Jurassic Park: The Book and the Movie’s Differences
Jurassic Park’s initial popularity reached all around the globe as it is now one of the most iconic and beloved movies of all-time. This is the film that introduced the world to modern CGI technology while seamlessly blending their effects with robotics. It opened up a new realm of possibilities as well as making previously “impossible” movies a reality. The script was adapted from the Michael Crichton novel and was actually cut down quite a bit to form a movie that was both satisfying to movie audiences and sensible in it’s budget. While both the movie and the book share the same basic concept and structure, there are a ton of differences along the way. So let’s start with the opening, shall we?
Both versions open with a fatal raptor attack on a park worker though both are told through different angles. The movie opens with Muldoon leading the inclusion of the female raptor to the pen, our biggest villain in the movie (the t-rex is an anti-hero), when it goes ape-shit, kills a JP worker and leads to the often imitated “Shoot her!” line. The book opens with a med-school graduate taking up a medical practice on an island off of Costa Rica, when a helicopter makes an emergency landing at her hospital. The victim has lacerations to his chest and a slimy, saliva-looking substance on his wounds…. But the shady JP worker who brought him there is insisting it was a construction accident. The boy keeps repeating “el raptor” to the nurse which she looks up and finds the English translation: bird of prey. BOOM. JURASSIC PARK BEGINS. Both openings set the ground work for what we’re dealing with but go about their approach differently. I can see why Spielberg changed this and included a familiar face for the audience since it makes sense in the long run. It would be difficult to open the movie centered on the heroics of a nurse only to never see her again. I think the more effective opening is the novel’s but the movie’s opening works just as well.
The cast of characters are mostly the same in name and “screen-time” but it’s there characteristics and personalities that have changed for a select few.
Alan Grant – The hero of our story is essentially the same man from the movie except for one small difference: He actually likes kids. This is another change that worked better for the film and helped get a large amount of character growth in a small amount of time. Excellent change.
Ellie Sadler– Her persona is basically the same – headstrong, brilliant, doesn’t take crap from anyone- but she is a tanned 23 year old in the novel.
Ian Malcolm– He’s also the same character with more lines and a bigger rockstar persona… and they FUCKING KILL HIM. The book already has one strike against it.
Lex/Tim – These are almost identical characters but reversed in the genders we saw on screen. In the novel it’s Tim who’s the older brother and the computer/dinosaur whiz while Lex is the useless younger sister. She’s completely pointless in the book and immature to the point where she shows her very young age, so the changes were welcomed again.
Muldoon – He’s still the game warden but he’s 50 in the book with an epic mustache and an alcohol problem. He winds up surviving the ordeal and plays a key part in not only the rescue mission but wrangling up the loose dinos.
Gennaro – This is easily the biggest character difference in both forms of Jurassic Park. In the movie we get Donald Gennaro as a slimy lawyer with throwaway lines and a douchebag mentality. He meets his demise on top of a toilet bowl at the hands of a t-rex after he pisses his pants and runs in fear, leaving the children behind. An overall winner, right? Well, in the book he’s still a lawyer but he’s one that is skeptical of the “dinosaur zoo” situation as well as being a muscular hero with children of his own. He goes back into the park after the accident and tries to find the children and Dr. Grant. He also goes one on one with a raptor and defeats it with nothing more than a handheld weapon and brute strength. He winds up living in the novel and doing justice to lawyer stereotypes everywhere.
John Hammond – He’s still blind to the power of his own creation and an overall douche, but he lacks the charm of Attenborough and tends to have little to no redeeming qualities about him. He is also killed towards the end when everything was back to normal in the ultimate irony…. but we’ll get to that later.
Mr. Arnold – Same guy, same demise as the movie.
Dennis Nedry – Same slimy bastard, same demise as the movie.
Dr. Wu – His character is essential the same though he has a much bigger role in the novel. He’s still an Asian-American geneticist who oversees the majority of the Jurassic Park cloning and is head of the research facility. There is a lot of back story between him and Hammond that dives into their work history, their trial and error and their constant debates over the safety of the park. He’s a key component to breaking down the chapters upon chapters of science that is littered through the novel. He winds up being attacked and killed by velociraptors in the visitor’s center at the end of the book.
