writing something about the whole “Where’s Rey?” controversy–the fact that Rey is missing so conspicuously from so much of the Star Wars merchandise, the apparent sexism of the toys that have accompanied The Force Awakens.
Similarly, there was so much Phasma merchandise in the lead up to the movie. Like you said, I went into the movie expecting her to play a more significant role because of it. But since the movie was released there have been several articles about how she too is being omitted from more recent toys. For example, Target has been selling a Force Awakens playset that includes action figures for Kyle Ren, Finn, Chewbacca, and a couple of anonymous First Order soldiers, but Rey and Phasma are missing. The sexism involved in excluding Rey from so much Star Wars merchandise is more overt, but there seems to be at least whiffs of it in Phasma’s (apparent) omission since the movie’s release. It’s as if Phasma looked badass enough to sell the movie, but, once it became clear to general audiences that she was actually a woman, it became okay to exclude her from merchandise since, you know, only boys play with boy toys, and they only play with boy toys that feature boy characters.
For me, this gender difference between Boba Fett and Phasma is skewing what I hope to see from her in the next movie. I’ve read a few articles which quote people involved in the next film promising she will have a more significant role. The tone of the interviews make it sound like they’re in damage control mode: “Don’t worry! We promise, Phasma is totally badass in the next movie. What’s that? No. We can’t reveal any details. But, uh, she finds a way to escape that exploding planet and well… uh… it… uh… changes her? Yeah, that’s right. It makes her totally evil. Whoo boy… She’s scary in this next movie. I’m getting scared right now just thinking about her. She is that scary. In fact, you might not want to take your kids to this next movie. She is THAT evil in it….”
I hope Phasma does get a bigger role in the next film, but, for me, I’m desperately hoping that she will take off the mask. I feel like her exclusion from the toys based on the movie has sort of forced an issue–that because so much of the merchandise based on the movie pummels home the message that women can’t be aggressive, confident, self-sufficient, menacing, etc. that Phasma now needs to be all of these things AND audiences need to see it’s really a woman under that mask.
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Joshua, I think you are absolutely right: in the next film, she needs to take off her helmet. In many respects, my idea behind her keeping the helmet on is really for anything prior to The Force Awakens and where things are going. And, going forward, I don’t just hope but sort of expect the helmet to come off. The weird thing is, I actually sort of expected the helmet to come off in this movie, but given how little she showed up, I’m not really surprised it didn’t. Still, I am totally with you on this one, I want Phasma to be in a position of not just authority, but freaking power. I want her to take off the damn helmet and (quite literally) talk down to Hux. We already know Hux is an f-ing lunatic (I am writing a post about that speech he gives), so it would be pretty hardcore for her to rip the helmet off, walk up to him, and just put him in his freaking place. Besides, she and Hux (and Ren) are technically equals in the First Order. The thing is, she has the stormtrooper corps behind her (maybe I was wrong, maybe a Phasma film should be about her instituting a coup within the First Order, overthrowing Snoke with her soldiers).
Anywho, I think you are right about them being in damage control. They seem to know they screwed the pooch and are just saying whatever they can to make up for it at this point. The thing is, I BET they end up overdoing her toys in the lead up to Episode VIII again. She has so much potential to be a cult favorite like the Fett that they (the powers at Disney behind marketing) will milk every penny out of her. Still, at the moment, I am pretty peeved that she isn’t showing up on shelves (unless older merch from the first wave is still on the shelves).
Oh, and speaking of the helmet/toy issue…in the Lego set that her minifigure comes in (the First Order Transport), if you take her helmet off, she is just a blank, black face. Nothing to see here, move along. I have bitched for a while about how there are so few female minifigures in Star Wars sets (I am working on a post about it…and am going to do a petition), and while she IS a female figure, why the hell, if I take her helmet off, can’t she have a freaking face like the stormtroopers!?!?! Hell man, even the Boba Fett minifigure has a face. A friend of mine wanted to get the First Order Transport BECAUSE of Phasma, but when she found out the minifig was faceless, she said no. Maybe we will be graced with Gwendoline Christie’s Lego-likeness in the next set she shows up in…
As for Rey, I purposefully bought the set she came in when the Lego sets for The Force Awakens came out because 1) I already knew she was gonna be the centerpiece of the film and 2) I needed more female minifigs. And I was quite pleased with the purchase, it is a cool set (Rey’s Speeder) and was a fun build. Still, the fact that Rey has been excluded from so many toy sets is absurd, but again, not surprising. I just saw that she was left out of the most recent installment of Star Wars Monolopy, and Hasbro had a really poor reason for why (the whole “we didn’t want to give away who she was and ruin the movie” argument). Seriously, you should write that piece about “Where’s Rey” and if you need a place to post it, I know just the place (haha though I am sure you have some much better options available to ya).
I like where you’re going with the idea of a standalone film that would feature Phasma. Even if it didn’t focus on her young life and indoctrination, she would be a formidable onscreen presence acting as a drill sergeant (I’m thinking of R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket). Given the lip-service paid to Hux’s “perfect” conditioning methods, it only makes sense that we will see how the First Order turned their young hostages into Storm Troopers.
There are also some interesting theories about how she might have been complicit in the plot to overthrow the First Order, (and therefore likely found an escape pod rather than a terminal trip to a trash compactor) which is why she did not resist Finn’s command to lower the shields. Alternately, perhaps she made it off Starkiller base on the Falcon, and will play a larger part in the next installment as a Resistance fighter?
Derek, thanks for the comment! I have also come across some of those theories that Phasma may actually be working for the Resistance, but honestly, I just don’t really buy it. I understand why it is being thrown around, but I just get the impression that she is solidly First Order to the core, which is part of the reason I want her to be a larger presence in the actions of the FO in the next film. Still, at this point, anything is possible and it suuuuuucks that we have to wait so long to find out what comes next (though the wait will be worth it).
Oh my! So interesting reading this older article, 2 years on, and a few days after finishing the Phasma book. Looking back (where did 2 years go to by the way – that makes me sad), it was the pre-film hype that did Phasma a disservice. Okay…that and the fact she was disposed of through the garbage chute. But the hype prevented us from seeing her the way I think she was intended, she was stripped of the Boba Fett mystique as a result. She’s getting the rehabilitation she needs as a character in advance of a hopefully awesome comeback in Episide IX. Great article!
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I think you are right about the hype not doing her any favors. Her mystique was really meant to be Fett-like. In fact, I wish they had kept it hidden who played her (we could have figured it out with the voice but still). Still, I hoooooope we don’t end up seeing her face like I said. I think that’ll preserve some of the mysterium tremendum that surrounds her.
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If you read the book it’ll give you an idea of whether we’ll see her face I think. Who knows though.
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I’ll get to the book eventually (and the comic). My SW reading is at a standstill right now.
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