“Jurassic Park: the Lost Screenplay”

I just finished reading Michael Crichton’s draft of Jurassic Park the movie [ed--written 06/26/07].* Thematically it is much stronger than David Koepp’s version, a later draft and the one that got made, in at least one respect: the commercialization of science. Throughout this version Hammond shows not even a token concern for the safety of his grandchildren, Lex and Tim, and he is otherwise immune from anything describable as altruism; contra his character in the film, who wants rich and poor alike to enjoy Jurassic Park. At the end he stays on the Island–refusing to get on the chopper and by delaying the departure, as Grant begs him to come, seriously endangers the lives of those who do which to escape–where he finally drops dead, apparently from the shock the failure of the park has caused.

This version is also much more skeptical apropos of genetic engineering. It turns out the dinosaurs were given a bad gene, “contamination” from the mosquitoes used to harvest the DNA, that causes them to die after a year. That is, the life-span of a mosquito, Dr. Grant concludes at the end. To overcome this defect and get the park open on time Dr. Wu, the geneticist, gives the dinosaurs growth hormones. The scene featuring the sick triceratops is taken without significant alteration from Crichton’s version, but loses all its meaning in the context of the version of the story that ends up on screen. In the original the "trike’s" illness is the first clue that something ain’t quite right. Ellie discovers later that they are also trying to breed a "mini-trike", and other cute miniaturized dinos, that rich folk can buy as pets.

I can see why the Koepp version got made. Whereas the former version flowed like a novel the latter one was technically much better as a film; more dramatically effective, i.e. It featured clever, if hokey, action sequences and had the dialogue parsed down and simplified considerably (always good in a film); and it did manage to retain at the spirit of the Crichton script, albeit in a muted form. I wonder how Crichton feels about the "commercialization" of art. In particular the destruction of what was arguably most valuable in the novel. And he made a fortune. In contrast, Sphere, which retained as much as possible the theme of the novel, flopped at the box office. (At least produces do know how to make money–sometimes, at any rate.)


*I should note that this version was written as a shooting script; i.e., with specific camera angles included. This suggests Crichton, and co-writer Maria Scotch Marmo (the only other writer credited on this version, who I suspect was only responsible for light revisions, though it’s impossible to say for sure), thought this version would be filmed. Presumably some kind of intervention took place and Koepp, usually regarded as the principal writer on Jurassic Park, was brought on board to do what were essentially last-minute revisions. The Crichton version (after revision) is dated 14 March 1992 and the film was released officially 11 June 2003.

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