UPDATE: New merchandise for Solo: A Star Wars Story may provide a possible solution to the Falcon plot hole.
With mere months to go until the Solo: A Star Wars Story, we finally have a trailer for the film, offering up our first look at Alden Ehrenreich as Han and an earlier version of his trusty ship, the Millennium Falcon. However, this snazzy design doesn't arrive without creating one of the weirdest plot holes of Disney-era Star Wars.
Up until this point, all speculation has been on Ehrenreich. While we've had teases of the other returning characters - Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Donald Glover as Lando - there's been no sign of the young smuggler himself. It was expected he was being saved for the end of filming, but that only brought a title, and a supposed leak was proven fake. This, coupled with reports of a performance that was originally more Jim Carrey than Harrison Ford put a lot of the weight on seeing Alden in the role. Now it's here, it's safe to say he looks the part. Although that's not the most intriguing part of the trailer.
Han will be back with Chewie, Lando, and the Millennium Falcon. One of the most iconic Star Wars designs (and far and away the franchise's most well-known ship), any changes to the piece of junk are immediately noticeable. It was expected Solo would mix things up to highlight this was an earlier iteration (if only for merchandise purposes) although not even leaked images prepared us for what we got; the new (old) version of the Falcon has blue highlights, a sunken radar dish and filled-in mandibles, with the freight extension running to the very tip of the ship.
At first glance, this is all well and good. It's still recognizable as the Falcon yet has a proto feel; like its soon-to-be captain, it's still being formed into the finished version we know. Additionally, the added storage space makes in-universe sense considering the smuggling purpose. However, this isn't the earliest version of the Falcon seen in the canon - and this creates a contradiction.
The new Disney continuity hasn't tackled pre-A New Hope history of Han and the Falcon for the most part beyond what was already established by the original trilogy; all of Han and Chewie's Expanded Universe history is now Legends, and little new canon info has been revealed, presumably to keep a blank slate for this very movie. That said, some backstory details still slipped through care of the prequels.
When he first started writing Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas intended to feature a cameo from a childhood Han Solo, allegedly either a Coruscant street urchin or protege to Chewbacca during Yoda's visit to Kashyyyk. This never got past the concept stage, but the creator still got in a nod to the smuggler by having the Millennium Falcon, under previous owners, seen landing by the Senate building as Anakin and Obi-Wan arrive following their rescue Palpatine. It's at the bottom of the frame and nigh on impossible to spot without knowing it's there, but was confirmed by Lucas and appears still be accepted in the new canon (StarWars.com lists it as an official appearance).
Now we hit the snag. Like Solo, this is an earlier iteration of the ship, with those same blue highlights (which date back to the mid-1990s Han Solo novel trilogy). However, the rest of the design of the RotS version is closer to the original film; the radar dish is the classic version and there are no filled-in mandibles. While it's easy enough to accept Han made some "special modifications" to the ship between Solo and A New Hope, it's frankly galling that it went from being a repaint away from the original version to something totally different and back again. The movie may explain this, of course - perhaps these are Kessel Run-related modifications - but it's still an odd development, one that exists purely to have a "new" version become the old. It's Malibu Stacy and her new hat all over again.
We're not saying this is a flaw in Solo at all, especially as it's all spawned off the back of an easter egg (after all, the much more clue-centric MCU regularly retcons its foreshadowing), but in the meticulously planned-out Star Wars galaxy, it's a peculiar lack of cohesion. Here's hoping Ron Howard has one hell of an explanation.
UPDATE: The latest episode of The Star Wars Show has provided some more details on Solo's version of the ship, saying "the version of the Falcon we see in the teaser is actually the closest we've ever seen to what a brand new or well-taken care of version of a Corellian freighter would look." This further contradicts the classic design of the ship in Revenge of the Sith, perhaps suggesting a retcon.