Admittedly, I was disappointed that Lando Calrissian, our favorite smooth-talking “galactic entrepreneur,” was left out of The Force Awakens. While arguments in defense of his absence have typically revolved around that fact that he was not an “original” character in the Original Trilogy, I have consistently felt that this argument is flawed. True, Lando was not in A New Hope and was only introduced at the outset of the Third Act in The Empire Strikes Back. But from his first appearance as Baron Administrator of Cloud City and onward, Lando Calrissian (portrayed by Billy Dee Williams) was elevated to “origial character” status, playing a critical role in the major events which unfold in the remainder of Original Trilogy.
This being the case, it’s especially important to remember (as if one could really forget) that Lando not only commanded the Rebel Starfighter squadrons during The Battle of Endor, but that he also flew the Millennium Falcon into the superstructure of the Second Death Star and (with the help of X-Wing pilot Wedge Antilles) destroyed the battle station. So sure, Lando wasn’t an “original” Original Trilogy character, but his actions – culminating in his heroics in Return of the Jedi – absolutely established him as a character equal in importance and stature with R2-D2, C-3PO, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, and Han Solo. The iconic last scene in Return of the Jedi, which includes each of these heroes, as well as Lando, is visual proof of this obvious fact (see the featured image above).
Further, the “not an original character” argument also falls short because Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb, both secondary characters introduced in Return of the Jedi, were in The Force Awakens. While it is pretty damn awesome that Ackbar and Nunb are in the film, it is none-the-less perplexing that Lando was left out while they were not. In fact, this is even more perplexing when one remembers (again, not that one could forget) that Nien Nunb was Lando’s co-pilot during The Battle of Endor. His co-pilot!!!
Now, in stating, albeit briefly, why I think this particular argument for Lando’s absence is flawed, I also have to acknowledge that after watching The Force Awakens, I don’t really think Lando could have fit into the movie all that easily. It is certainly conceivable, for example, that he would be hanging out at Maz Kanata’s Castle on Takodana, but had he been there when Han, Finn, and Rey enter, his presence would have taken away from our introduction to Maz Kanata. And, had he been a member of the Resistance high command on D’Qar, his presence may have felt much more like a basic cameo, just one voice among many offering insight into the battle against the First Order.
These two possibilities are certainly not the only spots Lando could have appeared. However, I don’t really find it necessary to speculate on every moment Calrissian could have popped up in The Force Awakens. Instead, I’d much rather note that these and many other scenes could have accommodated Lando and his unique, out-going personality, but in doing so the scenes – and by extension the film – would have needed to be fundamentally altered to make his appearance meaningful. Certainly, writer/director J.J. Abrams might have been able to find a way to do this, perhaps installing General Calrissian into the Resistance and putting him center-stage to determine the attack plan against Starkiller Base. Yet, for whatever reason(s), Abrams chose not to include Lando, and again, while I’m disappointed by Lando’s absence, I think the movie Abrams made is a good one even without the “old smoothie.”
Besides, with Episode VII in the books, we must now look toward Episode VIII and IX for Calrissian to make another glorious onscreen appearance. And, even though the IMDB page for Episode VIII does not list Billy Dee Williams as part of the cast, I can certainly imagine a scenario in which Lando’s inclusion hidden until the last possible moment. In fact, I would be quite pleased to go into the film unsure if Calrissian was to appear, only to find out he IS in the movie.
Granted, there is the possibility that Lando will not be in Episode VIII (or even IX), and if this is the case my disappointment is gonna quickly morph into outright anger…and I have a feeling I won’t be the only Star Wars fan feeling that anger.
Check out my follow-up to this piece: Lando Loiters in a Marketplace