Thursday, October 23, 2008

Forever War is Now to be a Movie

The story now goes that Joe Haldeman's Forever War is to be a big-budget, Ridley Scott-directed movie.

I remember first reading Haldeman's novel seven or eight years ago, and frankly I was a bit disappointed. I was sympathetic to its outlook, and the absurdity and wrongness of the situation came through. It also had a clever central gimmick in the consequences of the protagonists' flight at relativistic speed. Still, I also felt that it was a bit thin, and had suffered with age--and admittedly, the expectations that its status as a "classic" created. (Incidentally, I felt the same way about Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels.)

In fact, I was much more impressed with his 1997 Hugo and Nebula winner Forever Peace, a much more complex, polished and rich book, which shares the theme (though not the plot) of the earlier work, but as anyone who's read that book knows already, I don't think Hollywood would dare to touch it.

Still, I'm open to the idea that the book could make a compelling movie--though it's going to be a challenging shoot. One reason's the choice of director. Yes, yes, I know—Scott directed the classic Blade Runner. And I certainly won't argue with that film's strengths. But if you actually read the Philip K. Dick novel it's based on, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, you also see what viewers missed out on. And I don't think this novel could survive a similar transformation.

Another reason's that this is a satirical space war movie, a very difficult combination to bring off. I think Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is a rather better film than it's given credit for, and one that felt more relevant when I was watching it recently than when it first came out, but it went right over the audience's heads back in 1997, which I suspect is one reason the satire became so much broader in the straight-to-video sequels. They wanted to be absolutely sure the viewers would get it.

Alas, I suspect many of them still didn't.

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