Most of the Star Wars saga is for kids - the droids, the Ewoks and chittering critters of all shapes and sizes. But now and again a character appears who's just for the grown-ups. In A New Hope, it's Alec Guinness, lending his bottomless gravitas to a silly space story. In The Empire Strikes Back, it's Lando Calrissian, all snake-oil-salesman charm and snake hips, bringing sex into a series generally accused of having about as much genitalia as Action Man.
Billy Dee Williams is generally accused of reprising his untrustworthy charmer from Lady Sings The Blues, but in space, that's no bad thing. Lando's action figure should really have been anatomically correct, because no sooner has he greeted Han like a long-lost pal, he's pulling the moves on Princess Leia. This unthinkable gall might have tipped the heroes, or the audience, to the greater treachery that awaited, but such is Lando's magnetism that he blinded us all.
In any case, as back-stabbings go, his is excusable - entrap an acquaintance he hasn't seen in years to safeguard an entire city. Once Vader goes back on his word, Lando goes into full damage-control mode, and spends years redeeming his honour and undoing the harm caused.
But the crime isn't what makes Lando memorable. It's his aplomb, his way with the ladies (just 'cause he doesn't pull Leia doesn't mean it isn't there) and his wide-ranging competence. He does, after all, destroy the second Death Star. And the accusations of tokenism or, worse, racism? The suggestions are apparently founded on his devil-may-care attitude, or possibly his overt flirting.
But Lando's another Han - his brother from another planet if you will - and shares his characteristics exactly, down to his taste in women. Lando's a little more mature, perhaps, a little more confident, but it's no wonder that it's Han who best sums him up: "He's a card player, gambler, scoundrel. You'll like him."