With the release this weekend (May 9th) of Jurassic Park in 3D I thought it was time as “the book guy” to compare the original book byMichael Chrichton to the 1993 film. I chose to re-watch the original since I argue the need to see movies done for 3D effect. Movies are meant for escapism and since I already see the world in 3D I don’t need to escape into those same dimensions.
Now we all know you can’t capture every element of a book when that book is made into a movie. There’s not only time constraints to consider but changes get made in the narration to better move the story along, and occasionally there are changes in character development. In the case of Jurassic Park the movie is better served from those changes.
There are subtle differences in some characterization that really don’t need to be mentioned but the exist. And there are a few recognizable pieces of dialog in the book that end up being said by different people and at different points in the movie. Two of the most glaring differences in character are: 1) Dr Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum in the movie) is a bigger ass in the book as he drones on for pages over-explaining chaos theory until it becomes pages of “I-told-you-so” speeches. And 2) even though the ages of the grandkids are reverse and Lex (played in the movie by Ariana Richards) is a younger girl, she does little more than whine and complain. I ended up rooting for a dinosaur, any dinosaur, even the herbivores, to kill them off and have done with it.
As a book Jurassic Park reads as one-half science report on how one might go about bringing back the dinosaurs and one-half adventure novel. The two mingle together so awkwardly it makes me want slap Michael Chrichton with a copy of the book (were he still alive). I know that he was a doctor and a scientist but he was also a screen writer and movie director. So you’d think that he would understand the idea of pacing and not want break up the book with pages of written DNA codes, graphs, charts and lines of computer coding. Did he think he needed to prove how smart he was? Or did he just feel it was acceptable to let his readers’ eyes glaze over in boredom as mine did?
As a movie however (with which he shares a writing credit with David Koepp), the audience is given just enough of the scientific background to make you understand how the creation of the theme park came about. It also allowed us to “visit” the park along with the characters and wonder at the sights; a feeling you don’t get from the book. There’s also a larger sense of immediacy and danger once the dinosaurs get loose than there is in the novel. I have no doubt that this has more to do with Steven Speilberg’s ability to tell a story than Crichton’s.
I’ll admit, this was my first time reading the book and I know people will argue my opinion is biased because I saw the movie first, I really don’t think it made a difference. Some of the book is still fun to read, if only the get caught up in the idea that someone thought recreating dinosaurs was possible. But because of the mere structure of the novel this is a case when the movie far exceeds the book. Still… remembering how bad Jurassic Park II was i’m confident that I’ll never want to read The Lost World.