Complaining About Dinosaurs

Well, Jurassic World unleashed itself on our world today. I’m girding my loins and preparing to wade through the barrage of fans pointing out its many terrible flaws, going on about how this whole enterprise hopelessly besmirches the original Jurassic Park’s good name. With all the remakes piling into theaters, it’s something I’ve had to get used to, recently. “Hey, those robot cars smashing other robot cars don’t look like our robot cars smashing other robot cars,” or “Hey! These radioactive meat-heads blowing up cars in the desert don’t have the same panache as Mel Gibson when he did it.” The sort of entitlement that follows any of these fans upset enough to gripe on about these utterly inadequate remakes really irks me. It’s like they invented righteous indignation over petty plot points and changes. They did not, though. We did. We, the book nerds. We suffered these same pains long before the eighties and nineties and will continue to do so long after Hollywood decides to stop making movies based off franchises and toy commercials from a couple retro decades ago.

Yes, us book nerds are the real survivors here. We’ve had to watch book after book get slaughtered in its cinematic adaption. Our moans of pain are so old and expected that nobody really hears them anymore, and the people who loved the movies that broke our hearts can now feel like they have been hurt by a jack of a director, actor, or screenwriter messing up the remake of those movies. Now, I can finally prvee this point. You see, I have precedence for this particular occasion. While everyone goes on about how Jurassic World ruins their childhood, I can point to the eminent Michael Crichton and his book Jurassic Park, and how it was utterly destroyed by some hack called Spielberg.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love the movie Jurassic Park, but I also was lucky enough to read the book that inspired the movie and, as I do in just about any circumstance, I finished the book and went, “Yup, this was way better.” Using that emotional reaction, I’m going to tear into the classic movie Jurassic Park, nit-pick it to death like a pack of Procompsognathid. (The tiny, bite-y ones.)

These little monsters, the Canadian Geese of dinosaur times

Maybe some people will read this and say, “Hey, why is she beating to death a movie that she admitted to enjoying quite a bit?” I could be lucky enough to say to them, that’s how you sound when you get upset about how G.I. Joe and the A-Team movies did not live up to your expectations, so please be quiet forever now. Listen to my words and know this is how annoying you sound. I know I sound annoying because every time I start to wax poetic about a book getting ruined by a movie, people typically role their eyes and look like they’re trying very hard not to punch me in the face. So here we go, Jurassic Park.

In the much superior book, Crichton goes into much more detail about the science behind the park, without dumbing it down and presenting all the pertinent via a cute little cartoon near the beginning. Beyond simply making sure all the dinosaurs were female, Crichton’s park also made sure they were lysine deficient, meaning only they specially enriched food available at the park could keep them alive. They also describe the many ways the park has to count and measure the population of the park dinosaurs, to keep things in check. Sure, these measures all end up failing spectacularly anyhow, but the extra details themselves were what made the story more immersive and realistic.

Now we can go onto the characters, and how the movie utterly botched them up as well. Remember dear old Alan Grant, the paleontologist that has to trek all across the park with two kids he finds insufferable at first but then grows to love through their ordeal? Well, if you found that whole plot line a bit trite and overdone, then your not alone because Michael Crichton did too. In the book, Grant never hated kids, especially the two kids he saved by the end of this book. On the contrary, kids were some of the few people that loved dinosaurs as much as Grant did, so he got along with them splendidly.  That change peeved me to no end, but not as much as another character’s vastly altered personality, one that had even more effect on the story’s overall tone and ending.

I’m talking about Hammond, the idiot old guy who started the park up in the first place, is some how even worse in the book. If you recall the film, there’s a point where the slimy lawyer says something about how they could charge ridiculously high prices to enter the park and milk  a whole lot of rich clientele for all they’re worth. Hammond disagrees and talks about how he wants everyone to see the dinosaurs. In the book, Hammond is actually the one to discuss how he only wants to cater to the richest people. Even worse, towards the end, when everything is going haywire and dinosaurs be chompin’ people left and right, Hammond, admittedly probably in some state of shock or delirium, thinks to himself about how he will leave this island behind and start a totally new park that will totally work, unlike this one. How does this main character’s different motive and personality not totally change the ending, you might ask? Well…

They totally changed the ending. Specifically, Crichton killed off a number of characters that survived the film. Hammond, for example, is mauled to death by a bunch of those little Procompsognathid guys while wandering around his park, and Ian Malcom/ Jeff Goldblum decidedly does not recover from his close encounter with a bunch of ravenous raptors. Yes, Crichton did actually write the sequel, Lost World, and magically brought Malcom back to life for that, but in the original book, both Malcom and Hammond died, adding some poetic resonance to the story with these two most bitter rivals both being consumed by the park and its flaws. Spielberg was all, hell no we can’t kill Jeff Goldblum or the old guy, now that I made him all friendly and so severely dulled the impact of the book’s message.

There you have it, a nice, sizable rant about how a perfect book was soiled by a movie widely considered to be a cinematic sci-fi staple. See, remakes always let down fans of the original to some small degree, even if the end product is nominally successful. So maybe playing martyr on the Rotten Tomatoes review section or some other dark corner of the internet does not make you as right, smart or insightful as you’d like to think, eighties and early nineties kids. I’ve long since accepted the diminishing returns of book to film remakes and adaption. No, I won’t get everything I want out of a remake, and people do not think me an incredibly intelligent scholar if I spend my whole life tearing movies apart with 20/20 hindsight on what went wrong. I can, though, always go back the original, though, and enjoy that. A good book or movie never deteriorates with age or shoddy remakes, and only your own stubbornness can make your enjoyment of that franchise or series rust away.


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