That really was the Millennium Falcon in Revenge of the Sith and, thankfully, Solo: A Star Wars Story explains why it doesn't look quite right without creating a plot hole. The young Han Solo movie provides a new look for the Millennium Falcon, which under the ownership of Lando Calrissian was just as dapper as its smooth-talking owner. Most of those "add-ons" are stripped away during the film, but that's not the most important part of the canon we're concerned with.
When the Kessel Run Falcon, with a bright paint-job, thicker paneling, single-barrelled gun and, of course, filled-in mandibles, was first unveiled, eagle-eyed Star Wars fans caught what appeared to be a plot hole. The problem wasn't what the Falcon was going to become, but what it had been. While most of Han's pre-A New Hope past was blank in the new canon, there was one irrefutable fact about his ship: it was in the prequels.
In Revenge of the Sith, just after Anakin and Obi-Wan rescue the Chancellor in the opening act, there's a shot of the Jedi flying towards the Senate building, and in the bottom-left-hand-corner of the frame a YT-1300 freighter can be seen docking. This was confirmed at the time to be the Millennium Falcon, and per the official Star Wars Databank, this is still true in the new canon (unlike Episode III's take on the Tantive IV, retconned to be a totally different ship, the Sundered Heart). The problem arose in the design of this iteration of the Falcon: it looked exactly like it did in the original trilogy, bar some differing decals.
How did a ship go from one state to another then directly back again was an eye-brow raising contrivance, and while the discovery the mandibles were filled by a detachable pod meant the mechanics were a little more understandable, it was still confusing how we'd ended up here. When The Star Wars Show described it as the "closest we've ever seen to what a brand new or well-taken care of version of a Corellian freighter would look", it looked like an oversight. Thankfully, the movie provides a solution.
The Millennium Falcon turns up about halfway through Solo after Han fails to win it off Lando, and upon first look it becomes immediately obvious how proud the owner is of his vessel. Calrissian excitedly explains how he fixed up the ship and brags about the various modifications he's made to it - a Lando mirror of its introduction in A New Hope - which succinctly explains the Revenge of the Sith switch-up: Lando was making an industrial machine as luxurious as possible. Crucially, that escape pod was a mechanism of his own design, made to match up with the casing. It only fits that when the ship is damaged doing the Kessel Run it would return to a prior state because of all the space debris damage.
More info that Lando's throwaway line is given by Solo: A Star Wars Story - The Official Guide. The Falcon is the subject of two double spreads and one section that details Lando's thinking with the upgrades:
"The Falcon is an old YT-1300 freighter that once worked in the galaxy's busiest spacelanes. Calrissian saw how powerful its freight-pushing engines were, so he converted the ship into his own speedy sports vessel. Lando modified the two cargo mandibles at the front into an auxiliary ship launch, turning the plain freighter into a unique starship."
The balance of modification and original ship is very clear here, as is why someone with such class would try and do up a freighter in the first place (although one can't be too picky when winning spaceships in card games). Although with all this resolved, there's still a bigger question: what did Han do with Lando's cape closet after the end of Solo?
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019