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Page to Screen: Jurassic Park

Updated on September 1, 2015

Fun Fact(s)!

There is the original trilogy of Jurassic Park films as well as the reboot/sequel Jurassic World. The first film follows the first book for the most part, and (assumedly) the second film follows the second and last book. The third film (which wasn't directed by Steven Spielberg) has no book to follow but takes bits and pieces of the two books that weren't used in the films (largely locations and action scenes). The fourth film likewise has no book but instead serves original material while largely following the themes present in the first book.

A movie poster for the Jurassic Park film.
A movie poster for the Jurassic Park film. | Source

The Film

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film version of Jurassic Park is directed by Steven Spielberg and premiered in 1993. A science-fiction action-adventure, the film is still a fundamental milestone in special effects and as such, the film's focus and theme is affected by this. It largely follows the overarching plotline, but some characters are different or absent, while some set pieces are changed or resolved differently, as Spielberg is wont to do. The author of the original novel, Micheal Crichton, helped to write the screenplay as well.

The Novel

Published in 1990, the original Jurassic Park novel is a written cautionary tale about the dangers of biological manipulation and the unchecked changes it may bring (such as bringing back extinct dinosaurs, for one). In a time of genetic engineering, one company supports John Hammond's ideals to creating an amusement park featuring living dinosaurs. Numerous persons are brought on as the first guests as things begin to break down as the electronic systems go haywire, dinosaurs get free, and the situation becomes every man for himself while survivors try to leave the island.

The original book cover to Jurassic Park.
The original book cover to Jurassic Park. | Source

The Adaptation

Dr. Grant
There are a few staggering differences in how the entertainment mediums handle this character. In the book, Dr. Grant actually likes kids although he has no family of his own. Contrariwise, the film version dislikes but grows to like them as he goes through many life-or-death scenarios with them.

It's also worth noting that Grant is not as amazed as his cinematic comparison. He is still just as fascinated with dinosaurs but he is so without compassion. When introducing a baby velociraptor, one that becomes very attached to Timmy (nuzzling into his neck and acting like a lovesick puppy), Grant takes the baby, forces it on its back, and keeps poking it when everyone is shouting for him to stop. It's kinda traumatic, although not nearly as traumatic when someone (I think Grant, actually) throws it as a distraction as adult raptors and they eat it.

John Hammond
Physically, Hammond's rendition in the film is the spitting image of the book. However, as dark, stubborn, and idealistic as Hammond may be in the film, he's a great many times worse in the book. Hammond in the film wants to build a marvelous park to entertain the world, specifically the children. He's idealistic in thinking everything is relatively simple and all the procedures transpire correctly. If anything, his greatest failing is his overly optimistic views for his park.

In the book however, Hammond doesn't care about pleasing children, at least not children below a certain household income. Hammond is 100% in it for the profits, a direct contrast to his cinematic version. He thinks little of everyone around him and constantly blames them for the park's faults. He's still hopelessly believing that a park running on dinosaur entertainment after everything goes down...right to the point a fake T-Rex roar (caused by the children) scares him to fall down a hill, twist his ankle, and get eaten by 'Compies' (those tiny dinosaurs at the beginning of Jurassic Park: The Lost World).

The Hate for Walt Disney
John Hammond is largely compared to Walt Disney and a greed for consumerism throughout the book as well.

Also, I think Crichton hates amusement parks. This and Westworld both features said parks going haywire and killing their guests and employees. That would be an interesting thing to talk to him about.

The kids in the raptors in the kitchen scene of Jurassic Park. In the book, it's just Timmy leading his sister in complete darkness armed only with a single pair of night vision goggles and some cold steaks as bait.
The kids in the raptors in the kitchen scene of Jurassic Park. In the book, it's just Timmy leading his sister in complete darkness armed only with a single pair of night vision goggles and some cold steaks as bait. | Source

The Ending

In the film, the main protagonists are cornered by the raptors with no escape in sight. The T-Rex that has been about mysteriously appears in doors and begins fighting with the raptors, allowing the humans to run free, get picked up by a helicopter, and refuse to sign off an approval for the park. The audience chuckles and it rolls into the credits.

The book is a bit different. Not really seeing the T-Rex since the two were interacting at the river near the 'bird cage' (since Muldoon, the warden, tranquilizes the larger T-Rex, causing it to drown), the raptors are beaten when the power comes on which the boy activates. After Hammond falls down a hill and twists his ankle because the kids were making fake T-Rex noises over the intercom of the park, he gets eaten by compies, those little dinos at the beginning of the second film. The rest of the group goes out to get a headcount of the raptors and sees them wanting to migrate just before they get picked up by the Costa Rican army. As they fly away, the island is essentially bombed.

They are then apprehended by the Costa Rican government who basically promises them that they will not be going home, especially not with the scale of danger that was unleashed and Hammond, the man responsible, no longer in the living world to take the blame. Oh, and Malcolm dies from his injuries as well.

Bad quality, Great trailer

Closing Thoughts

This is a bit more of an interesting adaptation, as Spielberg has a habit of picking up things he likes from original works and changing them as he sees fit (as he is wont to do). There's a lot of word-for-word moments between the two works, then there's substantial shifts in tone from the book's constant foreboding warning while the film allows awe and amazement. Different characters bite the bullet such as the fate of Malcolm, which no one seems to agree on as he dies in the first book but he's in the literary sequel. As mentioned before, some dinosaur appearances aren't shared between the two such as the whole bird cage scene in the book that isn't really explored until the third film. In a lot of ways, they are two completely different stories grounded in the same elements.

People who have watched the film first and will then read the book will likely enjoy it quite a lot, such as myself. Those who read the book first might be a little frustrated with the film and its deviations (as are so many who read a book and see its adaptation), but it's hard not to still believe (in the cinematic sense) of the presentation of dinosaurs, both with animatronics, puppets, and CGI even in present day. If one should see the film this book inspired for only one reason, it's the visuals.

And for that, I highly recommend both works.

Book vs. Movie

For those of you who read the book and watched the movie, what did you prefer?

See results

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