“Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one, all-powerful force controlling everything.”
-Han Solo, Star Wars: A New Hope 1977
From the beginning of the famous, multi-film Saga in 1977, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo represented archetypical opposites. Where Luke was all passion, Han was pragmatic. Where Luke’s destiny seemed laid out before he was even born, Han appeared uniquely in control of his. Luke was a young man of much imagination but little experience, having been raised on a planet he once summed up to C-3PO by stating, “If there’s a bright center to the galaxy, than you’re on the planet it’s farthest from.” Han, by contrast, was a fully grown adult and a worldly galactic traveler, and someone whose breadth of experience made him atheistic to the Force.
So, I ask, if Luke was a budding Jedi and Han was the ultimate materialist skeptic, then how do you explain so much of what happened to the erstwhile smuggler turned good guy? Did Han, whether consciously or not, somehow use the Force?
As evidence of this possibility, I offer the following examples, each showing how Han was likely not only adept at using the force, but was exceptionally (and sometimes even statistically) proficient at it as well.
As many know, a Parsec is a measure of distance, not of time. So, when Han proudly announced that his ship, the Millennium Falcon, had once made the Kessel Run in less than 12 Parsecs as evidence of the vessel’s exceptional speed, science nerds everywhere cried foul. How could the distance that one traveled, in this case less than 12 parsecs, indicate great speed? It’s like saying, “Man, I drove so fast, I made it from Los Angeles to New York in less than 300 miles!” Setting aside the inaccuracy of this statement distance wise, it simply has no relation to speed.
Fortunately, some of us more obsessed geeks tuned in on an idea that was later played out in the Han Solo spin off movie. In short, it goes something like this.
The Kessel run is populated with obstacles, forcing regular traffic to travel a long, circuitous route to avoid them, thus adding significant length, both distance and time wise, to the trip. In such a scenario, a pilot who is unusually skilled at skirting precariously close to the aforementioned obstacles would reduce his overall length compared to others who traveled a safer, yet longer route. In this sense, the shorter distance traveled would not only be a badge of honor for the pilot involved, it would also, at least to some extent, result in a ‘faster’ travel time-wise, since the distance traversed was shorter.
So, if one assumes that Han’s piloting skills made his Kessel run exceptional enough to use as a calling card when first meeting Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi at Mos Eisley Space Port, wouldn’t it be possible that this, in some part at least, is representative of him accessing the power of the force?
Additional examples of Han’s beyond exceptional flying include on-screen battles in the first and third films, his successful evasion of a pair of Tie Fighters while navigating the landscape of a huge asteroid in the second film, causing both of the smaller, clearly more adroit vessels to crash while Han slips the Falcon through hazard after hazard. (There is also his navigation of the entire asteroid field itself, which I address in more detail later)
Sure, all of these, and many others not listed, could simply be chalked up to Han being an exceptional pilot, but when one factors in the sheer number of obstacles avoided, the frequency of these activities, the number of assumedly skilled Tie Fighter pilots who regularly die in his wake failing to execute the same maneuvers in much smaller, more maneuverable ships, it seems like something else is at work.
In fact, exceptional piloting skills are often equated with force usage throughout much of the multi-film saga. The first, and likely most memorable instance occurred when Darth Vader, who was trying to engage Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter over the Death Star, lamented to himself that, “the force is strong with this one”. In that, and other examples in later movies, the overall ethos of an unusually skilled piloting having a clear, undeniable connection to force usage is undeniable, meaning that the notion of an exceptionally adept pilot like Han using it to his advantage, even unconsciously, is at least worth considering.
Without a scratch.
Any good statistician will tell you that the frequency of an occurrence increases the chances of failure, regardless of the circumstances. It’s a numbers game. And yet, somehow, Han Solo seemed to defy odds and logic time and again, only to come out unscathed. (One could of course argue that any Force-based foresight clearly failed him in his face-to-face death scene with Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, but hey, nobody’s perfect.)
The chances of surviving a trip into the original Death Star and successfully retrieving Princess Leia were never explicitly laid out, but they had to be long. Still, Han lead such an expedition to fruition, one that was so treacherous it claimed Obi Wan Kenobi’s life. Barrages of laser blasts, a garbage masher, and dozens of Storm Troopers tried and failed to corral the notorious smuggler, but each and every time our leather-vested hero came through without a scratch. Heck, even a painfully long hibernation in Carbonite led to no lasting complications, and, I mean, that’s gotta hurt.
Movie after movie Han chases after, is chased by, shoots at and hits countless Stormtroopers. But somehow, he never gets hit himself. Same with ship-to-ship combat. Han racks up numerous kills, but once again always gets away unharmed. Sure, this may not necessarily mean he is a Force wielder, but if you go back and add up the sheer number of close calls, near misses and luckily timed escapes, both on foot and in space, he seems charmed at a minimum, and a veritable odd-buster more times than are listed.
Speaking of which…
C-3PO: “But sir, the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are three thousand, seven hundred and twenty, to one.”
