The Failure of Captain Phasma

We have no intention of ruining your Star Wars – The Force Awakens viewing experience, so if you haven’t seen the film yet please DO NOT READ this post until you’ve seen the film . . .

Having seen it in both 3D and regular, we definitely recommend seeing it in 3D, preferably IMAX 3D.

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Okay, you’re still reading . . . so we’re going to assume that you’ve seen Star Wars – Episode VII already and continue like this is our conversation on the way back from the movie theater. Let me first add that after three viewings of the film I love it even more and more each time, HOWEVER, it is not a film without flaws, and the lost potential of Captain Phasma (played by Gwendoline Christie) is definitely one of the biggest.

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Gwendoline Christie as both Phasma and Brienne of Tarth from “Game of Thrones.”

Phasma was utterly underused in the plot and in doing so failed to live up the hype of how skilled and tough she is supposed to be. She definitely had an intimidating presence with her height and cold demeanor, but she doesn’t actually do anything exceptional, in fact her main scene has her undermining her “coolness.” When captured by Finn, Han, and Chewbacca, Phasma actually cooperates with them and instantly acquiesces to their threats of shooting her; as a result, Starkiller Base is destroyed. This is partly played off as arrogance, her claiming that her lowering the shields won’t make a difference, but from start to finish with this particular plot sequence she is too easily defeated; she doesn’t even put up a fight.

In many ways Captain Phasma is the Boba Fett of this new trilogy; the stoic armor clad warrior who supposedly has better abilities and oozes with sexy confidence. It was therefore disappointing that she was so quickly captured, but it is her collaboration that is totally unacceptable. Supposedly she is a devout member of the First Order, therefore it logically follows that she would rather die than aid the Resistance in destroying the base; a simple refusal from Phasma would have halted Han and Finn’s plans immediately, and Starkiller Base would have zapped the Resistance base. In this scene the good guy’s victory came too easily and leaves us with even more of that sense of subtle dissatisfaction; they didn’t earn the narrative right to have the shields down.

Possible solutions to this plot hole could have easy sidestepped the issue with the addition of half a page of script. Phasma refuses to help, but Rey shows up and uses her engineering knowledge to short wire the shields, she might have even accidentally (or deliberately) sabotaged the shields while climbing around inside the machinery (we have at least three prior moments in which she tinkered with machines), or Finn suggests that they use the bombs (which was the back up plan anyway). One idea, although not favorable to fans of the tough Phasma, would have been to have made her not as tough as her packaging.

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What a vulnerable and humanized Captain Phasma would have looked like.

What if when singled out, without her squadrons of troops to carry out orders, and made vulnerable (it also made no sense that Finn allowed her to keep her helmet on), she crumbles under the pressure and we see that her sense of self preservation outweighs her loyalty to the First Order? She loses a lot of that “cool” factor, but actually becomes a more complex character with human failings. What if her disdain for Finn is motivated by the sense of doubt that she quietly struggles with, but manages to suppress inside herself? Several elements of foreshadowing and character development could have been added here, but  . . . nope!

Either way, assuming that she survives into Episode VIII, she must bear the knowledge that her actions allowed the base to be destroyed. Hopefully, if she does make another appearance in the next film, Phasma will have opportunities to display her talent in 2017, because as much as female viewers deserve a badass hero such as Rey, we also need this badass amazon of a villain.


 

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