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

Double Chromium: The Legends of Captain Phasma

She’s the most ruthless woman in the galaxy – Captain Phasma takes no prisoners. From her humble beginnings on a ruined planet, she rose to mythic status in the First Order. But how? With plenty of attitude and custom chromium armor, that’s how! Keep reading for my reviews on both her new novel and collected comic mini-series!

Continue reading “Double Chromium: The Legends of Captain Phasma”

Battlefront II Gameplay Trailer (featuring John Boyega)

Two months to go, people! Watch this exciting trailer featuring confirmation of planets, vehicles, troopers, heroes, and of course weapons from the upcoming shooter. War will rage across all eras, and I will rage if people keep rolling about like droidekas to dodge shots. But hey, there’s single player this time and the story sounds great!
Also, get familiar with Inferno Squad, the stars of the single player campaign, here (spoiler warning)

Lego 2017 Bounty Hunters Battle Pack Review

Need help keeping the peace and just your troopers aren’t cutting it? Get this Lego battle pack and add several bounty hunters to help maintain order! Track down prey and maintain Imperial law with these official peacekeepers. Continue reading “Lego 2017 Bounty Hunters Battle Pack Review”

Definite Article: Mandalorian Mayhem

Head canon wearing the best helmets in the galaxy. Check out the Definite Article for a mix of canon, Legends, and head canon takes on everything Star Wars!

I love the Empire and they’ve done nothing wrong. But when it comes to the vast array of unique races and cultures throughout Star Wars, nothing beats the Mandalorians in my opinion. This race of fierce warriors dates back to the days of the (Legends) Old Republic, where they frequently allied themselves with Vitiate’s Sith Empire as bounty hunters and mercenaries. They were known to wear distinct armor colored to reflect family ties and honored traditions, and their suits of tough armor were also renown for turning the wearer into a walking armory. Mandos get all the coolest gear, from jetpacks and wrist rockets to cutting edge blasters, tether cables, and jetpack-mounted missile launchers. Not only do I love them, but the Empire are apparently fans too. And that’s canon now, so let’s talk about it!

“Imperial Supercommandos,” the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels, pits Sabine and Ezra against Mandalorians on two sides as they reach out to Concord Dawn to reestablish contact. Mandalorian soldiers loyal to the Empire and lead by former Shadow Collective member Gar Saxon have destroyed the encampment of Fenn Rau, and his forces are killed in the process. Seeking to escape rather than join the body count, Rau escapes in the new Phantom after Ezra distracts the other Mandalorians. Long story short, he has a change of heart and turns back to save Sabine and Ezra from the supercommando team. Okay, so that might be an oversimplification of the episode, but honestly I saw that ‘twist’ coming a mile away. However, I liked this episode a lot. Both the supercommandos and Fenn Rau are sympathetic, even though Rau does put the kids in a rough spot by leaving them behind. The Mandalorians under Gar Saxon want power to restore the former glory of Mandalore, and the only way to stay in power is to side with the Empire. Odds are it isn’t going to pay off greatly for them, but you can sympathize with a warrior culture wanting to stick to its ways while, at the same time, trying to cement a better future and hoping they can outlast the Empire.

This episode makes some great contributions to the new Mandalorian canon established by The Clone Wars series. First and foremost, Imperial Mandalorian soldiers are canon now. Originally that was just an idea back in the day when Boba Fett was just a better version of a stormtrooper, not a bounty hunter, and he wore all white armor.

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Image Credit: LucasFilm

Secondly, Gar Saxon is back and has become a pawn of the Empire, given a title of Viceroy of Mandalore. Sabine doesn’t care much for Gar, and rightfully so – he used to ally himself with Maul, who ruled Mandalore for a short time near the end of The Clone Wars. It’s great to see him back after his appearances in the Son of Dathomir comics. The only thing that bothers me is that he teases a lot of backstory on Sabine and none of it pays off in the episode. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Sabine gets the short end of the stick on this show most of the time. All this backstory is teased yet it doesn’t pay off or actually include her. We learn that Gar knows who Sabine’s mother is and that she is looking for Sabine. We still don’t know who she is, if that’s even true or if Gar is bluffing, or who her mother is. The Sabine episodes tease a lot of what I’m hoping will eventually be a very compelling Mandalorian character. But in the meantime, we’ve had several episodes explaining Chopper’s backstory. Chopper has PTSD after crashing in a Y-Wing during  The Clone Wars, and he was rescued by Hera Syndulla (who also could use some more story time in my opinion.) Chopper can fend for himself, is often violent, and is so stubborn that he will often defy direct orders. What do we know about Sabine? She paints. She’s spunky and quippy. She’s from Mandalore and went to the Impreial Academy there, knows several languages, and has a mother she’s been distanced from. We don’t know how she came to the Ghost crew, much at all about her childhood on Mandalore, or what she’s truly fighting for. It’s arguable that she gets plenty of screen time, but I think her time could be used better on this show.

Moving on, the episode does take some steps in the right direction even if they are just teasing again with more light Sabine backstory. I like that this episode didn’t have a single “look how stupid the stormtroopers are” moment and that the rest of the Ghost crew wasn’t in the episode after the initial few minutes. It’s giving Sabine some time to do her own thing, dealing with people she recognizes in the only way Mandalorians know how; helmets on and blasters out. I was expecting Gar Saxon to have the dark saber but that didn’t happen, at least not yet. But we know Sabine gets it later on, and I think getting it from Gar makes the most sense. Either that or it’s in Thrawn’s collection somewhere. I appreciated seeing some Clone Wars loose ends tied up without having another cameo-of-the-week as well, though admittedly I am excited to see Bo Katan come back later on because it means more Mandalorian-centric episodes this season. Mandalorian participation in galactic events beyond mercenary wok is an interesting step in the right direction. Pre Vizla was shaping up to make big changes before he was killed by Maul. And while we’re on that topic, what are these ties between Clan Wren and House Vizla that keep coming up? How deep does that go?

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Something I’m very excited about is that I think these Mando-centric episodes are going to set up some pre-A New Hope Boba Fett stories. These supercommandos probably don’t survive season three, but who do we know who is also an awesome Mandalorian? Boba Fett! I’d love to see him even if it isn’t until season four. He’s known to work with the Empire and we might even get to see how he establishes his connections with Vader. I’m probably dreaming, but that’ the episode I’d make if I was in charge. Oh if I was in charge…

So what did you think about this episode? Like Mandalorians as much as I do? Leave a comment below and let me know! And as always, thanks for reading.

-David

Mandos on Rebels!

Saxon is back and we might finally get another good Sabine story! This teaser trailer throws a lot at us. Sabine and Ezra appear to be on a solo mission. Saxon, the one in the red armor, used to be loyal to Maul when he ruled Mandalore with his Shadow Collective. Who are the other guys whose armor looks like a hybrid between Imperial ground troops and Boba Fett concept art? Will it become canon that true, independent Mandalorians are more creative because their armor is cooler? Are we getting canon references to the siege of Mandalore outside of that cool Ahsoka panel at celebration and her new book? Hopefully this weekend answers some of my questions! Watch Star Wars Rebels this weekend and find out! Looks like I reread Son of Dathomir just in time for some callbacks too!