Jurassic Park (1993): The Book vs. The Movie

| June 7, 2015 | 0 Comments


Something you should know about me. I’m not one of those “The Book Was Better” people, I firmly believe that movies and books are two separate mediums and have the ability to co-exist. There are some things you can get from the book that you can’t get from the movie and vice versa. They shouldn’t be compared – they are two different mediums.

Having read the book “Jurassic Park” twice in my life (though truth be told it’s been about 15 years) and having seen the movie four times – twice in the theater and twice on television, I think I have a pretty good grasp on the differences between the two.

Unlike some books that are almost exactly or almost nothing like their feature film counterpart, “Jurassic Park” is a special case. The narrative of the book was much darker, much more scattered, much bloodier and much more intense. Some characters are completely changed or not at all. So, with that, let’s take a look at Jurassic Park the book vs. the movie:


The Plot

Much of the plot remains intact. The ‘Man playing God’ angle is still there, but much of the plot is fleshed out and there are many, many scenes in the book that didn’t appear in the movie. For example:

* The book actually opens with several elements that weren’t part of the film. Much of the first chapter, in fact, deals with a series of attacks on small villages in Costa Rica by a species of three-toed dinosaurs that are thought to be just a new breed of lizard. These are the events that bring Grant and Sattler to the island.

* In the movie, the DNA was extracted from fossilized mosquitoes trapped in amber. In the book the blood was extracted from several kinds of insects, mostly gnats.

* In the movie, Ellie tends to a sick Triceratops.  In the book, it is a Stegosaurus.

* In the movie, after the initial T-Rex attack, Malcolm is discovered injured by Sattler and Muldoon. In the book, he is discovered by Muldoon and Gennero (a.k.a. the “bloodsucking lawyer”).

* In the book, the touring cars are Toyota Land Cruisers.  In the film, they are Ford Explorers.

* There is an entire center section of the book that is not in the movie as John Arnold, Henry Wu and a vet named Harding (not in the movie) actually succeed in getting the power back on. The park’s staff take time out to tranquilize the escaped dinosaurs, when suddenly the power goes off again due to the fact that the power had been running on auxiliary power since the blackout. Everything goes black again, and it is then that Ellie notices that the velociraptor pens are empty. This leads to the deaths of both Arnold (who died in the movie) and Wu (who did not).

* A large portion of the book takes place inside the Safari Lodge, which was to be a guest hotel.  Much of the plot revolves around trying to get the power back on and the security systems up and running that would keep the raptors from getting in as the lodge has heavy security for instances like the one’s currently taking place.  This sequence in the movie is much smaller and takes place in the visitor’s center.


* The journey through Jurassic Park by Grant and the kids is greatly expanded in the book. They  happen upon a dilophosaurus mating ritual; they get attacked by pterodactyls; and end up going over a waterfall where a T-Rex awaits them with mouth agape.  Also, in the movie they are running with a flock of Gallimimus but in the book, they were a flock of Hadrosaurus.

* There’s an incredibly tense scene while the scientist’s are on the tour just after the power goes out and watch a maintenance ship leave the island and notice that there are raptors on board. That begins a race to try and get the power back up in order to call the ship back.

* Toward the end, the lawyer Gennero (who survives the book) suggests that the island be nuked, but Grant disagrees and says that it is important to understand what went wrong on this island. Coming upon a raptor nest, it is then that Grant determines that it was the frog DNA that caused the dinosaurs to change sex and therefore were able to breed.

* The movie climaxes with the survivors boarding a helicopter and escaping the T-Rex. In the book, as Grant and the others arrive at the helipad, they inform the Costa Rican air force what has been happening on this island. The air force then napalms the island, killing all of the dinosaurs that remain.

* During the book’s epilogue, Grant and Sattler are indefinitely detained by the United States government. Meanwhile, it is discovered that a previously unknown species of dinosaur may have made it to the mainland due to the fact that Dr. Wu’s lysine contingency was faulty due to the fact that the dinosaurs can get the lysine they need by eating soy and chicken.

