While comics and novels in the Expanded Universe of Star Wars built up the myth of Boba Fett as one of the coolest characters in the franchise, the original trilogy does the character a disservice. Rewatching The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, it can be hard to square the Mandalorian bounty hunter’s reputation with what’s presented on screen. Outside of looking cool, he’s given painfully little to do, and his send-off was hardly worthy of someone whose legend is so revered.
When Gwendoline Christie was announced as the chrome-plated alpha Stormtrooper Captain Phasma for The Force Awakens, it seemed clear the character would be one for the ages. Not only was her look severe and unique, but Christie’s Brienne is one of the best parts of Game of Thrones. Sadly, it seems Lawrence Kasdan didn’t learn his lesson with Fett, and Phasma was both wasted and easily dismissed in the film (she was literally thrown in the garbage).
Luckily for Phasma, Rian Johnson is writing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, not Kasdan. And thanks to the full-length trailer that dropped this week, it’s clear that the antagonist will earn her exalted image in the new movie. While we don’t know how much she’ll factor into the film, her clash with Finn will be both exciting and packed with narrative richness.
The Myth of Boba Fett
To understand the disconnect between Boba Fett’s appeal and his actual time on screen in the Star Wars franchise, it’s important to remember how the public was first introduced to the character. Fans first met Fett at a 1978 county fair in California before an animated version of the bounty hunter showed up in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. While neither of these appearances would be considered cool in the traditional sense, they still showed fans an exciting and interesting new antagonist for the franchise. Fett was even advertised as the franchise’s second big villain during marketing for The Empire Strikes Back.
Once he arrived on screen, however, the promise of the character proved to be a let-down. Aside from his clever move of hiding in the trash that the Millennium Falcon uses to escape Vader, there’s not much too Fett in Empire. Vader hires him to find the rebels and he does, but Lando Calrissian deserves just as much credit. It’s then Vader who actually apprehends Han and Leia, encasing the smuggler in carbonite just to check if the process works. Fett then shuttles Han off to Jabba to collect his reward, essentially fulfilling his function as the galaxy’s most overdressed delivery person.
The character's expanded screentime in Return of the Jedi is almost worse, as the prospect of him finally cutting loose is dashed. Though he erupts into action above the Sarlacc Pit, it’s only to completely miss shooting Han a number of times. And don’t forget, Han is still blind from being unfrozen. Fett’s final moment is when Han stumbles into him and breaks his jetpack, sending the Mandalorian to his death in the world’s most fatal pratfall.
Again, Fett has been fleshed out in subsequent material, but on-screen he in no way earns his reputation. And considering all of the EU backstory isn’t canon, that doesn’t leave much. Even attempts to flesh out the young Boba in the prequels and The Clone Wars has him come off more as a petulant child than a future badass. In fact, Jango Fett gets more of the treatment you would have expected Boba to receive. And with Mandalorians like the Death Watch from The Clone Wars and Sabine from Rebels populating canon stories, Boba Fett is actually one of the least interesting of his people.
Phasma’s Second Chance
Like Fett, the initial announcement of Captain Phasma was an exciting one for fans. While variations on the basic Stormtrooper design are all over the Star Wars universe, the idea of a specific leader having custom armor - and a cape to boot - signaled a different sort of villain. Sadly, Phasma was revealed to be nothing more than a strict commander who caved almost immediately when asked to betray her entire organization. Not only did she enable the destruction of Starkiller Base with barely a protestation, but her final moment in the movie was as the butt of a joke.
Since then, however, things have changed. A number of appearances across books and comics have illuminated Phasma, showing her to be a stern and imposing soldier and commander. Last month, both a book and comic series bearing her name were released, with the former fleshing out her backstory and the latter showing how she escaped her fate in The Force Awakens. Luckily, neither are essential reading for what looks to be the character’s redemption in The Last Jedi.
We’ve heard for awhile that Johnson has a much better arc in store for Phasma, and the new trailer for this year’s film offers a taste. We finally see Phasma in action, taking on Finn in an epic confrontation. Even if she dies in the battle and gets no other scenes in The Last Jedi, the moment will clearly be more flattering than anything Fett ever got on screen.
While there’s no telling who was responsible for both Fett’s and Phasma’s undercooked appearances, it’s hard not to note that Empire, RoJ, and Force Awakens were all penned by Kasdan. With Johnson both writing and directing Episode VIII, however, it looks like justice will be served for Phasma’s character.
Her battle with Finn also carries extra weight thanks to what’s been revealed about their past together in ancillary material. While The Force Awakens treated Phasma as merely a hard-ass commander, Greg Rucka’s Before the Awakening helps add context to the relationship. Not only is Phasma fleshed out more, but we learn Finn was actually a top-notch Stormtrooper and marksman. As such, FN-2187 is viewed as a traitor not just by FN-2199 (aka TR-8R), but his admiring commander as well. In fact, Phasma even sensed 2187 may prove too altruistic for the First Order, meaning she likely blames herself some for what’s transpired since he rebelled.
Most of this will be subtext when the two clash, but even without it the battle will finally give the character of Phasma a scene worthy of her unique look and former reputation. And Boba Fett himself may receive the on-screen redemption many fans want to see if his long-proposed solo movie ever manifest. In the meantime, it seems clear that The Last Jedi will see Captain Phasma succeed where Boba Fett failed.
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019