This contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Mystery Box - sometimes it burns you. We didn't know much about Star Wars: The Force Awakens until we actually saw the film, and so many of us were judging characters by the tiny glimpses we got in early marketing and in the toys. One of the characters who jumped out at everyone was Captain Phasma, decked out in cool chrome Stormtrooper armor and played by Game of Thrones fave Gwendoline Christie. When I spoke to journalist friends who interviewed her at the junket they told me it was a frustrating experience - she just had nothing to say! And now we know why: Captain Phasma has nothing to do and is barely in the film at all.
You kind of got that sense early on, and many people were wondering if Phasma was the Boba Fett of this movie - a very cool looking character who becomes very popular despite doing little, or nothing at all. But here's the thing - she isn't. Phasma isn't even as cool as Fett, who gets knocked screaming into a huge vagina monster by a blind guy. She's even lamer than that.
Why is Fett cooler? It's because he does at least a little bit of stuff. He has the tiniest bit of action. He's actually involved in taking Han Solo from Cloud City, and he actually fires his blaster a couple of times (I don't recall if Phasma fires a single shot in the film. If she does it would only be during the opening massacre). Fett has a cool ship, and he's smart enough to outwit Han when he hides the Falcon on the Star Destroyer. But perhaps the main reason why Boba Fett is a badass is because another badass lets us know he is - when Vader is giving the bounty hunters instructions early in The Empire Strikes Back he tells Fett "No disintegrations." It's a brilliant little moment because it lets you understand exactly the kind of guy that's under that armor. While Jedi and the Prequels would undermine Boba Fett, his appearance in The Empire Strikes Back is correctly cool. With hindsight he's a bit of a chump, but if you were alive when Empire came out he was a legitimate, ruthless badass.
Phasma is like Boba Fett if Fett never did anything and got fed to the Sarlacc in his first appearance. It's crazy to me how this character is treated; she hangs around, telling Finn to have his gun checked (to see if he fired a shot on Jakku) and then she's hanging around in the backgrounds of scenes and then she gets ambushed and lowers Starkiller Base's shields. I couldn't believe what was happening - surely the payoff to that whole scene would be Phasma telling Finn he underestimated her, and that she had alerted the entire First Order fleet or something. But no, she just lets the shields drop and then, offscreen, gets dumped into a trash compactor as a shitty callback to A New Hope.
Watching the film I got a sense that much had happened to the movie over the course of its production. We know that there was a Michael Arndt script, and we know that there were rewrites up to and into production. Hell, that's how Phasma came to exist - JJ Abrams liked a rejected design for Kylo Ren and worked it into the movie. We can look at the trailers and recognize scenes that are not only deleted but that would have changed the film fundamentally (there's a shot in a trailer of Maz Kanata giving Leia the lightsaber, for instance). But it's Phasma who tells me that there is a lot of The Force Awakens left on the editing bay floor. It's all in Finn's reaction to chumping her - he's so excited, excited at a level that doesn't feel like a payoff for anything that has happened in the final film. If you you look at the first act you see that the film jumps from Phasma asking for Finn's gun to Finn breaking out Poe; intellectually we have enough information to understand the connection between these two events (Finn knows he has been found out for not participating in the massacre and would rather escape than be reconditioned) but we're missing something emotionally. We're missing a beat that explains Finn's relationship to Phasma, that explains who she is and how the rank and file Stormtroopers feel about her. The scene is missing something as simple as "No disintegrations," the one line that succinctly sums up how badass Phasma is so that when Finn does get his revenge on her we feel like there's something worth avenging.
The good news is that unlike Fett, Phasma has nowhere to go but up. We have been told that she will return in Episode VIII and it would be entirely criminal to waste Gwendoline Christie again. Hiring a name actor for such a minor role is bonkers, and I hope that Rian Johnson can rectify this mistake. Now that Phasma has been humiliated she can return, a wild card, looking for her own revenge against Finn. Just don't let her get near the Sarlacc Pit.