Dinosaurs have long been a source of fascination. For many people, their first foray into science was as a young child pouring over anything about dinosaurs, leading some into careers in paleontology. Only fossils remain from the reign of the dinosaurs, but that keeps scientists and the curious intrigued enough to try to discover much about Earth’s prehistoric past.
In late 1990, Michael Crichton released his science fiction novel, Jurassic Park. At the heart of the story was the idea, “What if someone recreated dinosaurs?” He worked out the details, who could afford the cloning equipment, why would dinosaurs be cloned and brought back, the legal issues in opening a theme park featuring wild animals.
In the novel, the CEO of the fictional InGen, John Hammond, created the titular park on the fictional Isla Nublar as a theme park where people could visit and see the returned dinosaurs in a somewhat natural habitat. The park’s investors, through their lawyer, needed assurances by academics that the park was accurate and safe. Hammond brings on board Doctor Alan Grant, a paleontologist, while the investors’ lawyer brings in Doctor Ian Malcolm, a chaos therorist. Dr. Grant brings along grad student Ellie Sattler, a paleobotantist, along.
During the tour of the main facilities, Hammond shows how the dinosaurs were recreated, replacing damaged genetic code with DNA from reptiles, birds, and amphibians. The new DNA was then modified so that only females were viable and that the creatures required regular doses of lysine to survive. However, among the more benign species like Triceratops were carnivores like Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus Rex.
For the tour of Jurassic Park, Hammond sends along his grandchildren, Lex and Tim. Tim, like many boys his age, is dino-crazy and is looking forward to the tour. During the tour, Velociraptor eggs are found, something that shouldn’t occur in an all female population. Dr. Malcolm also points out that a flock of Procompsognathi have a normal distribution of heights instead of the expected uniform height he’d expected from cloned creatures.
Elsewhere, a tropical storm forms and moves in on Isla Nublar. Dennis Nedry, a subcontractor with financial problems, takes advantage of the storm to steal genetic samples for InGen’s competitor, and sabotages the park’s computer systems to help in his escape. The sabotage disrupts all security, including the electric fences keeping the dinosaurs apart from not just each other but from the tours. For the herbivores, this isn’t a problem. For T. rex, it now has a larger range to hunt, and the tour group, in two electric trucks that are also out of power, had stopped near the dinosaur’s paddock.
Things get worse. Grant and the children get separated as the T. rex and its child attack. Malcolm is critically injured. The park’s power returns, but is soon again lost as only the auxiliary power was restored. With the loss of auxiliary power, the Velociraptors, quarentined due to intelligence and visciousness, escape. The ship that had left Isla Nublar for the mainland has Velociraptor stowaways, not the formerly quarentined ones, but wild ones.
The movie adaptation of Jurassic Park follows the plot for the most part. Given the length of the novel, some scenes in it had to go to keep the movie’s running time under ten hours, let alone the two hours, seven minutes it did have There were changes made, though. In the novel, Lex’s role is to be The Load, screaming anytime a dinosaur appeared. Her brother, Tim, not only was well-read on dinosaurs but also was a hacker. The hacking ability was transfered over to Lex for the movie. The fate of Hammond is different as well; he gets to escape the island in the adaptation. Helping to ease the transition from book to movie was having Michael Crichton on board as a scriptwriter. He was able to remove elements from the novel that let the movie still hold together without dragging out the film. Some elements removed, such as the Pteranodon aviary, returned in Jurassic Park III. Other elements, such as what happened to Malcolm, were added. The novel never went into details on whether he survived his injuries or died from them. The movie, Malcolm is seen in the helicopter, awake and alert, allowing him to return for The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
The core of the novel, the warning about hubris, the dangers of reintroducing an extinct species, the folly of trying to control nature, remains intact. The movie did not back away from showing the consequences of trying to play God. Even with precautions in place – the lysine requirement, the electric fences, the all-female population – dinosaurs ran amok and multiplied. People died from one man’s folly.
Some time back, I mentioned that there would be times when I would run into the adaptation before the original. This in one of those cases; I saw the movie when it first came out, but only read the book recently. The differences were startling, not only in the scenes that weren’t filmed or were used for Jurassic Park III, but the roles. As mentioned, Lex’s role expanded in the movie, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In the book, Lex was very much the damsel in distress, needing Dr. Grant’s assistance. In the movie, she took on dimensions, and the interplay with her brother felt more natural. Once she adjusted to the events, she took charge of her brother, particularly in the park’s kitchen.
Overall, the movie is faithful to the original work. Not all of Jurassic Park was adapted, but what was came through. The core of the story remained in one piece, keeping the thriller aspect of the novel front and centre without losing the message.
Next week, the problem with movies.