Rumors are swirling that Billy Dee Williams might turn up in the next “Star Wars” movie.
Whether these rumors are true or not, I’m not surprised that fans are eagerly discussing this possibility. There’s been a lowkey fan movement pushing for a Lando cameo in the new trilogy since its inception.
I can see the benefit of such a cameo. Billy Dee Williams is a recognizable face in the franchise, and fans are eager to see what’s become of him.
Literally everyone else who appears in the final shot from “Return of the Jedi” ends up suffering through thirty years of heartache after the Endor party wraps up. I’d like to see what horrible fate befalls Lando.
(Seriously, the happy ending of “Episode VI” is a farce. Everyone’s lives spiral downwards from that moment onwards until they die.)
I can also see the logic of tying “Episode IX” more intimately to “Solo”. Disney is likely hoping that this box office disaster will have a relatively healthy second life on home release, and they’ll want to use future movies as advertising for their most public failure of recent years.
Besides, Donald Glover is amazing as Lando, so it’ll be nice to keep Old Man Lando in people’s minds long enough for Disney to put his solo movie into action.
Nevertheless, I can’t say I’m on board with a Billy Dee Williams cameo in “Episode IX”.
The Case for Billy Dee
Yes, this could make for a fun moment in the movie, but Disney’s “Star Wars” doesn’t need fun moments. These movies are crying out for structural integrity.
So much of the Disney “Star Wars” cinematic movement involves copying the images, scenes, and story beats of previous movies in the series.
The exception to this is “The Last Jedi”, but new ideas don’t save the movie’s pacing or narrative cohesion. There’s so much stuff jammed into this movie that it’s, in all honesty, a bit of a slog to sit through.
I don’t want another “Star Wars” movie that feels tired, even when it’s trying to innovate.
I’m also aware that innovation isn’t JJ Abrams’ strong suit. I suspect that if he were to include Billy Dee in his next “Star Wars” movie, it would involve a scene that very obvious parallels his role in the Original Trilogy.
If we see Lando flying shotgun in the Millennium Falcon during a big space battle that involves blowing up a Death Star-alike, I won’t be surprised.
Callbacks really aren’t what this saga needs at the moment. The story needs to move forward. The original cast are more or less out of the way now, for better or worse. “Episode IX” needs instead to tell the story of Rey, Kylo, Poe, Finn, and Rose, as they build something new.
Pausing this character development for a big “Hey, here’s Lando” moment won’t help.
So, here’s an alternative plan: keep Billy Dee Williams out of “Episode IX”, and throw him into a Donald Glover solo movie instead.
The Lando Movie
Picture this: what if, breaking with all tradition, Donald Glover’s “Star Wars” movie is narrated by Billy Dee’s Lando?
What if the movie does a “Usual Suspects” thing, with an unreliable narrator explaining a con that Lando pulled decades ago? All embellished wildly by an aging Lando who’s had a few to drink and is trying to charm someone out of their pocket book?
In my dream version of this movie, Old Lando’s adventures would be punctuated with haphazard action scenes as he avoids bounty hunters and mercenaries that the audience recognizes from the Original Trilogy.
I guarantee more people would watch this in theaters than have turned out for “Solo”.
So Disney, don’t shove Billy Dee Williams mercilessly into “Episode IX”.
Instead, give him his own movie, and let us all have a little more fun.