It’s no secret that I love books. I also happen to have a deep love of movies. In this series I would like to compare books (and in some cases comic books) to their movie counter part. Now while I tend to lean more towards “the book does it better” I would like to examine both and give the pros and cons of both. So book vs movie, Jurassic Park. I would like to state that I am comparing the first book with the first movie only. Also be warned as with most of this series there are major spoilers coming up.
What the book does better
I am going to land almost completely on the side of the movie with this one. The movie is better in almost every single way. To me there are a few major things that the book got right.
Henry Wu is less of an idiot
I am not a huge fan of the way that Henry is shown in the movie. He is actually almost completely cut out. His big moments are to be shocked that Malcolm believes that life will find a way, and to shrug off the concerns about the nature of the park. He is a scientist and the chief geneticist for this whole thing, surely he has more concerns than that?
In the book he actually does. He doesn’t seem concerned with the idea of the dinosaurs breeding (something I consider a major plot hole in both) but he is actually concerned with the nature of the park. He fights with Hammond more than once about the fact that they should use their engineering to make the park more safe. He doesn’t actually agree with the idea of just bringing the dinosaurs back as they are and then throwing them into a park. He believes to his core in the idea of changing the dinosaurs and this makes sense. It brothers me in the movie that no one, until the three outsiders show up, seems to say “hey this could go wrong”.
Ian Malcolm is a more important character
They vaguely mention in the movie that Malcolm knows about the park prior to the three arriving on the island with the lawyer, but then he kind of takes a back seat. He says a lot of very clever things like again “life will find a way” but he’s not speaking as an expert. He is a mathematician basically. Not biologist, geneticist, etc. His actually very astute statements are easier to brush off because he seems to be an outsider with all the experts. Smart, yes, but not in a field directly related to what is going on.
The book is a little better with dealing with his character. Malcolm not only sort of knows what’s happening at the park, but he is given a lot of prior information and he knows it will go wrong. He runs multiple tests, makes many charts, and he knows without a doubt that this park is bad. He comes not just with a charming personality and clever statements but with a lot more to back it up. Most of his stuff is likely left out because it’s a little dry. However it’s nice to see him with more authority.
Dennis Nedry is less of a bad guy
Next to Henry actually using his brain, Nedry’s story is the other most important thing in the book missing from the movie. Let me state that Hammond is a jerk in the book, there’s no other way to look at it. He ignores the experts over and over telling him he’s wrong, he doesn’t make the park for the stirring reasons he tells Ellie in the movie, he is just a jerk. This is shown best with Nedry. Dennis is given a lot of misinformation when he started building the parks security, once he finds out he says he needs more money which Hammond says he will not give. When Dennis comes back and tells Hammond flat out that it’s impossible on his budget to create a safe park Hammond pulls out contracts and then not only makes Dennis continue to work at his quoted price but makes him pay out of his own pocket for the extra expenses. Even with all of this Dennis still tells Hammond many times that the park is simply not safe enough. Dennis is broke, over worked, going into further debt because Hammond won’t pay for his own park, and doing an impossible job. The guy being angry enough to shut down the park and steal embryos makes a lot more sense.
It’s safe to say that not even the book tries to paint Dennis Nedry in a truly innocent light, but it does go a lot further to explain why he was pushed to such drastic actions. Not only that but he’s significantly less “whatever happens happens” about the whole thing. He really does believe that he can get the park back online fast enough that no one will be hurt. This is not really shown in the movie, the consequences for his actions don’t even seem to register in the movie version of Dennis.
What the movie does better
John Hammond is likable
This goes against two things I found the book did better. Had Hammond been the same character in the book that he was in the movie he might have actually listened to Henry and Dennis. Either way though, it’s a lot more enjoyable to watch a likable Hammond. His reasons for creating the park are touching, his worry over the people dying is refreshing, and he doesn’t come off as some jerk who ignores experts. He seems to love his park, love his grand kids, and has his own childlike sense of wonder. He doesn’t just play charming well (as he does in the book), he actually is charming.
Tim and Lex are split up
The wording of that might be confusing so let me explain. Basically the two in the movie are just combined into Tim in the book. Lex is still a character in the book but she’s about five years old and offers nothing. She is constantly getting them in more danger, dead weight, annoying, just fear fodder. Tim retains his love and knowledge about dinosaurs, but he is also a computer expert, can really help himself in tight spots, and is all around a perfect kid. It’s annoying.
Tim and Lex taking what is best about Tim in the book and putting them into two characters in the movie is smart. We do away completely with the young child who does nothing but screams and cries. Each character comes with their own strengths and weaknesses. Lex is more likely to get them in danger (still) because she is more afraid. She is also quick, smart, and good with computers. Tim is weak in things like speed and climbing, but is still smart and helpful. They come off as more believable and you don’t have one helpful kid and one that’s just dead weight. Instead you have two developed characters that bring both problems and solutions to the table.
Fewer dinosaurs but better BIG scenes
The book has more dinosaurs featured, and more intense moments as a result. They start to feel a bit meh after awhile though. While timing and budget is most likely the reason for the dinosaurs being cut down in the movie, it still works well. The T-Rex entrance and kitchen scene in the movie are both brilliant and unforgettable. The first big reveal of Jurassic Park, and the scene with the triceratops are touching and a little breath taking the first time you see them. All and all the “less is more” thought process works out well in the movie.
Major spoilers if you haven’t read the book, but the end of the book is depressing. Malcolm and Hammond both die, and the survivors are stuck. They are rescued by the Costa Rican government but are informed that they will probably never go home. They don’t work, they have no purpose, they are just stuck. Grant and Ellie spend their days taking care of Lex and Tim but are told that eventually the children will go home. Meanwhile Grant and Ellie get to celebrate surviving the island by spending the rest of their life in limbo, they aren’t really under arrest but they certainly aren’t free.
I come down on the side of the movie every time with this one. I enjoyed the book well enough, and do like that it adds a bit more science. However, at the end of the day the movie is just more entertaining.