Look, yes, I think about Star Wars a lot. Too much even! But, often, it’s better than thinking about other things. The other night I’m at my local New York City watering hole and the bar happens to be playing The Empire Strikes Back, a movie I’ve already seen way too many times. But it’s interesting because, now, I’m watching with the subtitles on. And it’s a different experience when you’re reading the dialogue as opposed to hearing it. And, for whatever reason, this time, I kept focusing on every time Han Solo was referred to as “Captain Solo.” More specifically, by the time of the events of The Empire Strikes Back, is Han Solo referred to as Captain because he’s a captain in the Rebel Alliance, or because he’s the Captain of the Millennium Falcon?
For some reason, I thought this would be a pretty straightforward answer. That night I put up a poll and, surprisingly, it was pretty divided.
Now, before we get into this, the question is asked in the spirit of “what the movie intended at the time.” So subsequent recent canon (like the Marvel Star Wars comics, which I do read) does not play a factor at all. All we have is what we know from the events of the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.
So, the question is, was Han Solo an official member of the Rebel Alliance in The Empire Strikes Back?
It’s funny, but Han Solo’s full name isn’t mentioned all that often in the Original Trilogy. I’m not going to rewatch them all to find this out (so, yes, this time, please correct me if I’m wrong) but the name “Han Solo” is only mentioned one time over the course of three movies: When Han introduces himself to Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi in the cantina on Tatooine. This is why it’s always so weird in The Force Awakens when everyone keeps using his full name. Like when Snoke says, “Haaaaan Sooooooolo.” Or when C-3PO interrupts with, “Han Solo.” No one ever called him this during the Original Trilogy. When Darth Vader referred to Han, it was always “Captain Solo.” Boba Fett also called him “Captain Solo.” Which, in a weird way, is formal and nice.
Honestly, I’ve gone back and forth on the question at hand a few times, and I’ve decided he’s referred to as “Captain Solo” because he’s the Captain of the Millennium Falcon. The reason I find this a little weird is because that title is pretty fancy for someone who just happens to own a starship. But, sometimes people are like this. (I can’t help but think of Rob Riggle’s Captain Jack on The Office. Look, he owned a party boat, he’s the Captain, so you will call him “Captain.”) And Han does introduce himself as, “Han Solo, Captain of the Millennium Falcon.” So it’s pretty clear he’d like that to be his title.