Giant Dinosaurs and Human Greed: Which Monsters Appeal to Us More?

This is the final piece in the articles that I wrote for my Science Fiction writing course. This is the most recent, biggest budget, and longest story in the group. I may write a few more articles of other stories I’m researching (I’m working on a few for my Apocalypse panel at Geek.Kon), but how interested I am in a given adaptation will likely determine how often I do these in the future. Once more, I want to extend my thanks to Dr. De Los Santos for input and guidance throughout the whole process.

Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park is a dense novel that covers a number of themes related to greed, the necessity of interdisciplinary oversight, and respect for nature. The film adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg brought the story of Jurassic Park to a much wider audience. However, in order to appeal to a larger audience, a number of changes were made. The film version of Jurassic Park removes a number of the more adult themes in order to focus on a single primary message and remain as family-friendly as possible.

The main element that remains consistent throughout both versions of the story was that of the uncontrollability of nature. Many of self-proclaimed “chaotician” Ian Malcolm’s lines about this fact are lifted directly from the novel and placed in the film, sometimes at different points. The film also includes a comment by Ellie Sattler about “plants in this building that are poisonous; you picked them because they look good,” which is derived from a comment of hers in Crichton’s novel. She also makes another speech of that nature in the film, referring to the “illusion” of ever having control of the dinosaurs. Both versions of the story continuously come back to one point: that nature cannot be controlled by man, and that relying on the park’s ability to do so can only result in disaster.

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In the novel version, there is also an emphasis on shortsightedly ignoring the advice of others, particularly experts in other fields. John Hammond is especially guilty of this, but he is not alone. In Crichton’s novel, Malcolm advises Hammond not to open the park, with the belief that it is doomed to failure. Dennis Nedry attempts to warn Hammond that the system was complicated and likely to have problems and Henry Wu warns Hammond that there are security concerns, though Hammond ignores both of these warnings. Ray Arnold also ignores Ian Malcolm’s concerns, with the mistaken belief that nature automatically compensates for the unpredictable actions of living creatures. Ed Regis isn’t taken seriously as director of public relations and is instead assigned unrelated tasks. Even Alan Grant starts the novel by dismissing out-of-hand a lab technician’s conclusion that what she is analyzing is a dinosaur.

Another focus of Crichton’s novel is greed. Hammond is driven only by the prospects of success and profit, often showing Narcissistic tendencies and ignoring all other concerns. He discusses the fact that “nobody needs entertainment . . . a costly price tag actually increases the appeal of the park”. Nedry’s point of view scenes go into detail about how Hammond extorted him into performing additional systems work for Jurassic Park for free. Wu, Muldoon, and Arnold each bring up concerns to Hammond that are dismissed either out of general unwillingness to spend money on necessities or because the dinosaurs are “expensive”.

In the film adaptation, these items are altered. The dialogue aboard the helicopter states that Hammond brought in Grant and Sattler and that Genarro brought in Malcolm, indicating that this may possibly be the first stage of Malcolm’s involvement in the project. Film Malcolm does mention that “[Hammond] actually did it,” so he’s clearly been apprised of the situation, but that could just as easily have happened when Gennaro informed him about the trip. Neither Nedry nor Wu warn Hammond that the system as-is may not be viable, and there is little to no mention of cost-cutting measures.

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Greed also has less of a presence of the film. Hammond is much more personable, to the point of being willing to call the park a failure during the evacuation. He mentions that “Everyone in the world has the right to enjoy these animals”, not just the “super-rich”. Hammond and Nedry still conflict in the film, but it’s much more ambiguous as to what the nature of the conflict is (other than that it involves money) and who is at fault.

The result of these changes is that while Jurassic Park the novel addresses a number of themes, including the follies of trying to control nature, the value of listening to experts, and the dangers of greed, Jurassic Park the film has a vastly limited scope, addressing the dangers of attempting to control nature as deeply as the novel and relegating other major themes to superficial coverage or none at all. This allows the film to take on a more family-friendly tone, especially when it comes to John Hammond. Instead of progressing from eccentric grandfather to Narcissistic super-villain, the film’s Hammond maintains a semblance of likability throughout.

Another family-friendly change made to the film is the added message that “kids are alright”. In Crichton’s novel, Alan Grant likes kids, especially those with a fondness for dinosaurs. In the film, he expresses early on that he’s not a fan. Related to this is that while Grant and Ellie Sattler are a couple in the film, they are not in the novel; Grant even mentions that Sattler is planning to marry “a nice doctor in Chicago”.

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The connection between these elements becomes clear when movie Sattler expresses an interest in children of her own. This leads her to encouraging Hammond’s grandchildren and Grant to share a car, leading to a resolution at the end of the film of Sattler being pleased that Grant and the children became so close during the ordeal. The end result is a heart-warming tale that children can enjoy watching with their families, without the distractions of the deeper themes relating to human behavior.

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