Definite Article: From Fett to Phasma – Deconstructing Two “Useless” Characters

This Definite Article contains spoilers for the following films, novels, and comics:

-Star Wars: The Last Jedi

-Marvel’s Star Wars (ongoing, but events mentioned are pretty old now)

-Phasma novel and Marvel’s Phasma miniseries

-The Aftermath Trilogy novels


When you hear the name Boba Fett, do you think of a ruthless bounty hunter? Or do you think of a cool-looking guy who was beaten effortlessly and thrown into a tentacle monster’s mouth in the desert? What about Captain Phasma of the First Order? Is she really an unparalleled leader of stormtroopers, or was she dumped off into the trash bin only to be brought back and killed off again in the next film? If you’re a doubter of either of these characters that appear to be looks over substance, I’m here to inform you you’re dead wrong.

Boba Fett began his life in concept art as a ‘supercommando,’ a stormtrooper clad in modified white armor with multiple upgrades to his weapons. He was later recolored and reconfigured into the bounty hunter we all know today, clad in green armor and welding modified blasters, a jetpack that can launch a missile, and gauntlets loaded with other hidden tools and weapons. Boba is a man of few words but is shown to stop at nothing to complete a contract, be it protecting valuable cargo from shadowy Kage Warriors or delivering a rebel general to Jabba the Hutt. His armored visage steals any scene he appears in, and since his debut in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back The Star Wars Holiday Special, he’s been selling toys and collecting bounties.

So what’s the problem here? Sounds like one tough customer, right?

The man in the Mandalorian armor suffers from two big criticisms by fans and detractors alike. Number one, he doesn’t do very much when he’s onscreen in the films. And secondly, he’s hardly expanded upon as such a tough character before he’s killed off by Han Solo – his jetpack is stricken by a stray blow from a blinded man, and he falls into the sarlacc pit as his pack fails to lift him back up. Taken at face value these criticisms are valid; however, we aren’t dealing with a universe that’s just the films and onscreen appearances. Boba Fett’s story was expanded after his apparent death in Return of the Jedi. His rescue from the sarlacc by fellow bounty hunter Dengar is detailed in the legends novel The Mandalorian Armor by K.W. Jeter. On the canon end, Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars detail what a younger Boba Fett was up to during prequel era. Many fans just can’t get enough Boba. Continued interest in the character and his fate (as well as it being no secret that he’s my favorite Star Wars characters) is why I want to present some different points of view that may defend some of my favorite characters, old and new alike.

First and foremost, not everything Boba Fett accomplishes has to be explicitly shown onscreen. In The Empire Strikes back, Darth Vader hires six bounty hunters to track down the Millennium Falcon. And only one bounty hunter, Boba Fett, manages to track the ship and inform Lord Vader of the rebels’ whereabouts. Does he do any damage to them personally when he’s taking potshots at Luke Skywalker? No. These are extremely valuable targets, and as we also see from his prior engagement with Luke in the Marvel Star Wars comics, he also doesn’t damage Luke. Luke is too valuable to bring back dead. Sure, Han Solo can be frozen in carbonite and delivered to Jabba regardless of being alive or dead – Han Solo isn’t the son of Skywalker, and despite being a rebel leader, he isn’t as high a priority to Vader as Luke is. Boba Fett, in this instance, is a bounty hunter in the truest sense. He tracks down the target and brings them in alive to his employer. That’s just good business.

Defending the battle aboard Jabba’s barge, the Khetanna, is a little tougher but I’ve always had some head canon that makes it work out for me. The argument is that Boba Fett goes out like a complete wimp, but he actually does a bit more than he’d technically be expected to do in that situation. Boba, amongst other thugs often employed by Jabba the Hutt, is present for the execution of Luke and Han. All well and good, as it seems in his downtime he acts as something of a bodyguard to our favorite hutt whose last name is ‘the Hutt.’ Luke gives the signal to R2-D2 aboard the Khetanna, and R2 ejects a lightsaber into Luke’s hands. Thus begins a wild scramble to contain the prisoners aboard the skiffs circling the maw of the Great Pit of Carkoon. Boba Fett steps in, attempting to recapture Luke Skywalker.

Notice how that story doesn’t really work if Boba Fett isn’t on Jabba’s payroll as a bodyguard? Why does he jump in and fight? Any bounty hunter in the galaxy worth his credits would either have that set up as part of the contract already, otherwise they likely wouldn’t step into a fight against a Jedi knight. Sure, Boba is well-equipped for the job, but as we all know, it doesn’t go well for him. But a question comes into my mind there regarding Boba’s dealings – is he A.) Protecting Jabba as a source of jobs and income, B.) Protecting Jabba because it fits into his moral code somehow, or C.) Doing it in the hopes that a Jedi’s head will earn him a tidy sum of credits once the battle blows over? Money is at the root of two of these arguments, so I’d bet that Boba Fett has thought this out and has a protection clause in his contract with Jabba the Hutt, and can maybe earn bonuses for side gigs if they benefit Jabba.

