June 11th, 2015
Over at the Federalist, Mollie Hemingway has a great essay on the liberal freak-out over femininity in Jurassic World and MH points out that the character arc of Bryce Dallas Howard in World mirrors that of Alan Grant in Park: An obsessive careerist who’s resistant to children is broken down and comes to appreciate the value of family life.
Just one note: In the book, Grant’s character is very different. The Grant of the novel is a widower who loves children and regrets not having had them before his wife died. In the movie, Ellie Saddler is his paramour, but in the book, she’s his grad student protege and she’s engaged to a medical doctor back on the mainland who’s her own age. Grant thinks of her more like a kid sister whose happiness and success he’s personally invested in. And in the book, Grant is great with kids. He’s the only adult in the story who knows how to talk to them and relate to them.
I mention this because it’s just one more example of how brilliant the Jurassic Park screenplay is, deviating from the novel where needed, so that it creates tension and character arcs that wouldn’t have been as interesting on the page, but which enrich the adaptation.
The original of that character per Crichton, particularly for his introduction where he’s digging in Montana, is Jack Horner, who had some brief PBS-powered fame in the early 90s. The theoretical breakthroughs mentioned (e.g. they’re birds, warm-blooded, etc.) were most certainly not exclusive to Horner but he was a key popularizer of them. In this type of enthusiasm and general affect he does come across as a “big kid” (though that might be our collective default read of people interested in dinosaurs past the age of 11)
As a teenage fan of Crichton’s book I hated the movie’s changes, and all my cohort who’d read the book agreed. So there.
Nah, really the only unacceptable change was converting Hammond from a power-mad CEO villain deserving grisly comeuppance into a kindly grandpa type who was, gag, a former flea-circus impresario. This had the side effect of making the ancillary scientist characters eviler; for the movie Nedry (who is definitely evil in the book) now has a photo of J. Robert Oppenheimer on his desk, a real cheap shot as was noted at the time.
I could deal with what they did to Ian Malcolm, a near-main character in the novel and the clear Crichton surrogate — each of his books has one — because in the two movies he doesn’t make sense anyway, as this bizarre straggler who serves up comic relief. In the first book he gives a ton of speeches on chaos theory, Gaia/environmentalism, “bioethics” (air quotes much intended). He is presented as having no medical or paleo specialty, just a mathematician who also knows everyone else’s business, also proving that Crichton subscribed to the typical hierarchy of nerd snobbery placing these atop the pyramid. The movie Malcom is, well, not quite so poignant. Forget it, it’s Goldblumtown