Film Vs. Book - Jurassic Park
It is often said that a novel will always be superior to its adaptations, but is this really the case? This week: Jurassic Park, Written by Michael Crichton in 1990, and directed by Stephen Spielberg in 1993. It is perhaps one of the simplest pieces of literature to explain: a dinosaur theme park goes haywire. In the early nineties Jurassic Park became the summer blockbuster, and its mixture of then groundbreaking CGI and animatronics wowed audiences, whilst bringing our love of dinosaurs to fever pitch and becoming a huge critical and financial success. But is this due to the film in itself, or just the fantastic source material? Crichton is a strange writer. His works are filled with references to scientific theories and tests that are extremely interesting, but slow down the plot to a standstill. Genetic engineering, viruses and chaos theory are fascinating in themselves, but are difficult topics to summarize quickly, especially when the plot is constantly on your tail. Once they get going his books are cracking little thrillers, if a little dry. In many ways he is the “Stephen King of Science”, lacking critical respect but selling in the millions to a loyal fan base. For me his legacy is that he shows that science can be used to create fantastic worlds, without resorting to hearsay and speculation to create them.
So what of the film? Nearly twenty years on, Jurassic Park’s impact is on the wane, and it doesn’t seem to have gained the status of something like E.T., or even Labyrinth. I have always found this surprising. At the time roadshows displayed props from the film across the country, toys were rampant, and Saturday morning breakfast shows repeated clip after clip after clip. Looking back, apart from the special effects it wasn’t truly remarkable, but it struck a nerve with so many people that it deserves a better legacy. The acting is solid rather than memorable , but each character is successfully brought to life. It does get schmaltzy in places, but Goldblum, Neill and Attenborough are not lightweights. In this world of monsters, we must care about the protagonists, and this is certainly the case. But it’s the dinosaurs that make or break this as a classic, and they are stunning. Admittedly some of the CGI is showing its age, but a lot still holds up. Considering there are films out this year that can’t say the same, this is astonishing. In many ways the CGI revolution started here, and it is a classic example of how to use special effects successfully. The animatronics are not only realistic but emotive, and well directed- who would have thought that opening a door could be so scary?
You may have noticed that this article is heavily skewed towards the film, and it’s here that the crux of the matter lies. Crichton’s book is a fun read, and had some really good ideas. The best way to find this out is to watch Jurassic Park. Spielberg took them, and grew something iconic, financially unstoppable, and extremely influential in the creation of blockbusters for the next twenty years. But its greatest legacy is that it made a generation excited in the world around them. It taught children the very basic steps of genetics and evolution, and the lesson that this world we live in is just as exciting as any created fantasy. Crichton can be praised for starting off this idea, but it’s the film that turns that spark into a new world. So this time: Solid source material, but the film is simply more iconic, more dazzling, and more important. Verdict: The Film.