Is the Jurassic Park Book Different Than the Movie?

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Before Jurassic World: Dominion (2022) releases in theaters on June 10, you might wish to revisit all previous five films in the franchise. Maybe you’re also considering reading Jurassic Park (1990) and The Lost World (1995).

While of course the books by late author Michael Crichton are not considered canon with the film series, is the Jurassic Park book different than the movie?

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It will likely come as no surprise that there are several differences, both minor and major, between the 1990 and the ground-breaking 1993 film by Steven Spielberg. What might surprise you is just how many.

While the film is of course based on the novel, taking the core premise of a remote Costa Rican theme park resort where dinosaurs have been genetically engineered, there are some huge differences.

Whether it’s the characters, certain events, sequences, scenes, or even details of the plot itself, Jurassic Park the novel is a completely different animal - no pun intended - to its silver screen counterpart.

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Starting with the characters, we still have Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, Dr. Ian Malcolm, John Hammond, Dennis Nedry, and Lex and Tim Murphy. But there are some notable differences among them.

Dr. Alan Grant actually likes children in the book, while Dr. Ellie Sattler is younger than she is on screen, and the two are not romantically affiliated. Nevertheless, the two aren’t that different to the Sam Neill and Laura Dern versions overall.

Surprisingly, John Hammond is a cruel and ruthless character in the book, and not the deeply misguided Walt Disney-like character we see in Spielberg’s classic. Even Dr. Henry Wu is villain-like on the page, not unlike Hammond.

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Lex and Tim Murphy are the opposite ages in the book – however, Lex is extremely annoying and bratty and is uninterested in dinosaurs, while Tim, who is a lot more cool-headed, is still interested in them.

As for the lawyer Donald Gennaro, he’s a lot younger too, and isn’t portrayed as the coward we see heading for the toilet during the t-rex breakout in the movie. Instead, that role is given to park warden Ed Regis.

Ed Regis appears briefly in the film, but has a much bigger role in the book. Characters like Ian Malcolm, John Arnold, and Robert Muldoon, however, are pretty much the same, with very little differences with their movie versions.

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Naturally, the core series of events that unfold are similar – Dennis Nedry steals 15 viable dinosaur embryos from the park, resulting in the escape of the tyrannosaurus rex and the velociraptors, before he is killed by a dilophosaur.

But there’s also a junior t-rex, while plenty of other dinosaurs are shown in the lead up to the collapse of the park. We get to see a whole lot more of the island than we see in the film, including incomplete attractions.

The pre-existing problems at Jurassic Park also go way beyond unauthorized breeding – we even learn that some of the smaller dinosaurs have been escaping to the mainland by boat, and that InGen hasn't even been noticing.

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The events that take place between the collapse of the park and the inevitable rescue are also a lot more detailed, however, for the most part, we still follow Alan, Lex and Tim as they try to survive the park and evade its predators.

There’s a river scene in which they’re pursued downstream by the t-rex, a waterfall scene similar to the one in The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), and the three also end up in an aviary where they’re attacked by pterodactyls.

Meanwhile, following the t-rex’s attack on the jungle explorer, Ellie Sattler and Ian Malcolm become trapped inside the Safari Lodge - the park's hotel - where raptors make attempts to breach the overhead skylight.

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But putting all of the above thing aside, the biggest difference is the enormous focus on genetic engineering and chaos theory. Despite being an effective thriller, Jurassic Park is also an essay of sorts on the themes explored in the film.

This means that there’s a whole lot more dialogue in the book, and while there are often pages upon pages of it, more often than not it’s as riveting as the action and the terror itself, especially when it's Dr. Ian Malcolm speaking.

The book is incredibly violent, and because of this, it plays out more like a horror. Unlike the film, which leaves injury detail to your imagination, death scenes are much more elaborate. You could even say that the book is R-rated.

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From a tonal perspective, there’s no real sense of wonder like there is in Spielberg’s film – Jurassic Park the novel is very much a horror/thriller, often dubbed a “techno thriller”, something Crichton was best known for.

And finally (SPOILER ALERT), there’s the ending. While the main set of characters do escape the island, John Hammond is actually killed, and Isla Nublar is consequently destroyed by the Costa Rican air force.

But none of this means that the book is any less of a masterpiece than the film. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park is a page-turner, and at times is a lot more terrifying than what you see on screen.

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Michael Crichton produced other similar works, such as The Andromeda Strain (1969), Congo (1980), Prey (2002), Dragon Teeth (2017), and, of course, the Jurassic Park successor, The Lost World (1995).

Jurassic Park the novel is highly recommended, especially if you're a fan of the film and the universe it inhabits. After reading, you'll begin to see that the direction the recent films have taken isn't so contrived after all.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) and the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion revolve around dinosaurs on the mainland, but this is something that's heavily explored and foreshadowed in Crichton's bestseller.

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Related: How Will Jurassic World Dominion End?

Jurassic World: Dominion releases in theaters on June 10.