Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi!
Captain Phasma, the chromium-plated leader of the First Order's stormtroopers, was The Force Awakens' surprise breakout supervillain; she gleamed cold and fierce against Kilo Ren's gloomy, emo anti-charm. Her many fans rejoiced to learn that a lowly trash compactor had indeed been no match for her and that she would return in The Last Jedi. Sadly, the historical first of a female Star Wars supervillain got buried by a million other stories and characters for incoming director Rian Johnson. In weaving a story chock full of players new and yet to be created, Johnson said, "you pick your battles."
And by that Johnson apparently meant one, just one battle, for Captain Phasma, played by fan favorite (and Game of Thrones veteran) Gwendoline Christie, versus John Boyega’s Finn. Satisfying as that battle may have been, fans expecting more of Phasma’s faceless menace and general badassery were woefully disappointed, and the answer may just be that the story didn't provide a good enough use for the super-shiny baddie.
In a recent interview with IGN, Johnson stated that he never had grander plans for the character to begin with. “I mean, as you can see, man, we had a really full movie already,” he told IGN. “We had a big, big movie with a lot of characters we were trying to serve, and the God’s honest truth is, every character had to find their natural place.”
Observers have pointed out that the character’s problems may have begun at her inception, when she was perhaps shoehorned into The Force Awakens by J.J. Abrams and his team after they were rightly criticized for seeming to have just two lead female characters in their galaxy. But this year’s popular limited Marvel comic by Kelly Thompson and Marco Checchetto, teasing out Phasma’s backstory, gave fans hope that the Star Wars universe’s first potential female supervillain might shine even darker in the sequel.
However, Johnson’s comments make it clear that making Star Wars history in this way wasn’t on his radar: “Phasma supports Finn’s storyline, obviously, and there just … until she shows up to fight him at the end, look through the story that we have, there’s just not a lot of space to go into a big Phasma storyline in it.
"So the truth is,” Johnson concludes, “it’s just a very big cast and you have to kind of pick your battles with it.”
Many fans, including those hoping she will once again escape her demise in Abrams’ 2019 trilogy-ender, likely wish there’d been a few more of those battles.