Originally posted 2015-10-20 17:00:47.
Today, Jurassic World is released on DVD and I’d be really excited about this…except I already bought the digital download a week ago and watched it half a dozen times. I know that most of my friends thought the movie was on the bad end of the spectrum (whether it was the script, the acting, or any number of things), but I thought it was marvelous. The first time you hear the strains of that iconic theme…ah! Sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. Jurassic World, for me, captures the wonder and excitement of seeing Jurassic Park for the first time, which was what the film director sought to do. But I’m not here to do a review of Jurassic World…or even Jurassic Park or a diatribe on the nostalgia it evokes.
I’m actually writing about the original novel by Michael Crichton and some realization that I’ve had.
Jurassic Park (the movie) came out in 1993 when I was seven years old. I don’t remember seeing it in theatres, but I’m fairly certain my father took us to see it. I remember having the VHS and my brother, Dan, was obsessed with dinosaurs and watching it over and over again (because it was Jurassic Park, or something animated like We’re Back or The Land Before Time series, or even worse – Barney). I remember starting band in 5th grade (I played clarinet) and playing the theme as an ensemble, heck I even remember in 6th grade playing the theme for the talent show—years after the movie had come out. I remember seeing The Lost World in theaters with my Dad and older sister (even though she sat with her friends, not with Dad and I). I think I even saw the third one in theatres with just my dad…I just loved the series of movies…
However, it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized that I had never read the book.
History has proven time and time again that the book is always better than the movie. Movies are constrained by run times, producer opinions of what’s important, and budgets (it was the early days of CGI people…that shit was expensive). Jurassic Park is no exception…the book is much, much more nuanced than the movie. But I found something much more to it.
WARNING: Thar Be Spoilers ahead for Jurassic Park (the book and the movie) and Jurassic World.
I could go on for hours about the differences between the book and the movie: from the combination of characters to the complete omission of some, differences in plot, et cetera. Like, if the movies followed the books, technically Jurassic World wouldn’t be possible because Henry Wu (who is portrayed by BD Wong) gets gutted by a raptor three-quarters of the way through. But I just want to focus on one big inconsistency:
The character of John Hammond.
The movie version of Jurassic Park’s founder is like your grandpa: harmless, nattering, and idealistic almost to a fault, but willing to admit that when the park goes to hell that it’s best to let nature work its course.
Not so with book Hammond.
The character possesses that idealism but to a radical and blinding level. Clinging desperately to the idea that despite the body count and death of many dinos, the park WILL open. Even when it becomes obvious that it won’t, he refuses to shoulder the blame for how things turned out. Instead attributing to the failure to those that died: “In truth, neither Wu nor Arnold had the most important characteristic, Hammond decided. The characteristic of vision. That great sweeping act of imagination which evoked a marvelous park, where children pressed against fences, wondering at the extraordinary creatures, come alive from their storybooks. Real vision. The ability to see the future. The ability to marshal resources to make that future vision a reality. No, neither Wu nor Arnold was suited to that task. And for that matter, Ed Regis had been a poor choice, too. Harding was at best an indifferent choice. Muldoon was a drunk….Hammond shook his head. He would do better next time.”
Holy Smokes! Delusion party of 1…?
But…in many ways Hammond (who is a spritely 76 years old in the novel) reminds me of a child: stubborn in his beliefs (if you’ve had an argument with a child, you know this is true) but unknowing and optimistic about the future and what could be. At some point we were all like John Hammond – we believed in a world where anything was possible…and that’s where Jurassic World comes in…
Hammond’s dream realized and made actual. The chord that this movie strikes in viewers of the original is that yes, anything is possible. But even though that reality is awesome…there is always a cost. In the case of Jurassic Park and World it is classic: Pride and Ego — both always go before a fall.
In the words of Ian Malcom from The Lost World, “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and um, screaming.”
Jurassic Park is obviously a cautionary tale of the advancement of science and playing God. But, the take away I get from Jurassic Park is that being idealistic is not a bad thing, so long as you temper it with a healthy dose of reality (Malcom here’s looking at you). That blind idealism is just as harmful as pride.
That…and it doesn’t matter how old you are, dinosaurs are cool.