WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story, in theaters now.
Among the numerous memorable moments of the cantina scene in Star Wars: A New Hope is the introduction of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker to the cocky smuggler Han Solo, who brags that his ship the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel Run in "less than 12 parsecs." That boast sparked a long-running debate among fans, because a parsec is a measurement of distance, equal to 3.26 light years, and not speed. Thankfully, however, an explanation soon emerged.
The Kessel Run is a hyperspace route used to smuggle illegal substances to and from the spice mines of Kessel. The Millennium Falcon made that trip using the shortest route possible, but one that was fraught with danger. George Lucas stated that, when in hyperspace, distance matters because ships can't travel in straight lines, due to the presence of celestial objects. Therefore, in the cantina, Han's boast was about the ship's ability to endure faster and more dangerous paths through space, which is a feat Imperial ships couldn't accomplish.
But there were a lot of details left unaccounted for until the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, which finally provides the definitive explanation as to why, when bragging about the Millennium Falcon's capabilities, Han referred to the distance, as opposed to the time, it took to traverse the Kessel Run.
Midway through the film, Han, Chewbacca, Qi'ra, L3, Beckett and Lando are forced to steal coaxium, a highly volatile fuel, and bring it to Dryden Vos, the merciless leader of Crimson Dawn. Their mission takes them through the Maelstrom and into the spice mines of Kessel, which houses a large store of unprocessed coaxium. After sneaking their way into the administrative center, the gang frees the slaves, steals the fuel and battles their way back on to the Millennium Falcon. The only challenge left is to get the fuel to the planet Savareen so the substance can be refined before it explodes.
Unfortunately, the gang discovers the only safe path through the Maelstrom, spanning a distance of 20 parsecs, is blocked by an Imperial Star Destroyer, which sends out a host of TIE fighters. Caught between the hostile forces of Kessel and the Imperial blockade, Han opts to travel through the clouds, asteroids and electrical storms of the Maelstrom. On that path, the Falcon narrowly dodges asteroids, endures a lightning strike, evades the jaws and tendrils of an enormous deep-space monster and escapes the immense pull of a gravity well before L3's navigational computer is able to chart a course through the Maelstrom allowing the Falcon to finally arrive on Savareen in not 20 but 12 parsecs. Well, 12 if you round the figure down, as Han does.
As you might expect from such a scoundrel, Han's boast about the Kessel Run is inconsistent throughout the franchise. In A New Hope, it was less than 12 parsecs. In The Force Awakens, Han clarifies to Rey that it was 12. However, now we learn it was actually slightly more than that, although the precise distance isn't clear. Considering Han's character, it's understandable, because "it's the ship that made the Kessel Run in approximately 12 parsecs" just doesn't sound quite as impressive.
It was still a race against time. Not only did the Millennium Falcon have to outrun the Imperial fighters, it had to maneuver one of the most hostile paths in the galaxy before its cargo exploded (which it nearly did). All things considered, the Falcon's flight through the Kessel Run does say something about the ship's speed, although not nearly as much as we might have thought when we first heard Han's boast in A New Hope.
Regardless, just as Rogue One effectively ended the argument over the first Death Star's weak point, Solo: A Star Wars Story may have just ended this decades old argument. We can now walk away from it, absolutely certain that no matter what unit you use to measure it, the Millennium Falcon and its captain are considerably awesome.
Directed by Ron Howard, Solo: A Star Wars Story stars Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra and Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca. They’re joined by Thandie Newton as Val, Phoebe Waller-Bridge L3-37, Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos and Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett.