‘Solo’ explains the Kessel Run and makes Han Solo a stronger character in the process

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Image: lucasfilm

If you haven’t seen Solo: A Star Wars Story yet, go no further. Spoilers ahead.

“It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.”

Han Solo’s boast from the original Star Wars has been analyzed and picked apart endlessly by fans over the past 41 years. Convincing theories have surfaced over the years to explain it, but Solo: A Star Wars Story definitively puts any debate to rest.

From a scientific standpoint, Han’s boast just doesn’t make sense. He’s bragging about how fast the Millennium Falcon is in that scene, so when he says “less than 12 parsecs” he seems to be referring to a period of time. But “parsec” is a measure of distance.

It’s a point that’s been debated endlessly. Technically, the old Star Wars Expanded Universe — the old sub-canon fleshed out in books, comics, video games, etc. — explained why the line made sense, and Solo merely confirmed it.

There’s just one problem with that. Disney killed the Star Wars EU not long after it acquired Lucasfilm in 2012. Plenty of ideas have leapt over into the new canon. But if it’s from the EU and it hasn’t been revisited in post-Disney efforts, it’s not “official” Star Wars anymore.

Still, it’s helpful to know how the EU approached Han’s boast. The EU’s version of the Kessel Run, as discussed in a number of different stories, is an 18-parsec smuggler’s route to the planet Kessel, a spice-mining prison planet whose main approaches were always guarded by Imperial forces.

Gutsy smugglers in the EU timeline used the winding Kessel Run to ferry shipments of the Star Wars space drug, glitterstim spice. This “safe” path avoided Imperial blockades by skirting close to the Maw, a dangerous cluster of black holes situated close to the planet. It was an attractive route for smugglers because the inherent danger of that region of space kept Imperials away.

Solo‘s now-canonical version of the Kessel Run isn’t all that different. As Han and his friends escape from Kessel in the movie, they find themselves facing a ticking clock: If they don’t get their stolen hyperfuel to a nearby refinery quickly, it’s going to explode.

This threat prompts Han to plot a course through the Akkadese Maelstrom, a dangerous region of swirling space matter surrounding Kessel. At the heart of the Maelstrom is the Maw, an enormous gravity well that is largely responsible for pulling in all the debris and interstellar gas that makes it difficult to reach the planet in the first place.

“It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.”

Much like the EU explanation, the movie establishes that there’s a “safe” route to Kessel through the Maelstrom. But the danger of Han’s stolen and unrefined hyperfuel necessitates finding a quicker way through, and that means plotting a course that skirts dangerously close to the Maw.

Now, Han’s “less than 12 parsecs” brag makes a whole lot more sense. The 18-parsec route is the safe and known backdoor to Kessel; cutting the distance of that voyage down to 12 parsecs, by skirting dangerously close to the Maw gravity well, is a boast-worthy accomplishment.

It’s technically slightly more than 12 parsecs — Solo‘s Chewie argues with the 12-parsec boast on Savareen, and Han relents that it’s 12 “if you round down.”

For all of its flaws, I love the way that Solo goes about cementing Han’s Kessel Run boast in the Star Wars canon. Prior to the movie’s release, one of the more popular interpretations of the line from A New Hope was that Han was just talking out his ass. He saw Obi-Wan and Luke as a pair of country bumpkins and he was just trying to wow them with his technical talk.

I’ve never loved that read. For one, anyone who knows Mos Eisley spaceport as well as a guy like Han Solo should realize that looks can be deceiving. Obi-Wan and Luke might look like locals, but spinning a line of pure bullshit (as opposed to half-truthful bullshit) is just bad business when you’re trying to strike a deal.

More than that, the Original Trilogy proved that Han knows his stuff. He may be arrogant and boastful, but why would he lean on nonsense jargon to sell prospective clients on his services? Wouldn’t it make much more sense for him to just brag about his achievements, maybe fudging the numbers slightly in the process?

Solo‘s explanation for the 12-parsec boast adds a surprising amount of narrative texture to that early Star Wars moment. That line fits the character now. It’s no longer Han Solo trying to swindle potential clients. Now, it’s the same old Han we’ve always known, stretching the truth juuuust enough to make him seem more amazing than he actually is.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/05/29/solo-kessel-run-explained-star-wars/

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