The Forever War is one of the best science fiction novels ever written. The way it blends a sort of time travel with the emotional trauma war inflicts on soldiers is just flat-out brilliant. And unlike other similarly themed, large-scale sci-fi novels, Joe Haldeman's story could work quite well as a movie. That doesn't mean it'll be easy, though.
Ridley Scott has been trying to put the film together as his own directorial project for a few years now, but it's failed to get off the ground. However, now Scott and studio Fox 2000 have brought on a new writer to take a crack at Haldeman's highly influential work. His name is D.W. Harper and he's a rising player in big-budget studio films, having written the currently filming All You Need Is Kill starring Tom Cruise (which looks awesome so far), the release-delayed Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (which looks markedly less awesome so far), and the unproduced adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation for Roland Emmerich.
Movement on the film is certainly encouraging news if you're really looking forward to an adaptation, however, it is a little disheartening to learn that a new screenwriter is being brought in. After all, screenwriter David Webb Peoples turned in no less than four drafts of The Forever War to Scott over two years ago-- and if the man who wrote Blade Runner, Unforgiven and 12 Monkeys can't crack the story for the big screen, can the guy who wrote Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters? (Note: Haldeman mentioned back in 2010 that at no point had he been asked to write the film, despite being a 30-plus year member of the WGA.)
So what makes The Forever War so difficult to adapt? It follows a single soldier who spends the equivalent of several lifetimes fighting a war with an alien race lightyears away. No, he's not immortal, rather he and his fellow soldiers all experience "time dilation" every time they're sent deep into space for combat. A year might pass from their perspective while they're on a tour of duty, but by the time they return home, a decade has passed and the world has moved on without them. With no life left for them on Earth, it's just easier to reenlist for another tour and a seemingly endless cycle of war.
Describing it that way may set it up as a thin metaphor for how soldiers can never truly go home again, but Haldeman (who was drafted into Vietnam months after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and astronomy) gives it all an impossibly unique perspective of imagination and love and pain and it's frankly a masterful piece of science fiction. Ridley Scott is definitely an excellent candidate to direct such a film, so hopefully D.W. Harper's new script can rise to the occasion.