Just as it's impossible to think of Han Solo without Wookiee pal Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), it's also tough to think of the two pilots without their ship, that scrappy modified Corellian freighter known as the Millennium Falcon, which flies again this month in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
"Every kid wanted to be Han, and every kid wanted to fly the Millennium Falcon," said Tom Berges, one of the administrators of the I Grew Up Star Wars Facebook page.
The group caters to old-school fans who were watching the original trilogy and playing with Star Wars toys from 1977 into the 1980s. Berges himself first saw the Falcon onscreen in 1977 and treasured the die-cast version of the Falcon he received in 1979.
"Han Solo is one of the most iconic characters in all of Star Wars lore, and his ship is of course just as iconic and important to the story," he says.
On Ranker.com, the Millennium Falcon easily nabbed the top spot in a poll of readers' favorite sci-fi spaceships (the U.S.S. Enterprise landed at No. 6).
"What is there to say that hasn't been said?" the site wrote. "The most famous ship from Star Wars looks cool, it handles like a dream, and it's fast!"
Fans know the ship's backstory as well as they know their own names. Solo won the ship from Lando Calrissian in the card game sabacc sometime before the events of the first Star Wars film, used it in his work as a smuggler, and then met up with Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi at the Mos Eisley Cantina for the most famous charter agreement in galaxy history.
The Falcon reportedly inspired Joss Whedon to create Serenity, the ship on his acclaimed space drama Firefly. (Mal Reynolds takes some obvious inspiration from Han Solo, too.) SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reportedly named his company's Falcon rockets after Solo's ship. Adidas based a shoe design on the ship's proud but battered exterior.
"I would think the Falcon holds a special place in the hearts of all Star Wars fans," said Sean Fuller, who runs the Facebook page All Things R2. "It has become a character in the saga at this point."
Not all of the characters who actually rode in the Falcon loved it at first sight. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) didn't mince words in 1977's original Star Wars film, exclaiming, "What a piece of junk!"
You can't blame the kid from Tatooine for not wanting to risk his life in the ship his twin sister Leia later dismisses as a "bucket of bolts." In the later movies, Rey calls it "garbage," and Kylo Ren echos Uncle Luke, sneering that it's a "piece of junk."
But the not forward), displays a complete front end, and features a blue-and-white color scheme, not its usual gray.. It features a circular radar dish facing upward (
It's... new. Clean. And bright. The hallways positively sparkle. It's definitely a different look for the iconic ship, for good or for bad.
"A clean version of the Millennium Falcon is sort of, in a way very jarring," Berges said. "It's clear that Han and Chewie needed to hire some help cleaning that thing. What we've seen of the clean Falcon seems to fall in line for an off-the-lot Corellian freighter, I suppose. I don't have any idea what the new nose cone does, but we shall see."
Brandon Beekman, an administrator at I Grew Up Star Wars, says change could be tough for old-school fans.
"When you've come to know something for 40-plus years, it is a little jarring to see it represented differently," Beekman admits. "I always adored the look of the original trilogy with everything having that lived-in, used look."
The Falcon was prominent in the first three Star Wars movies, but it's also made a resurgence in this most recent trilogy, from its discovery by Rey and Finn in Unkar Plutt's junkyard on Jakuu in The Force Awakens to its triumphant flight in the Battle of Crait in The Last Jedi.
But it's odd to see the Falcon flying without Han.
"The Millennium Falcon will always be Han Solo's ship," Berges says.
Fuller agrees. "It's not the same without Han in the pilot seat," he said of the new trilogy. "While I'm glad (the Falcon is) still around, it really is hard to see someone else in that seat."
Part of why fans love the Millennium Falcon so much may be their personal experience with it in toy form. The fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy flew into kids' homes long before kids knew anything about video games or computers, and fought many a battle on 1970s shag carpeting.
Famed toymaker Kenner sold over 300 million Star Wars toys from 1978 to 1985, according to StarWars.com. One of its most memorable items was the model of the Millennium Falcon, which sold for $29.99 -- an enormous amount for a toy back then. It was 20 inches long (53 cm), which, as StarWars.com points out, was almost four times too small compared to the 3-inch (10 cm) figure of Han Solo.
It's nothing like thethat came out in 2017 and is called Lego's biggest playset ever, but that didn't matter to kids of the 1970s and 1980s.
"Such an impressive toy for that time, and it packs a lot of fun into the package," Beekman said. "I currently have a vintage one on display in my office."
Fuller agrees. "The original Kenner Falcon is one of my favorite toys of all time," he said. "No other versions will ever eclipse it. But my son did get the big Falcon that Hasbro made a few years ago, and it is an amazing toy for a new generation."
Falcon aside, Solo: A Star Wars Story poses some challenges for old-school fans.
"None of us were looking for a Han Solo backstory," Berges points out. But he allows, "the famed Kessel Run might be interesting to see."
Says Fuller: "I hope we see how the ship changes to become the version we grew up with. And I look forward to seeing the moment when her ownership changes hands."
Fans who watch Solo: A Star Wars Story will get to turn back the clock and see the Falcon become new again. But Luke Skywalker must do the opposite in the new trilogy, when he boards the now-aged ship that saved his life so many years ago and finds himself overwhelmed with memories.
"Seeing the Falcon in The Force Awakens was one of the best parts of the film," says Fuller. "I wish we'd have seen Han piloting her a little more -- maybe in the midst of a chase or battle. And the scenes with Luke and R2 on the Falcon in The Last Jedi are meaningful to us older fans."
The jury is still out on the new guy in the Falcon's cockpit, Alden Ehrenreich.
Like many fans, Beekman and Berges say they thought Anthony Ingruber, well-known for his similarities to Harrison Ford, would've been a good casting choice. Ingruber even played a younger version of Ford's character William in the 2015 drama, The Age of Adaline.
"Change, particularly with Star Wars fans, is difficult sometimes," Fuller says. "Any actor was going to have a hard time being compared to Ford. Ford is an icon and one of the leading actors of his generation. ... I'm withholding judgment at this point."
Human characters can be recast, aged, or killed off, but in a galaxy of change, the Millennium Falcon remains comfortingly consistent -- even after it's been cleaned.
"The Millennium Falcon is no doubt a major character in the Star Wars saga," says Berges. "It's like a best friend; you need it to be there."
Solo: A Star Wars story opens May 24 in the U.K. and Australia, and May 25 in the U.S.