Dr. Harding – Remember the guy in the movie who was trying to figure out what was wrong with the sick triceratops? Well, that’s Dr. Harding. He has a much bigger role in the books and helps Malcolm when he injures his leg as well as survives.
Ed Regis – This character was eliminated in the movie but his character traits were imprinted onto Gennaro. It’s basically Regis who pisses his pants and leaves the kids during the t-rex attack. His character is actually a slimy JP employee instead of a lawyer, but he meets the same demise (sans the toilet). I guess Spielberg was cutting out characters and decided to use him as the lawyer. Another throwaway character could’ve slowed things down and been utterly useless to the story. Interesting change.
Most of the introduction is the same as well as the first trip into the park and the sick triceratops, but it’s after the t-rex attack when things go insane. First and foremost, there are still about 20 or so JP staff members on the island while the rest evacuate to the boat. Secondly, there is a subplot that focuses on baby raptors that get onto the cargo ship and are headed back to the main land. You see, some tourists found part of a compy’s body off the coast of Isla Sorna and brought it to researches that are trying to figure out what it could possibly be. There are reported deaths of infants from reptile bites and a little girl is bitten and attacked on a beach while her family is on vacation. This is most likely what Spielberg used for the opening scene of The Lost World 4 years later. Hammond insists that there is noway dinosaurs can get off the island and that all of them are accounted for. This leads to the main boat leaving at night to avoid the storm, and Grant seeing 2 baby raptors playing on deck… so they have to warn the boat and tell them to turn around! Whoops, radio is broken, let’s just get back in the car and go back to the visitors center. Whoops, power outage, chaos ensues.. and here we go. This also leads to a separate drive for Grant and Ellie to find and destroy the raptor’s nest and avoid anymore breeding of these deadly creatures. You can see why this subplot was removed from the movie as it bogs things down and gives a different motive to their survival. Spielberg noticed it didn’t work for the film and promptly cut it out of the adapted drafts of the screenplay.
One of the biggest differences here is that Malcolm doesn’t actually attempt to save the children. He sees the rex and freaks out, running for the welcome station and getting tossed around in the process. The wound to his leg is the one that ultimately leads to his death from infection and loss of blood. In post-production interviews Jeff Goldblum revealed that he and Spielberg came up with the idea of having Malcolm save the children just days before the shoot. They felt that his character came off as unlikable to the audience so the discussion between Malcolm and Grant about children was added as well as the “hero moment”.
There is also a junior t-rex in the novel as well as the bigger one, and they find out that the dinosaurs are breeding right around the time of the power outage. The power actually comes BACK ON a couple of hours after the t-rex attacks the 2 cars and Grant and the kids are lost in Jurassic park. Now it’s a meltdown of the Jurassic Park security settings and attractions, since most of the animals are out of their pens and the carnivores are eating Hammond’s million dollar investments. This leads to a massive plot change from the movie and is what adds to the layered third act of the book. It’s also worth noting that a lot of the unused features of the Jurassic Park novel were later added into their sequels and theme park rides, and we’ll get to that now:
While Grant and the kids are making their way back to the visitor’s center it’s Muldoon and Gennaro who go out and wrangle up a bunch of the dinosaurs, as well as organize some workers to fix the fences and get Jurassic Park back online. During the aforementioned events we get an epic chase scene along the moats and rivers of Jurassic Park in a river raft (Fun Fact: This was most likely what was used for the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride in Universal Studios theme parks). Grant takes the kids down river in a raft as they encounter dilophasaurus’ and the t-rex again, who this time jumps into the water and chases their raft down river. This raft chase then leads to a waterfall confrontation which I assume was taken and used in The Lost World movie, since the t-rex comes through the waterfall, chaos ensues, and then Muldoon tranquilizes the rex (the adaptation of this is found in Spielberg’s sequel when the rex chases them into the waterfall and Malcolm saves the day). Grant and the kids also stumble upon the pterodactyl pen that wasn’t on the tour due to the animals’ confrontational and territorial behavior. They even built a roof-stop lodge that is set high in the air for the ultimate view of the park (though the pterodactyls saw it as a threat to their territory and destroyed it). This scene was also cut from the movie and we later found the same sequence of events in Jurassic Park III.
