Star Wars fans have known since April 2014 that Billy Dee Williams will not be reprising his role in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, so no Lando Calrissian in Episode VII when it opens in December. Not even a comlink communiqué from the former baron of Cloud City. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s like being the president of Jupiter, which, in a space faring society, would be a pretty big deal.
But there were a lot of folks from the original series that didn’t make the cut for the new flick. General Dodonna was the chief rebel strategist during the Battle of Yavin, but died about five years before THE FORCE AWAKENS takes place (or not, since the expanded universe canon has found itself floating home). During the Imperial invasion of Hoth, General Rieekan hustled everybody off that pitiless icehell and then presumably retired someplace warm–like Tatooine … where you might catch Lando playing in the World Series of Sabacc, but not in this movie.
If Dodonna (and I bet you didn’t even knew that guy had a name, did you?) and Rieekan (him, too?) are either six feet under or enjoying retirement, why should we care about Lando, you ask?
There were two Death Stars, and both got done blow’d up right after they went online, making them two of the worst military expenditures in the history of military and expenditures. Luke shot the prototype out of the sky, and Lando wasted the bigger, more powerful one.
Creator George Lucas has long maintained that Star Wars is about the Skywalkers, so you can see why the Luke is still in this thing, bearded and hermity though he is. But where’s Lando?
In RETURN OF THE JEDI, Luke was basically a decoy. He didn’t kill Vader. He didn’t kill the emperor. His main job was to absorb enough dark force lightning to kickstart his old man’s heart, which he did do, in spades, but he didn’t lead an assault or make any public contribution, besides playing a small, hapless role in getting the Force’s Anti-Pope (who was not public about his anti-poping, by the way) assassinated by his favorite cardinal. Right on, Luke! Way to take a punch for the good guys.
Meanwhile, Lando is leading the assault, taking on star destroyers, and eventually, winging into the heart of a planet-sized space fortress and zapping it to oblivion, losing only his satellite TV in the process. This is a pretty notable military accomplishment, something people around the galaxy are shown to be celebrating in the special edition of THE RETURN OF THE JEDI.
Lando is the hero of the day, the new face of the rebellion, a bigger deal than Luke because for all anybody knows, Lando killed off the despotic emperor and his galactic Karl Rove in the process.
Lando also plays a key role in the story of the Skywalkers, going toe to toe with Darth Vader in his negotiations at Cloud City and saving Leia from a death sentence everybody seems to forget was still on the books. He ditched his comfortable life “among the clouds” to save Luke’s best friend, who had by this time been turned into wall art. This guy is as central to the series as Chewbacca, and he doesn’t even get a cameo in the new movie? What bullshit is that, I ask you? No, I’m really asking: what bullshit is that?
At least, as has recently been reported elsewhere, J.J. Abrams was able to coax Admiral Ackbar out of his melted butter hot tub to appear in THE FORCE AWAKENS, opening December 16th in the Core Worlds, December 18th in the Outer Rim. #nerdgasm