John Scalzi’s ambitious 2005 novel Old Man’s War was a critical and commercial hit that lead to three similarly successful follow-ups. Hollywood was obviously keeping an eye on Scalzi’s growing fan base and now screen rights for the entire series have been purchased by Paramount Pictures.
If you’re not familiar with it, Old Man’s War has drawn comparisons to sci-fi classics like Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Joe Halderman’s The Forever War in terms of its structure and content. It charts a soldier’s progression from recruit to captain as he travels across the universe and encounters a wide variety of alien lifeforms.
According to Deadline, Scott Stuber (47 Ronin, Safe House) will produce Old Man’s War through his Stuber Pictures banner and Wolfgang Petersen (Troy, Poseidon) is attached to direct. Screenwriter David Self (Road to Perdition, The Wolfman) has been tasked with adapting Scalzi’s story into “a large scale science fiction project.”
Since Paramount owns the rights to the entire series, it seems likely that they’re hoping Old Man’s War will pave the way for a franchise of films based on the novel’s sequels The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, and Zoe’s Tale.
While Old Man’s War might borrow its structure from other sci-fi novels, its premise will probably remind more than a few folks of Avatar. The main character is a 75-year-old man who joins a futuristic military coalition after losing his wife. Combining the wisdom of age with the strength of youth, his mind is transferred to a genetically enhanced younger body that’s based on his own DNA. After being wounded in battle, he’s rescued by a special-forces officer that he’s convinced is a younger version of his wife. He abandons his unit and risks everything for a second chance with her.
Scalzi’s novel was praised for putting new twists on tired sci-fi cliches, so perhaps the film adaptation of Old Man’s War can also sidestep comparisons to similar works. If Stuben’s track record is any indication, we won’t have to wait long to find out. The turn around time on 47 Ronin and Safe House was incredibly fast, so I don’t think we should expect this one to languish in development for too long.
Although Petersen’s recent efforts have been pretty mediocre, this is the same filmmaker who made Das Boot, In the Line of Fire, and Air Force One. If he’s working from a solid script, I believe he’s still quite capable of delivering something impressive.
Old Man’s War sounds like an intriguing story that could translate into an interesting film. We’ll keep you updated on how this progresses.