Han Solo: “Never tell me the odds.”
-The Empire Strikes Back, 1980
Although the odds of other notable feats, like successfully freeing a princess form the Death Star, leading the team that shut down a generator projecting a defensive shield around a newly built Death Star, or surviving countless gun fights and ship to ship fire fights are never explicitly enumerated, there are actually two Han Solo odd-busting scenarios where the numbers are laid out in precise detail.
The first is a calculation made by R2-D2, and translated by C-3PO in “The Empire Strikes Back”, where the latter informs Princess Leia that the odds of Han and Luke surviving the coming Hoth snowstorm was roughly 725 to 1. The second example is the aforementioned asteroid field, whose survival odds of 3,720 to 1, as quoted above, are once again enumerated by our favorite protocol droid.
So let us take a look at both, starting with the first: The rescue of Luke on Hoth.
Setting aside the odds given by R2, there is also the unexplained component of how Han found Luke in the first place. When he arrived on the scene, a semi-conscious Luke was communicating with Obi-Wan’s force ghost, and then immediately passed out. So, if Luke and Obi-Wan were otherwise occupied, then the question is, how did Han find Luke?
One might argue some sort of portable sensor device lead him there, but the next morning when the Snow-speeders are searching for Han and Luke, they seem to have no such sensing equipment. The pilot who ultimately found the duo was forced to try to raise Han on his radio, indicating that not only did the Snow-speeder not have a bio-sensor locating type device installed, but it also meant that such a sensor device probably didn’t lead a Tauntaun-riding Han to Luke in the first place. I mean, if such a device existed, and it led Han to Luke, then the pilot could have just brought one with him on the morning’s hunt. But he didn’t.
As we know Han found Luke anyway, and they did survive, effectively beating R2’s dire prediction. With Luke unconscious the whole time, this result has to be credited solely to Han. Force or luck, you decide. But at 725 to 1, I’ll go with the former.
And now, that darn asteroid field.
By his own wording, C-3PO calculated the odds at 3,720 to 1 just to “successfully navigate” the field. In this specific case, Han once again not only beat those odds, but did so with Tie Fighters in close pursuit for much of the journey. This undoubtedly increases the odds of failure, and not the other way around.
The feat is further complicated by the successful landing inside of an asteroid, the timely escape from the rapidly closing jaws of the creature who they were actually inside, and the magical maneuver to evade, then land on the side of Darth Vader’s Imperial Cruiser without detection, all of which increased the odds of failure. But once again, Han somehow beat them.
Quick math. If the odds of surviving the snow storm were 725-1, and the odds of navigating the asteroid field were 3,720-1, then the odds of the same person doing both things successfully is 2,697,000-1.
Yep, Han Solo somehow beat nearly 3 million to one odds to survive both situations, and all in the same movie. That’s not even including odds-inflating obstacles like finding Luke in the snow, or evading the enemy fighters while also navigating the asteroid field, all adding more opportunities for failure to the equation.
So, at a minimum, a man who is fluent in Wookie, Huttese and Greedo, (an amazing set of skills that is never fully explained) also beat odds of 2.7 million to one. And, based on the variables I’ve noted that were definitely not factored in by R2-D2 or C-3PO, likely much, much higher. In fact, if 3PO added in the odds of surviving the various escapes, dodges and other successful missions listed above, I’d surmise that the chances of one person doing all of those things successfully would be nearly incalculable.
But Han Solo did.
When statisticians come across something like this, a result that defies such impossible odds yet somehow still happened, they are usually able to rectify the discrepancy by locating previously unnamed, and therefore uncalculated variables. However, as I’ve explained, those variables almost universally increase Han’s chances of failure, and not the other way around. So what gives?
The “Force”, that’s what.
It is the one, missing component of the equation that could not only account for Han’s inexplicable, statistically improbable success and survival, but given the rules governing that galaxy far, far away, where the Force is a real, verifiable phenomenon, it is also the one uncalculated factor that makes it all possible.
When we first meet Han Solo he is brash, cocky, and explicitly atheistic when it comes to the Force. And yet, as the movies progress and we are forced to judge him by his actions instead of his words, the results say something else altogether.
He freed Leia. He survived a close-quarters gun fight with Greedo, dodged Stormtroopers, Tie Fighters, Darth Vader, a snow storm, an asteroid field, and countless other insane obstacles, all to come out alive and unharmed. Heck, even force hero Luke Skywalker lost a limb (and his faith) along the way, and the great Obi-Wan gave his life in the very first movie! In the end, the only thing that could kill Han Solo was his blind love for his only son (or Harrison Ford’s express desire for it to happen, you choose).
Sure, Han may just be a great pilot, an exceptionally good shot, an inhumanly lucky moving target and someone who simply beats the odds over and over again through pure moxie and statistically unfounded chance, or he could simply be using something available to those in his corner of the universe who have the ability to access it. He may simply using the force.
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