Part two of my theory is that we’re just catching Boba Fett on one of the worst days of Boba Fett’s life. The last time we see him in the films, he’s a child holding the helmet of his father Jango, who has just been killed in the Geonosis arena battle. That kind of weight and pain would stick to Boba for a lifetime whether he’s a top-notch tough guy for a living or not. How profoundly does it affect him? Canon doesn’t tell us a whole lot. Would he still be mourning twenty years or more later? Maybe not daily, maybe not so much that it gets to him often. But stepping out of universe for a moment, Boba Fett can’t be the badass we’ve all made him out to be – rather, he can’t be that guy all the time. He’s bound to have moments where he falters and fails, and one of the many moments in his life just happens to be captured in a saga film. That’s why even though The Mandalorian Armor isn’t canon anymore, Boba probably gets back up after the fact. It’s been hinted at, and in the Aftermath trilogy of novels, Dengar again pulls Boba’s armor out from the pit. Boba isn’t in it at the moment, but there’s hope that he still got out.

This is far from a flawless fan theory, but I think Boba is still alive and lying low. He’ll reclaim his armor and leave Tatooine, probably get a few last big jobs done and then retire. Or maybe he’ll get married or adopt a child and train them in the bounty hunting ways. There’s plenty of places to go with the character, and plenty of Legends stories to pick the best bits from. Doesn’t that make the unstoppable Boba Fett more relatable though, if he was having an off day in that hot, sweaty armor and just happened to get taken out by a blind guy? How many times have you messed up at your job over something stupid and you had to try and come up with a good reason for what went wrong? Now imagine doing that and getting eaten by a giant monster after. You’d be out of the game for a little while, too.

Captain Phasma, leader and trainer of the First Order’s stormtroopers, is faced with similar criticism. She’s very imposing – her height coupled with custom chromium armor, a command cape, and customized blaster are enough to send puny resistance fighters fleeing in the opposite direction. She trained Finn who, although he defected, is well-versed in combat with blasters and melee weapons. So how can a character who was instrumental in training a main character of the new saga be so underrated and even outright hated?

Like Boba Fett, Captain Phasma is guilty of having very little to do onscreen in her two film appearances, and just about as much dialog. Phasma’s personal ethics prevent her from self-sacrifice, love, and compassion. In her mind she is superior and will do anything to remain the most-superior. Although she doesn’t do much in the films, she’s one of the most competent members of the First Order military seen onscreen thus far, barring the incident with the shield generator on Starkiller Base.

Starkiller Base was Phasma’s first major failure in life, however she hunted down the only witness and killed him – honestly, the massive loss of life there probably doesn’t mean much to her since her ultimate loyalty is to herself and not the First Order. So going by the character’s internal logic, I’m going to count that one as an ‘acceptable loss.’ Phasma’s lack of compassion makes her a perfect soldier and trainer in the eyes of the First Order. Her troops are loyal and merciless. With the help of General Hux, she’s able to instill one value in her soldiers above all – the weak shall serve the strong, not unlike many Sith ideologies over the years.

And despite her appearance in The Last Jedi, which some consider to be another letdown, Phasma goes down fighting. She shows expertise with an extendable spear, fighting Finn to a draw aboard the Supremacy. Once disarmed, she draws a pistol and holds back her foes with suppressive fire – I say again, with a pistol – until backup arrives. Though she is ultimately defeated, she never yielded. She never accepted defeat, and like a true warrior, never gave up the fight.

I suspect we’ll be seeing Captain Phasma again in Episode Nine. The decision to reveal her face for the first time in canon (beneath the damaged mask) seemed like a deliberate re-reveal of the character. Now that she’s wounded and potentially fit for demotion, what lengths will she go to to reclaim her honor? The fact that the First Order demotes her would be meaningless if not for her ruthless dedication to her own sense of honor and the meaning she places in power. Will she make a case to train new guards for Supreme Leader Ren? Or will she perhaps really perish after all, leaving the First Order without one of its great military trainers and place that burden back on General Hux?

I wanted to talk about these two characters in particular to show that just because something happens in a movie doesn’t mean that your understanding should stop then and there. I’ve always loved that Star Wars has such a massive universe to invest in, and getting full stories in places besides movies – where they can be greatly expanded upon – is one of my favorite parts of that universe. It makes rewatching the movies so much better when you come back into them with more information each time, and it also makes villains that might be written off as window-dressing much more interesting. Sure not everyone has the same opinions on the characters, but I wanted to get my two credits in – as always, Star Wars benefits from seeing stories from multiple points of view.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed the Definite Article, and as always, keep on trooping.

-Supreme Leader David

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