Crichton’s characters are predictably scientific in both personality and speech. In particular, Ian Malcolm is clearly Crichton’s idealogical mouthpiece, and he gives several lengthy morphine-induced lectures that reek of Crichton’s beliefs on the topic of tampering with DNA. Also, Lewis Dodgson, the true bad guy of both Jurassic Park and Crichton’s sequel, The Lost World, is a fully fleshed out villain who thinks nothing of corporate espionage as a method to achieve his own profitable goals.Crichton’s John Hammond is an asshole.Perhaps most different of all, is Jurassic Park founder John Hammond. In Spielberg’s film, Hammond is a kind and loving grandfather, a man whose ideal is to share his dinosaurs with the world. Profit is the last thing on his mind. However, Crichton’s Hammond is a shrewd businessman who sees nothing but dollar signs throughout the process. Even when he meets his demise in the novel, his final thoughts are about retooling the park to make it safe to profit from in the future. He brings his grandchildren to the park only as focus testing, and in fact shortly before his death is cursing them to himself. In short, Crichton’s John Hammond is an asshole.
Spielberg actually tapped Crichton to pen the script for the film adaptation along with screenwriting wizard David Koepp. Koepp is best known for writing Jurassic Park in addition to countless other hit films, but to me he will always be the creator of 2002’s incredibly awful concept for a TV show that was Hack. Likely under the influence of Koepp, Crichton was much more judicious when editing his initial story. The changes were many, ranging from logical (fewer action sequences, ignoring background stories for characters that needed none) to needless (“Let’s make the girl good at computers AND sports! The boy’s just gonna drag them down the entire time.”), but overall the changes were beneficial to the film. In addition to cutting the running time down to a manageable length of two hours, the pacing was kept quite steady and enjoyable.
The personalities of the characters shifted a good deal, as well. As mentioned before, Hammond is significantly different. Ian Malcolm, while maintaining some dialogue and certainly his manner of speaking, was given room to deliver one liners in that wonderful way that only Jeff Goldblum can. Stripped of his backstory, engineer Henry Wu becomes an affable and excited young scientist as opposed to the idealistic talent who butts heads with Hammond each step of the way.The difference in budget between Jurassic Park and Super Mario Bros. was a mere $15 million.When speaking of the film adaptation in hindsight, perhaps the most important aspect to discuss is the dinosaurs themselves. Jurassic Park marked the first occasion in which dinosaurs that actually looked real appeared onscreen. Comparing the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to the ones in the Super Mario Brothers film of the same year is day and night, and the budget difference between the films is much closer that one would ever suspect. When comparing the original novel and its film adaptation, the latter has an unfair advantage. Despite scientists just beginning to make claims at the time of its release that dinosaurs were not sluggish, stupid animals, it’s difficult not to imagine them as such in the novel. In the film, they’re fast and intelligent, and as a result, terrifying.
For the second of my “Is The Book Better” columns, I’m going to have to again side with team film. While I certainly would like to campaign on the side of “Films can certainly be better” as it is needlessly pretentious to claim otherwise, my choices for the first two columns have been accidental in that regard. I’ve seen plenty of film adaptations that pale in comparison to the book; however, Jurassic Park and The Shining ain’t among them. And the score will likely not change for my next, which will be the logical followup: The Lost World.