Gwendoline Christie Shows How Star Wars Went Wrong
Every movie wants to cast the finest actors, but sometimes the movie itself doesn’t measure up to the talent brought in. The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy did a lot of things wrong, and perhaps the biggest mistake was utterly wasting Gwendoline Christie in the role of Captain Phasma.
Although not world famous when she was cast in The Force Awakens, Christie’s acting talent was already gathering notice. Born in England and already a veteran of London film, television, video, live theatre and high fashion, this actress had the talent, looks and screen presence to deliver an epic performance. And what did the makers of Star Wars do with this opportunity? Like so much else in the Sequel Trilogy, they squandered it.
Star Wars missed an opportunity with Gwendoline Christie
It’s interesting to note that Captain Phasma was originally supposed to be a man, but Gwendoline Christie – a huge Star Wars fan – lobbied hard for the role. The casting team was so impressed that they rewrote the character as a woman and gave her the part. It made Gwendoline Christie the first female actor to play a major Star Wars villain and when the news broke it created excitement amongst fans for the new series. Even before The Force Awakens hit screens Captain Phasma was a popular character, this menacing commander of the new stormtrooper forces.
The too-mysterious Captain Phasma
But that’s pretty much where it ended. Phasma got an impressive opening shot, early interaction with the hero Finn, and then… Nothing. By the end of two movies we knew almost nothing about her other than she was tall and she was mean. Her presence made no difference to the plot of either movie, except to add a bit of empty drama and give a voice to the otherwise anonymous First Order armies. The audience made no personal connection with Phasma, had no reason to care about the supposed life and death threat she posed to our heroes. We didn’t even see her face!
In short, any tall actor could have played this role and the audience would have never noticed the difference. What a waste of an actor of Christie’s talent. All the media and publicity in 2015 built her up to be a major factor in the new series, but after the second film showed Phasma’s irrelevant death fans were left scratching their heads. What was the point of Phasma?
This question carries weight because there’s so much that could have been done with this character. She could have been a real, personal threat to our heroes – like if, say, Phasma had been sent to follow Finn and Rose to Canto Bight in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse – but she was reduced to being the mean lady who said mean things. And then, after a last burst of action, she was killed off in a scene which was probably meant to be epically cool but which fell flat because the audience wasn’t invested in Phasma at all.
Full credit to Christie – she did the best she could with what she was given. But the failure of Captain Phasma as a character is a sign of everything that went wrong with these films.
Game of Thrones knew what to do with Gwendoline Christie
Compare this utter waste with the other mega-series that has made Gwendoline Christie famous: Game of Thrones. A fantasy HBO series that’s a favorite around the world, Game of Thrones is in the same league as Star Wars and was under just as much pressure to deliver an epic show based on the books as the Sequel Trilogy was to carry on the tradition of George Lucas.
The relatable Brienne of Tarth
Here Gwendoline Christie plays Brienne of Tarth, a powerful and underestimated woman who prefers to dress like a man as she constantly fights to prove herself in the testosterone-fueled world of armored knights. Brienne is an impressive but flawed character, shattering the old trope of the doting queen or damsel in distress without launching to the extreme of a Xena, Warrior Princess.
Brienne is subtle, both likeable and unlikeable at times, but always relatable. Bringing this character to life would be a challenge for any actress, but Gwendoline Christie shows her talent season after season and delivers an excellent performance.
Unlike the one-dimensional Phasma, Brienne has depth. I can’t help but dream about how much better Star Wars would have been if Phasma had been written with equal care. After all the years we fans waited for the new Star Wars, was it too much to ask that the new series deliver a full slate of strong, complex and compelling characters?
The new Star Wars could have been so much more
Enough time was spent on Rey and Kylo Ren to prove that Star Wars can create heroes and anti-heroes with depth and nuance. But just like the Sequel Trilogy didn’t bother to think out the galactic timeline, create answers for all the questions it posed, or stick with a single vision, it short-changed us on characters with amazing potential.
Captain Phasma is the single worst example of this. Again, full credit to Gwendoline Christie for bringing as much life as she could to a paper-thin character (and I’m sure she’ll have a long and successful career) but both she and the fans were let down by a half-baked idea that had great potential but just fell short.
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