Having revisited the movie earlier in the year, because I can never pass up a free screening, the next logical step seemed to be reading the book that inspired it. I say inspired due to the long list of changes that were made in the process of adapting it for the silver screen. Scenes were cut, characters were rewritten, made to swap places, and their fates changed, among other things. What Crichton, who worked on the script with David Koepp, did was make it more family friendly and feel-good. That and he tried to strip out some of the more impractical to film scenes, ones which, it so happens, were some of my favorites. He robbed us, to give an example, of seeing my personal favorite, the pterodactyl, in flight and in action.
What he retained, although he pared it down considerably – so as not to put the kiddies to sleep, I imagine – is Ian Malcolm’s downer ramblings with I-told-you-so’s a plenty. They’re not without their place; as someone who likes to think of himself at least as an aspiring intellectual, they were at times stimulating enough (one-sided) conversations to justify their rampant inclusion. This didn’t stop me from wishing him dead, though (or from celebrating his apparent death at the end). I was awaiting the moment when Hammond would morph into an irritable granny with an umbrella, beating Malcolm with his cane until he disappears, shuts up, or, better yet, both. It takes an actor as likable, and of as high a caliber, as Jeff Goldblum to prevent these same feelings from carrying to the character in the film.
Which gives me an idea. What would I have to do for Spielberg and Emmerich to collaborate on a Jurassic Park/Independence Day crossover? Goldblum’s two characters could be combined. Will Smith could punch out a dinosaur, saying “welcome to the 21st century,” or something a little more snappy than that. Aliens and dinosaurs could, of course, duke it out for possession of the earth; think of it as the Native Americans (dinosaurs) versus, in essence, us (aliens). If I started a petition to make this happen, would anyone sign?
Back to the review, Crichton’s Jurassic Park is really the film expanded, basically speaking. Whereas the scope of the film is limited mainly to what transpires at the park itself, the novel is less insular, starting off with a more extended look into the events preceding our characters’ tour of the facilities. These events effectively foreshadow what will become of the park, making it abundantly clear how little control Hammond has over these creatures; even before things went to shit, dinosaurs were already escaping the premises and attacking unsuspecting victims. Crichton continues to make clear the danger such brash ignorance with his chosen ending, also excised from the film, of a species of dinosaur finding its way to the mainland.
In addition, we see a greater variety of different species in action, as well as a larger portion of the park. This works both for and against the story; on one hand, more dinosaurs is always welcome but, on the other hand, Spielberg and Crichton’s stripped-down version of the story for the film is, in some ways, an improvement as it has a level of focus that the book occasionally lacks. Think of Spielberg’s film as Hammond’s vision for the park: linear and with as little room for error as possible. Crichton’s novel, then, would be more akin to how things end up going, with everyone branching off and refusing to follow any sort of set path. The film retains some of the chaos that’s inherent to the entire concept, as it’s sort of Malcolm’s main thesis, but we still get a more natural progression of events that involves less messing about.
For that reason, I prefer the film, even if it includes less of the dinosaur action something namedJurassic Park promises. That being said, the book is well worth your time, especially if you were more of a dinosaur-crazed youth than myself. I never had a dinosaur phase, not that I can recall, yet the book, more than the film, made me feel just like that dinosaur-crazed youth.
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.