Why Isn't This A Film? - The Forever War by Joe Haldeman


What have we got here then?

The Forever War is Joe Haldeman's well-regarded 1974 Science-Fiction novel, the first in a series of three Haldeman wrote, finishing in 1999.

OK fine. What’s it about?

The Forever War of the title refers to a conflict between humans and an alien race known as the Taurans. With the war taking place across the galaxy, humans with high-IQs are recruited to take part and plan humanities' strategic victory. Enter protagonist William Mandella, a reluctant but intelligent everyman, and his compatriot and lover Marygay Potter, two of our best.

Interesting. Is there something more?

Travel between conflict sites takes place by way of 'Collapsar jumps', which allows the combatants to travel vast distances in a very short time. Using the theory of relativity, Haldeman's novel operates around the conceit that, whilst the journeys take seconds for the soldiers, time back on Earth advances years. When Mandela first returns home, Earth is unrecognisable. The next time he is able to, there is no-one left alive that knew him.

Save me the trouble then – is it any good?

The Forever War is a fantastic novel, laced with critique of the Vietnam war but so powerful of character and emotion that it still feels relevant, engaging and involving, even if your knowledge of that conflict is not current. Mandela develops throughout, admitting the thrill of war but never becoming the machismo grunt he could have turned into. The closing chapters reveal just how much the leads have come to mean to you, as Haldeman finishes on a powerful anti-war message that it won't be easy to forget.

But…

No buts. This is fantastic and at under 300-pages, a must read, particularly for Sci-Fi fans.

What are its chances of being made as a film?

Currently they seem good, but if this piece had been written at any point in the past 25-odd years, you might have said the same thing. In November 2012 Ridley Scott appointed D. W. Harper to write the fourth version of a script he's been trying to bring to screen for a huge amount of time. The fact that he's had little success so far might lead you to question whether he will now but, at that point, there seemed renewed optimism around this happening, with the only potential hold-up now apparently being Scott's choc-full schedule. Fingers crossed.

Will it be any good?

There will be some difficulty in, eventually, not making the film saccharine and overly moralistic. Some might point to the fact that Haldeman's Vietnam metaphor is now long passed, but there are other wars and other similar messages to communicate. The large budget required to realise some scenes could present the studio with a problem, given some high-profile Science Fiction failures. If the eventual director doesn't realise that at least 50% of the novel's power is held in the love story, this will fall over into brainless territory.

So... Why isn't it a film?

Damn your vast workload Ridley Scott!

Anything else I should know?

Though less well received, Haldeman's subsequent novels Forever Free and Forever Peace complete his trilogy.

Why Isn't This A Film? is a regular Film Intel feature which takes a book (you know... one of those things with pages in, doesn't project on to a screen, makes small rustling noises), comic, video game or graphic novel and assesses its adaptation prospects. One day this feature will get something right and we will win something major and valuable. Possibly.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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