Captain Phasma, the chrome plated stormtrooper everyone was speaking of months before we even knew anything about the character, turned out to possibly be either the greatest let down in Star Wars since Darth Maul, or the best character to appear since Boba Fett, depending on the fan you ask. Captain Phasma, according to me, is the smartest, fiercest, and most engaging character in Star Wars and The Force Awakens. And, surely there are better adjectives to describe the Captain of the First Order Stormtroopers!
Game of Thrones star, Gwendoline Christie, is Captain Phasma and the 6 foot 3 inch tall actress and model is easily the most imposing and intimidating of Star Wars villains on screen. That’s said with all due respect to Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), who may or may not be Darth Plagueis. Christie, while speaking of her love for Star Wars since a child in Southern England, spoke about the greater importance Captain Phasma serves in the ongoing history of Star Wars on screen and off:
“The armor hadn’t been made for a woman. It hadn’t been sexualized in a way, it hadn’t been feminized in any way … and I truly felt that it was refreshing that there was a female character in a movie as big as ‘Star Wars’ that we would be relating to because of her actions and character rather than primarily how she has been made flesh.”
On the creation of Captain Phasma, writers JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan struck gold (or chrome) when changing Michael Arndt’s Phasma from male to female. Up until Episode 7, we had never seen what a stormtrooper had looked like. Sure we knew the actors behind these characters, but onscreen, it could be anyone. It wasn’t until The Force Awakens that we finally saw a little more behind the curtain of the Empire. Stormtrooper FN-2187 is revealed to be John Boyega, a Londoner born to Nigerian parents and Captain Phasma, while never seen outside of the costume, is vocally identifiable as Gwendoline Christie. To have two major characters revealed to be both a Nigerian man and a woman? While it may be a story taking place a long time ago, they sure were progressive in those times!
John Boyega’s Finn and Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma happen to be two of my new favorite Star Wars characters. Surely if there was a Miss Universe pagent in the galaxy, Christie’s Captain Phasma would be crowned the victor. But this is a progressive galaxy in which the strengths and values of a person warp past the superficial entertainments we enjoy today. Certainly faster than the Falcon’s Kessel Run! That’s why I’d like to explore a few reasons why Captain Phasma and Gwendoline Christie Rock!
I. Shiny and Chrome (and yes, that’s a Mad Max reference. The sacrilege!)
Gwendoline Christie, born October 28, 1978, is best known as Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones. Appearing in the second season of the HBO series, she’s most recognizable as the unusually tall and muscular horse-riding and sword fighting warrior. While earning the role didn’t come as immediate as one would expect considering her height, she also vied for the role of Captain Phasma. “I wanted to be in it so badly, I just did not stop going on about it. My agent would say: ‘There’s this other project that wants you,’ and I’d say: “Oh, that sounds great, but I want to be in Star Wars.”
After being cast and fast forwarding to today, Captain Phasma is one of the most sought out of action figures, Funko POP’s, and collectibles. Everyone wants the chrome plated stormtrooper. Boys and girls want to be Captain Phasma. Gwendoline Christie, admitting that growing up she’d play as both Princess Leia and Han Solo, finds it so rewarding to see both sexes find Phasma such an attractive character to play as. Coming down to gender neutrality or as I like to refer, enlightened fandom in which both sides look past the obvious physical traits and treat a character as a character, Christie said “I just love that people are saying: ‘My little girl is dressing up as Captain Phasma and she loves it because she feels powerful,’ and then there are people also saying: ‘My little boy is dressing up as Captain Phasma and he loves it because he feels powerful.’”
II. The Next Boba Fett
Ultimately, despite having anticipated Captain Phasma for just about a year or so, she doesn’t have the biggest of parts or even that much screen time. If asked, I’d probably say Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma appears for a sum total of 20 minutes or less and her face is never shown. But, then again, Boba Fett was never unmasked (unless you count Attack of the Clones) and wasn’t in the original trilogy all that much either.
With the impact Christie’s Captain Phasma has had on audiences and the universal appeal of the chrome plated stormtrooper, it’s safe to say she’ll be returning in Episode 8. In a Los Angeles Times article about “The Women of ‘Star Wars'”, it was revealed that Kathleen Kennedy has “big plans for Phasma and confirmed that the captain will carry on into the next movie.” “She’s an important character, a baddie in the best sense of the word” says Gwendoline Christie
III. First Order
Gwendoline Christie, “mainstream’s most beloved misfit” as dubbed by Buzzfeed is not just Captain of the “First Order” in Star Wars, but truly an inspiring figure working in the entertainment industry today.
“I was told ‘no’ for a long time … because I looked different. I was told the industry embraced a norm and I wasn’t a part of that norm. But I just got a stage where I said, ‘I want to do screen work and I’m going to wait until that opportunity comes.’ I was told, ‘You will be lucky if that happens.’ … I couldn’t help always feeling like maybe, just maybe, if I just stuck it out long enough, something might, might give. And then, as if by some sort of wonderful, it felt like a miracle, 10 months later, a friend of mine said there was something on the internet about me being on an HBO series. I’d actually said I wanted to do an HBO series and, again, I was told, ‘Good luck. So does everybody.’”
I grew up in the shadow of the original trilogy and at the forefront of Kenner Toys’ “The Power of the Force” line. Like most kids, I was a big fan of Star Wars. Sometime in the midst of the prequels, I was crushed under the weight of the enormity of the Star Wars universe. Sometime in between Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens, I no longer felt connected with the force. Sometime after seeing The Force Awakens, I felt something change. Something that I hadn’t felt since I was a kid playing with those Kenner toys. I felt connected again. All thanks to Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma.
For a character that is not at the forefront, it’s amazing the impact that she’s left on me and fans from all around the world. To have a character, regardless of gender, that spoke to me in such a way that I wanted the Hasbro Toys Black Series and Funko Pop, to have a Star Wars character that I’ve given some thought to actually buying the costume – that says a lot. But, for me and so many others, this goes beyond having a cool looking character. This is about Gwendoline Christie. She said, in an interview with Buzzfeed, that she “was told ‘no’ for a long time…because [she]looked different.” She wasn’t “a part of that norm.” How beautiful is it that a 6’3″ actress and model could now be starring in three major franchises, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and Star Wars?!? Isn’t that a great message to us all that no matter who we are or what we embrace that makes us unique and individual is worth standing up for?
The power of Star Wars is in the way it has connected with audiences and continues to captivate us. Through characters that have reflected our dreams and our realities, it’s easy to become a fan of something we see so much of ourselves in. The Force Awakens contains some of the best written and strongest of characters and at the forefront of that is Captain Phasma. When I look at the character Gwendoline Christie has given life to, I’m reminded that it doesn’t matter who you are!
Captain Phasma, as played by Gwendoline Christie, is (dare I say) an even greater figure than Boba Fett? She’s already sparked an ongoing conversation more meaningful than the usual conversations about Star Wars. If that isn’t Captain of the First Order worthy, I don’t know what it.
Have you seen Star Wars yet? Did you respond to Captain Phasma as much as I did? Let us know in the comments below. And be sure to check out our review of Star Wars – “The Force Is Strong With Star Wars”.