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New Escapist Column! On the Eternal Appeal of Lando Calrissian…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With the release of the nine core Star Wars films on streaming in Ultra-HD, I thought it was worth revisiting the most compelling character in the franchise, Lando Calrissian.

Lando is great. A lot of that is down to the cool and charismatic performance of Billy Dee Williams in the role. However, there’s also something very interesting in the way that Lando is built. He’s a lot more flawed than the other heroes of the franchise, a lot more relatable. Lando is a pretty normal guy who suddenly happens to find himself drawn into this epic battle between good and evil, largely to serve as a foil to the genuinely heroic Han Solo. Lando’s primary function is that he demonstrates that Han really is the leader and hero that Leia believes him to be, by showing the audience and the characters what a selfish rogue actually looks like.

It’s a trend that continues with the character, right through to the way in which Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker parallels Lando’s loss of his only child with Han’s loss of his son. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

“The Price You Pay for Being Successful”: How “The Empire Strikes Back” Was One of the First Blockbusters of the Eighties…

Star Wars is often discussed in the context of the late seventies, whether the political context of the Vietnam War or George Lucas’ status as an up and coming director alongside the likes of Francis Ford Coppola or Steven Spielberg or even just the way in which it shifted movie-making away from the new Hollywood model towards the blockbuster template.

Despite all of this, it is often overlooked just how firmly Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back is rooted in the context of the early eighties. There are obviously any number of reasons for this. Most obviously, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi consciously retreated back to the late seventies trappings of the original film, right down to its decision to restage the Vietnam War with adorable toyetic teddy bears in the place of the Viet Cong. There’s also a sense in which the cultural markers of The Empire Strikes Back are more subtle than those of Star Wars.

Sabre-rattling.

Watched from a modern perspective, The Empire Strikes Back seems to herald the arrival of the new decade. Like all great sequels, it broadens both the scale and scope of Star Wars, but it also pushes the franchise forward. Even beyond the now iconic revelations about family lineage and power dynamics, The Empire Strikes Back radically redefines what it means to be a Star Wars film. It is no longer about navigating the moral ambiguity of an uncertain time, wrestling with the spectre of American might. It is instead about exploring social power structures, of finding one’s place in system.

The Empire Strikes Back might just be the first truly great eighties movie.

A little father-son outreach.

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