Ever since I saw the Jurassic Park movie at my grandparents' house in fall of 1994 (I had to wait nearly a year-and-a-half to see the movie after my dad wouldn't take me with him to see it in theaters), I was hooked. I would watch the Steven Spielberg spectacle whenever given the chance, would play the games, and bury the toys in my backyard. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Jurassic Park. That is until I read the Michael Crichton novel for an extra reading project in a high school English class.
To say there are some differences between the novel and the film adaptation of Jurassic Park would be an understatement 65 million years in the making. Sure, the book and movie are both set in a theme park filled with dinosaurs on Isla Nublar, and yeah, both have a lot of the same characters, but the tone and a lot of what happens on that island are vastly different. So, with Jurassic Park recently hatching on Netflix once again and with members of the original cast teasing their return to the franchise, now's the perfect time to look at some of the biggest differences between the novel and film. And just a heads up, I am going to spoil both versions of the story here, so turn back now if you haven't read the book or seen the movie.
Dr. Grant Has A Completely Different Attitude Towards Children In The Book
One of the major differences between the novel and film adaptation is the characterization of Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neil) and his attitude towards children. When we first meet the paleontologist in the movie version of Jurassic Park, he has no time or patience for children and sees them as more of a nuisance than anything else. Take into consideration Grant's interaction with the young kid at the dig site in the Badlands of Montana. His attitude towards children doesn't change much until the aftermath of the T-Rex attack about halfway through the movie, at which point he becomes a father figure to Lex and Tim and ends up forming a close bond with the brother and sister.
Dr. Grant in the book is a completely different character from the jump, at least in terms of his attitude towards children, and the has a great admiration for young children and is even impressed with Tim's (who is older, but more on that later) fascination with dinosaurs, fossils, and science in general. It is easy to see why Michael Crichton and screenwriter David Koepp made this adjustment as it makes the film version of Dr. Grant into a more realized and dynamic character capable of undergoing a drastic change.
The Ages Of Lex And Tim Were Flipped For The Movie
Fans of Jurassic Park the movie who go back and read the book years later are probably shocked to see that the ages of the two children — Tim Murphy (Joseph Mazello) and Lex Murphy (Arianna Richards) — are flipped in the two different versions. In the novel, Tim is still portrayed as the sibling that is obsessed with dinosaurs, but he is also a computer whiz and the older of the two siblings. These latter two character traits were given to Lex in the 1993 summer blockbuster, but her character's lack of excitement for dinosaurs carries over along with her baseball hat (Lex is a sports nut in the book).
The reason for this change can be attributed to Steven Spielberg, who, according to a comment made by Joseph Mazello with IGN in 2020, promised the future Bohemian Rhapsody star a role in one of his films early on in the child actor's career. It also makes sense as it gives Lex more to do in the movie compared to her whiny and bothersome character from the source material.
The Movie Cuts Out A Lot Of Violence Featured In The Novel
One of the major departures from the novel seen in the film adaptation of Jurassic Park is the toned-down violence. Seriously, the book is one of the most violent pieces of mass-release literature you'll see on the bookshelf, and there's no way some of the scenes could have been filmed without earning the movie an R-rating. Remember Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck), the badass game warden in incredibly short shorts who has the best last line in any movie ("Clever girl")? Well, in the book he fires a rocket launcher at a raptor, cutting it in half in great gory detail. There's also a scene in the book where Henry Wu is eaten alive by a pack of raptors.
There are also scenes in the book where Dennis Nedry is seen carrying his intestines, baby raptors being torn apart by adults, and the big finale where John Hammond falls down a hill, breaks his leg, and is eaten alive by a group of compys. And let's not forget the image of several raptors making an escape on ship seen off in the distance. Seriously, the book is a bloody mess of goodness.
John Hammond Is A Psychopath In The Book
The late Richard Attenborough's portrayal of Jurassic Park founder John Hammond in the movie and the John Hammond from the novel are two completely different characters. Sure, the film version is a little crazy and obsessed with getting the park open (the ice cream scene, anyone), but he's still somewhat of a likable guy. That's all but gone in the original version of the story that depicts Hammond as a raving lunatic whose greed is only superseded by his ego.
Remember the conversation between Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) and Hammond before entering the park, the one where they're talking about children enjoying the park? In the book, Hammond essentially says that he cares about the kids who can afford to get in. And the whole coming to a realization about the failure of the park from the movie? In the book, there's no such revelation even as Hammond is getting eaten alive by his own creation.
Henry Wu's Involvement Is Cut Down To One Scene In The Movie
If you saw Jurassic World in 2015 and were confused why BD Wong's character was treated with such gravitas when all he had was one short scene in Jurassic Park, that's because Henry Wu was a major part of the novel, a part that was trimmed greatly for the 1993 adaptation. It's easy to see why his character got the short end of the stick considering that most of Wu's contributions to the plot are found in flashback conversations with John Hammond.
In the novel, it is Wu who comes up with the idea of using DNA from amphibians to help fill in the genetic code of the cloned dinosaurs, as well as the person responsible for adding the safety measure of making all the dinosaurs female.
Dr. Ian Malcolm Survives The T-Rex Attack In The Movie
Another major change to a character from the page to the screen is that of Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the pesky chaos theorist who proves to be quite right in his observations of the execution of the park. In both versions of the story, Malcolm is injured during the T-Rex attack when all the power on the island goes out, but unlike in the movie where he proves to be of service to the rest of the group when restarting the systems, that's not the case in the book.
As his condition (broken leg) and mental state continue to deteriorate (partly due to the morphine), Ian Malcolm becomes somewhat of a lunatic as he inches closer to the death. Instead of offering help in navigating through the vast service tunnels, the mathematician instead goes on long rants about a range of topics until he eventually succumbs to his injuries before help can arrive. Oddly enough, Michael Crichton brought the character back from the dead for The Lost World, which seems like it was written solely to be adapted into another summer blockbuster four years later.
The Movie's Ending Is Much More Uplifting Than In The Book
The ending of Jurassic Park the movie is one of the most uplifting finales, especially when you consider everything that led to the park guests and staff making a daring escape from the doomed park. And while they do escape (some of them, anyway) in the original novel, the optimistic tone seen in the final moments with the birds and soaring score from John Williams are nowhere to be found. Instead, it's a depressing and traumatizing final few pages without the happy ending.
For starters, once the handful of survivors are rescued, the Costa Rican Air Force completely level the island and everything by napalming it to ash. If that's not bad enough, the survivors are detained at a hotel while the Costa Rican and American governments attempt to make sense of what happened on Isla Nublar. The novel ends with Dr. Grant being told that he and the other survivors won't be going home any time soon.
Those are just a handful of the major differences seen in the Jurassic Park movie and book. There are also other minor changes like characters being combined or written out entirely, entire sections of the park never being mentioned (the aviary comes to mind), and other situations that couldn't have been worked into the more family friendly tone of the movie. After all of this, I really want to read the book for the sixth or seventh time.