Jurassic Park Was Right To Cut The Book's Controversial Ending
Steven Spielberg's 1993 adaptation Jurassic Park changes the ending of Michael Crichton's novel, which greatly improves the overall story.
Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Jurassic Park features a different ending than the Michael Crichton novel — which fixes one of the biggest problems in the source material. Michael Crichton is an iconic sci-fi writer (both as a novelist and as a screenwriter) and is responsible for two major franchises: Jurassic Park and Westworld. Despite the strength of his stories, however, some of the changes made by adaptations actually improve the overall narrative — like cutting a controversial ending scene in Jurassic Park.
The 1993 film changed the book in various ways, altering the sequence of events and the personality of its characters. For example, the "everyman" hero of Crichton's novel is actually the lawyer Donald Gennaro — the villain in Spielberg's Jurassic Park adaptation — while the novel's villain John Hammond takes on much more affable traits in the movie. Because their roles are reversed, the characters have different fates in the two versions: the lawyer helps everyone escape Isla Nublar at the end of the novel, whereas his film counterpart suffers a humiliating death early in the movie (expertly played for laughs). Similarly, Hammond helps everyone escape at the end of the movie, but the book version of the character is eaten by his own dinosaur creations.
Spielberg's take on Jurassic Park is thematically distinct from Crichton's novel, which is best exemplified by the vastly different endings. In the movie, Grant, Tim, and Lex are saved — mainly through luck — when a T-rex attacks (and distracts) the velociraptors, allowing the group to escape the visitor center and rendezvous with Hammond and Malcolm. The ending in Spielberg's Jurassic Park is bittersweet since the final shots remind viewers both of the power of nature and the tragedy of these majestic creatures being brought into a world where they don't belong. The book, however, ends much more violently — with the entire island being razed by napalm.
The original ending in Crichton's Jurassic Park is in stark contrast to the tranquil tone of the Spielberg adaptation, and its violent resolution undermines any sort of environmentalist reading. While practical effects and CGI brought Spielberg's dinosaurs to life, his approach to characterizing the prehistoric creatures as tragic is a key element of the movie's overall message. Hammond should never have tampered with the forces of nature, and by the movie's end, he shows remorse for his actions. The ending sees Hammond sorrowfully looking out on his failed endeavor before the humans abandon the island, followed by a sequence of the survivors on the helicopter, scored by the film's iconic, majestic theme. The final shot of birds flying over the water hints that the dinosaurs may return — but for now, they exist isolated on Isla Nublar.
Conversely, Hammond dies in the book version of Jurassic Park, and the survivors watch from the sky as the island is engulfed by flame. The final scene in the novel hints that some dinosaurs managed to migrate, but the general tone of the ending is almost triumphant, as the helicopters fly away in a blaze of glory. In fact, the narrator presents an almost callous indifference to a population of animals being lost to a series of explosions — particularly the velociraptors, which had just been established as a particularly intelligent and family-oriented species mere moments before. No doubt the entire ecosystem of the island would be devastated by the fires, yet the paleontologist Allan Grant doesn't seem to care.
There are other elements of Crichton's Jurassic Park that the movie changes, which helps foster a more sympathetic attitude toward the dinosaurs as well as a more eco-conscious tone. As a result, the 1993 movie ages better than 1990 novel. Crichton actually co-wrote the screenplay for Jurassic Park with David Coepp, under the supervision of Spielberg, which makes it difficult to say with certainty how Crichton's original vision may have differed from Spielberg; regardless, the two versions of the story end on vastly different notes.