The Characters

Jurassic Park - Alan Grant

Alan Grant
In the film it is made very clear that Grant doesn’t like children, but in the book this is not true. In fact he loves children. Also, his relationship with Ellie is not romantic, it’s purely professional. That may be because he’s actually a widower and she’s engaged.

Jurassic Park - Ellie Sattler

Ellie Sattler
Not changed too much from the book other than her background information. She doesn’t have a romantic interest in Grant because she’s already engaged to a doctor that we never actually meet. In the scene in which Malcolm hits on her, she’s more annoyed than fascinated, as is Grant since he has not romantic interest in her anyway.

Jurassic Park - Tim and Lex

Tim and Lex
Tim’s character remains pretty much the same, save for the fact that he’s the older brother. Lex, however . . . well, instead of a girl who is smart and understands computers, is painted in the book as an annoyance who complains and whines nearly all the way through, unimpressed, bored, tired, hungry and more or less just a general drag. She’s a lot younger and knows nothing about computers and couldn’t care less about the dinosaurs.

Jurassic Park - John Hammond

John Hammond
A genial, but eccentric old grandfather in the film, Hammond is actually a sniveling coward in the book who is more interested in making money then in anyone’s safety and welfare. Much of his time is spent in denial that anything has really gone wrong even as the park begins piling up with body parts. He’s still in denial when his grandchildren go missing.

He actually dies in the book, he fall down a hill and breaks his ankle and is then eaten by tiny scavenger dinosaurs.

Jurassic Park - Ian Malcolm

Ian Malcom
Very different in both incarnations. In the book, Malcolm is a bit more nervous and goes on and on and on about the whole ‘playing God’ problem. Remember that scene where he preaches: “You got so excited you could do it you never stopped to ask if you should”? In the book, he makes about 20 of these speeches.

His fate in the book is somewhat ambiguous. He’s thrashed by the T-Rex and spends most of his time in a hut recovering while being administered morphine. All the while he continues to rant about the evils of playing God. He never actually dies in the book, Critchton leaves his fate an unanswered question. However, he turns up at the beginning of “The Lost World” giving a lecture and declaring that news of his death was premature.

Jurassic Park - Donald Gennaro

Donald Gennaro
Otherwise known as “The bloodsucking lawyer” has possibly the most famous death scene in the entire movie. In the film he’s portrayed as a sniveling coward who leaves the kids in the car when the T-Rex attacks and then gets his comeuppance. In the book, the character was quite different, revealing that he has a wife and daughter. He doesn’t leave the kids behind in the car – that sin is left to an extra character named Ed Regis, the public relations manager for InGen (Hammond’s company) who doesn’t appear in the film. Gennaro helps in the rescue effort and survives to the book’s end.

Jurassic Park - Henry Wu

Dr. Henry Wu
Dr. Wu can be said to be the cause of this whole mess. It was his idea to fill in the missing DNA with DNA from frogs in order to clone the dinosaurs, so the whole mess lays at his feet. Though only a minor character in the movie, Wu’s role in the book was much larger. He was actually revealed have been promoted to the position of chief geneticist on the dinosaur cloning project because he was willing to clone the dinosaurs quickly and cheaply as it would make the investors happy.

Though he lives in the film (he re-appears in Jurassic World), Dr. Wu actually dies in the book during the attack on the Safari Lodge by Raptors while trying to warn Ellie who is trying to lure them away.

Jurassic Park - Robert Muldoon

Robert Muldoon
Mr. “Clever Girl” has quite a spectacular death scene in the movie when he is attacked by a pair of Raptors, however in the book he actually survives. In the book he has a much more prominent role, Muldoon was always at odds with Hammond over his boss’ disinterest in proper security measures – particularly in the area of weapons. In the book, it is revealed that he is actually an alcoholic and at one point gets drunk and runs out into the field shooting raptors with a rocket launcher.

It has been years since I read the book.  I flipped through it and took a few notes.  If any of the above information turns out to be wrong, just let me know and I’ll hang my head in shame.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
Filed in: Disney Essays