Jurassic World: Dominion (2022) is just around the corner, and maybe you're considering scrubbing up on your knowledge of all things Jurassic Park before you watch it, whether it's binging the films, reading the books, or both.
Or maybe you've never read Jurassic Park (1990) and The Lost World (1995), which were both written by the late Michael Crichton. Yes, the first two films in the series are the only ones to have been based on novels.
But is the Jurassic Park novel kid-friendly? Is it less adult than the 1993 Spielberg classic, or is it actually darker? Well, if you aren't familiar with the 1990 bestseller, the answer will definitely surprise you...
Like the film, which broke box office records and gave birth to a new era of special effects in cinema, Jurassic Park is based on a team of scientists who visit a remote Costa Rican island to give their approval on its biological attractions.
But, even if you haven't read the book, as you'll already know, things go horribly wrong when an InGen employee steals dinosaur embryos and shuts down power across the park, resulting in the escape of several dinosaurs.
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In the book, the characters consist of Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, Dr. Ian Malcolm, John Hammond, Dennis Nedry, Lex Murphy, Tim Murphy, John Hammond, Dr. Henry Wu, John Arnold, Ed Regis, and Donald Gennaro.
So with the exception of a few minor tweaks here and there, the characters are mostly the same. However, themes of family are slightly different in the book, and are perhaps absent altogether.
In the film, Dr. Alan Grant becomes a reluctant father figure to Lex and Tim as they try to survive Jurassic Park, but in the book, he already likes children by the time we meet him, so there isn't really a character arc for him in that respect.
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We all know that director Steven Spielberg likes to include family themes and interesting family dynamics in a number of his films, but it's not necessarily something that was particularly inspired by the Jurassic Park novel.
That's not to suggest that there aren't such themes in the book - there are. After all, we still follow Dr. Alan Grant as he protects two young children from prehistoric predators in Jurassic Park.
But from a tonal perspective, the book doesn't have that family-friendly "twinkle" that you're so used to seeing in Spielberg movies, blended in with some much needed accessible horror, of course.
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Speaking of the horror, this is really where the Jurassic Park book and the movie differ enormously (among many other things, from plot specifics to certain sequences). In fact, the book is definitely a sci-fi horror first.
The 1993 film has been dubbed by Spielberg himself as a "spiritual sequel" to Jaws (1975), and it's plain to see why. Jaws is indeed a film that has a lot of horror, but it's also a fantasy adventure, especially during its third act.
Jurassic Park (1993) is very similar. It's a science fiction fantasy adventure that has just as many moments of horror and terror as Jaws (although Jaws is undeniably more violent). But that doesn't mean it's a horror.
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There are, of course, a number of deaths in the movie. None of them are particularly violent, but Spielberg does shoot the scenes in such a way that they feed your imagination (no pun intended).
The gatekeeper's death at the beginning is among the most violent, as is any raptor-related kill, from John Arnold to Robert Muldoon. And while Donald Gennaro's death-by-t-rex on a toilet seat is iconic, it's still utterly terrifying.
And then there's Dennis Nedy's death. We don't see the details of this kill, but through the rain-battered wind screen, it's pretty obvious that the dilophosaur is tearing him to shreds in his car seat.
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The book, however, is worlds apart from the film when it comes to dinosaur kills. From start to finish, Michael Crichton doesn't spare a detail when it comes to characters being eaten, yet none of it is in any way gratuitous.
Crichton goes for realism - that was his style, and it's far more effective than you might realize. Nedry's death in particular is horrifying, while raptor-related kills are even worse than they are in the film.
John Arnold, and even Dr. Henry Wu, suffer terrible fates at the retractable claws of a raptor, while John Hammond is eaten alive by a pack of compys. Even park warden Ed Regis meets a nightmarish end with the junior t-rex.
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So, if you're wondering whether or not Jurassic Park is kid-friendly, the short answer is no. But it all depends on what you're happy for your child to read. Jurassic Park contains a lot of injury detail, but it also has a ton of dinosaurs.
In fact, Michael Crichton originally wrote the novel from the point of view of a child and for a child, however, upon taking feedback from a focus group, he changed the story to a more adult one.
With all that said, with the exception of minimal curse words, it's also difficult to say that Jurassic Park is strictly an adult book. After all, it's designed to appeal to our inner-child, even if it involves quite a bit of horror along the way.
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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).
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Jurassic World: Dominion releases in theaters on June 10.
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