The Force Awakens: The Millennium Falcon as a Metaphor for Salvaging the Star Wars Franchise

In Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the Millennium Falcon serves as a metaphor for the trajectory that the entire series of films has taken and, specifically, stands in for the recovery of the franchise from the disaster of the most recent installments, Episodes I-III. And the salvage ship that Han Solo and Chewbacca use to find and regain the Millennium Falcon stands in for the role of Episode VII, itself.

  • When we first see the Millennium Falcon, Rey and Finn are fleeing a First Order ground and air assault on Jakku. Realizing they can’t outrun the First Order, they look for a ship for their escape. They pass up a “garbage” ship and head toward a “Quad Jumper.” But First Order Tie Fighters destroy the newer and better Quad Jumper, so Rey and Finn return to the older, garbage ship, which turns out to be the Millennium Falcon. (Of course, Rey’s judgment of the Millennium Falcon echoes Luke’s judgment when he first sees the ship in Episode IV and says, “What a piece of junk!”) In the Millennium Falcon, the older piece of junk, they outrun, outmaneuver, and outgun the Tie Fighters, though parts of the ship get stuck (the gun turret) and require awkward maneuvers to pull off the escape. Rey and Finn had to turn from the newfangled Quad Jumper to the old, garbage ship and deal with its limitations in order to survive. In the same way, the series had to turn from the newfangled techniques and tropes of Episodes I-III and embrace the old, familiar stories from 1977-1983. It had to work within the limitations of the original storylines and techniques, even if that required occasionally awkward and unusual maneuvers.
  • When Han and Chewbacca find the Millennium Falcon, its pilots, Rey and Finn, are indecisive about where to go and unfamiliar with the ship. Han and Chewbacca pull the Falcon into the bay of a salvage ship. That salvage ship stands in, in a way, for Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Just like Han and Chewbacca search for the missing ship, drag it into a salvage bay, and give new direction to its mostly clueless pilots, those involved with Episode VII had to search for the missing series, pull it in for salvage, and give new direction to the franchise.
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  • Discussions between Han and Rey reveal that the Millennium Falcon had been stolen or traded by unworthy owners three times, a number matching the number of “prequel” episodes. In that series of exchanges, someone had added a compressor. While that addition was an effort to improve the ship, it actually detracted from the performance of the ship by keeping the hyperdrive from working properly. Just like Han and
    Rey had to remove the new part in order to make the Millennium Falcon work
    correctly again, those involved with Episode VII had to remove any hindrances that had been added by Episodes I-III before they could restore the franchise to its original performance or even think of “jumping to light speed” with it.
  • Once the new parts were removed, the Millennium Falcon had to take off at light speed from inside the salvage ship without a lot of room to maneuver. Just like the salvage bay left less room than one might like for jumping to light speed, the constraints of salvaging the series in Episode VII left J.J. Abrams with the difficult task of going to light speed from within very tight quarters. Hopefully, now that the salvage operation of Episode VII is behind us and the franchise has been restored to its original potential by stripping away parts added in Episodes I-III, we’ll see  more freedom and creativity in how the series gets to light speed in Episodes VIII and IX.

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