Grant and the kids are (again) attacked and make their way into a bunker where they find a jeep and finally get moving. Then the book/movie coincide while Mr. Arnold attempts to reboot the system and get Jurassic Park back online (leading him to the maintenance shed and his similar death). Ellie and Muldoon go out after him and just like in the movie they notice that the raptors got out of their pens. The major change here is that in the book Muldoon survives the deadly ambush by hiding from the raptors in a pipe system. He manages to crawl his way back to the visitor’s center and survives the entire ordeal. During the time of the raptor attack on Ellie as well as the kitchen raptor attack on the children, (as you can tell there are more dinos in the book), the raptors are simultaneously trying to break into the security compound and kill an injured Malcolm, Hammond, Dr. Wu and Dr. Harding. It’s here that Wu gets eaten by the raptors, Malcolm dies from his leg wounds (lame right?) and Grant saves the day. He actually poisons and destroys each raptor by injecting the lysine into eggs, then getting them to eat it. All in all it’s some pretty anti-climatic stuff. No t-rex entry exploding through the building to eat the raptors and save the day, no epic movie-ending, nothing. Instead we get the power back on in the park and the demise of John Hammond and the raptor nest. they’ve been trying to find since the beginning of the book. Grant is now determined to see their breeding habits up close and destroy them once and for all. He, Ellie, Muldoon and Gennaro head into the park to find and gas the nest. During these events John Hammond is running around the park and bitching to his employees about the system’s imperfections as well as his plans for getting the park back online. See, he still thinks that the park can work and he’s already planning on building a second one when he hears the roar of a t-rex and falls into a ravine. He twists his elderly ankles up pretty bad and can’t make it back up the hill…and that’s when he gets attacked and killed by a group of poisonous compys. The ultimate creator is killed by his creation AFTER the power is restored and he thinks he has proven his point that he does have control. It’s brilliant stuff and is a symbolic way for this tragic character to die… though I guess Spielberg decided to bring the character growth and turn him into a lovable, yet flawed older grandpa figure.
So there it is, really. Grant, Ellie, Lex, Tim, Gennaro and Muldoon survive the attack and watch the military nuke the entire island from their helicopter evacuation. While I like the novel and appreciate the writing style, it’s the movie that has the more linear and direct story. Spielberg needed to leave out a ton from the book since adapting the novel line for line would turn it into a $500 million dollar movie that was 6 hours long. You could tell that some things were cut because they didn’t have the technology to film them (like the t-rex chase on the river in a raft) and some were just cut to make the story more compact and rounded.
Well guys, those are most of the major differences and I bet you either wanna pop in the movie or get around to reading the book. The novel itself is a roller coaster ride of awesome that I recommend to anyone, specifically fans of the Jurassic Park movies. Crichton spared’ no expense in his writing of the novel…
Despite a serious love for the movie, I always HATED that they revamped the beginning. I thought the novel’s was so much more intriguing. Not to say I didn’t like the film, but the obvious change set me up with an overly critical bite for the rest of the 127 minutes.
I agree. It was a great cold open in the book.
I love the detail you put into this article. Anyone can tell how much of a fan you are. Great job!
Despite my love of dinosaurs I have never read Critchon’s book (despite telling myself I would multiple times) but after reading this I think I may have to read it.
I never read the first book but a I read The Lost World before the movie came out and it was the first time I saw a movie after a book. It was a complete let down. To be honest if the movie was called anything other than Jurassic Park I would have never guessed they were truly connected.
Brilliant article. Really interesting.
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malcom didn’t die, he survived and came back in the lost world.
Well right but I’m strictly talking about the first novel. Until the sequel was released years later nobody knew that Crichton planned on bringing Malcolm back from the dead when he very clearly died in the first book.
Paul your fantastic article has inspired me to do both read the novel and watch the movie again. I did read the book many years ago but a re-read is in order now after reading the points you’ve made regarding the differences as well as similarities. Well done and thank you.
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That is not Michael Crichton, that guy with Spielberg is DAVID KOEPP moron!
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