The fact that the second stand-alone Star Wars film after Rogue One is going to focus on young Han Solo has been public knowledge for quite a while. Now it seems like we finally know who is going to get the opportunity to portray the best smuggler in the Galaxy. After a long process, the decision seems to have fallen on Alden Ehrenreich. In the good tradition of Star Wars protagonists (except, well, Harrison Ford), he is not a very well-known actor, some of the more notable recent films he appeared in being Hail, Caesar! (2016) or the somewhat Twilight-esque Beautiful Creatures (2013). Two other final casting choices were Jack Reynor and Taron Egerton, but it seems they were unlucky this time.
To get the chance to play “young Harrison Ford” is both a boon and a curse. And maybe it is chiefly the latter, given how much comparison to “the original” the performance of the young actor will inevitably have to face. Whereas I hope for the best performance from Mr. Ehrenreich, I know already now that I am not going to nit-pick on details, as that would just ruin the whole thing. It is not like we haven’t had different actors portraying significant Star Wars characters before. Aside from child actors (such as little Ani and Boba Fett), who do not come under such close scrutiny by default, because their characters are still quite far removed from what they will become, I do not think anybody had much trouble with young Obi-Wan (especially in Episode I, where it was a big change from Alec Guinness, also visually). That said, Ewan McGregor set quite a high standard for portraying preexisting characters with his great performance. Anakin Skywalker had also a bit of advantage because Darth Vader was so different, and most of the criticism against his portrayal I would actually blame on bad script. Which is another factor that needs to be taken into account, and sadly another danger for the new Han: if the role is written poorly or, in the worst case, if Han actually does not act like Han, that would be a disappointment indeed.
But I do not want to sound pessimistic here, quite the opposite, I wish to hope that the makers will give us a script which will allow the young Han to shine and Mr. Ehrenreich to make his mark while reminding us of the smuggler we all know.
We are still no closer to knowing what the young Han adventure will be about than we were a year ago, but there are a few more factors to consider. Actually, one factor: Episode VII. The Force Awakens gave Han’s story a conclusion (maybe?), now we might see the start to kind of complete the frame. Also, given what we now know about Han and Leia’s relationship, who knows how that would reflect in young Han’s personality? Meaning: the dialogues between Han and Leia in The Force Awakens have underlined certain character traits in Han, or the ways he approaches problems, which undoubtedly had always been there, but now they became accentuated more strongly and it would be interesting to see them somehow feature in the upcoming story. Or: they should somehow feature there, I’d say.
The Han Solo story film is scheduled for May 2018. May used to be the traditional month for releasing new Star Wars films until The Force Awakens got rescheduled for December, partly because of time problems and delays. Rogue One, as we know, followed suit, so now it remains a question whether the Han Solo schedule remains as it was or whether it will also be moved. Given that the main actor has already been chosen, there does not seem to be any reason for delay so far.
There have been rumours (but nothing more than just unconfirmed rumours so far) that the young Han Solo might make a cameo appearance in Rogue One. It is not an inconceivable idea, although it would really have to be a small cameo given that Han had no record of previous cooperation with the Rebellion. There should be some time left to film a short scene with him, too (Rogue One is currently officially in post-production phase). I am as a rule very skeptical about rumours, but if such a thing happens, we are undoubtedly going to hear about it.