Still with me? Okay then. You must be my kinda people.
So, anyhow, earlier tonight I was reading a Star Wars comic book, one of the new series that began in 2015 when Marvel reacquired the license for the first time since the 1980s. The story was all right, building pretty organically from the end of the original movie and featuring decent artwork, imaginative set-pieces, good banter between Han and Leia, and some spooky Darth Vader action. (Let’s just say things don’t go well for the stormtrooper who accidentally sees the Dark Lord without his helmet!). But there was something bugging me throughout the story, which was this: the Millennium Falcon is disabled and Leia keeps making little jibes about the ship being unreliable.
But Bennion, you’re saying, that’s the Falcon. That’s the running gag in Star Wars, right, that the Falcon is a piece of junk? Um, no, actually, it’s not. The gag is that she looks like a pile of junk but isn’t really. “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.” That’s how Han Solo responds when Luke Skywalker first lays eyes on the ship that made the Kessel Run. And for a change, he’s not boasting. She performs flawlessly throughout the film. In the six movies in which the Falcon prominently appears, she’s only majorly on the fritz in one, The Empire Strikes Back, and that’s only because Han and Chewie were in the middle of an overhaul and had to throw her back together in about an hour instead of being able to take their time.
Even in The Force Awakens, when she’s been parked in the Jakku scrapyard for who knows how long, there’s nothing seriously wrong with her that a quick rewiring on the fly doesn’t solve. (I have major issues with that scene, by the way, but that’s a rant for another time; you know, like the tale of how Anakin Skywalker’s old lightsaber, which should have been in about a million pieces at the bottom of Cloud City, instead ended up in a weird old lady’s steamer trunk on a completely different planet. Friggin’ JJ Abrams.)
It’s not even a running gag among the characters. In the entire saga, I can think of only four times — four — when people put down the Millennium Falcon: Luke calls her a piece of junk when he first lays eyes on her; Leia says, “You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought!”; and Rey calls her “garbage” in a deliberate callback to Luke’s first reaction. In all three of those cases, they’re proven wrong almost immediately. The fourth example is Lando calling her “the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy,” and that’s obviously an affectionate comment from someone who knows what she’s really capable of.
And yet, it’s become a trope, a cliche even, that the Falcon is always breaking down or threatening to. It was a constant thing in the Expanded Universe novels and comics that Disney has now reclassified as apocryphal “Legends,” and it always drove me crazy because it just wasn’t accurate to what we actually see in the movies.
See, here’s the thing: The Millennium Falcon is the equivalent of what car enthusiasts call a “rat rod.” That’s a hot rod that’s specifically built to look like it was cobbled together out of random bits of found machinery. The creativity in their physical appearances can be truly inspiring, especially in the ones that look the worst, if that makes sense. They’re usually painted in drab colors or left with a natural patina of rust. Dents and even bullet holes are part of the look. But if you get one built by someone who knows what they’re doing, they’re ungodly powerful racers. Sound familiar? I wish more Star Wars writers understood the Falcon in those terms…
It’s just a peeve of mine. You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.