The Jurassic Park franchise has been a cultural touchstone for the past few decades, and we have author Micheal Crichton to thank for that. Universal purchased the film rights of his 1990 science-fiction novel before it was even published, and since then have spawned several multiple sequels (some better than others) as well as comic books, video games and even an amusement park ride. Yes, the Jurassic Park franchise has become nothing short of a worldwide phenomenon, yet the 1993 Steven Spielberg film ultimately missed that Michael Crichton’s novel was, at heart, a horror.
Now I know what you may be thinking, and you’re right, the scene with the T-rex escaping her enclosure still gives me chills, too, but that’s the only scene in the whole movie that conveys a sense of rising panic in the viewer. Sure, there are plenty of other scenes of dinosaurs chasing our protagonists, but don’t confuse horror with suspense. At its core, Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is a family-friendly action adventure. Maybe a little bloodier than what would be allowed today, but, hey, if Indiana Jones shooting Nazi’s was still considered appropriate for all ages, I don’t see why a velociraptor mauling a man off-screen is any worse.
But it’s not just the novel’s copious amounts of characters-getting-eaten-alive-by-dinosaurs that makes it part of the horror genre. The novel also contains far more cynical themes than the movie, which, despite touching upon Dr. Hammond’s gratuitous branding, is still far more favorable to the eccentric billionaire than the novel is. The literary version of Dr. Hammond is far less lovable than his cinematic counterpart, openly favoring profit over than the wellbeing of his employees and the ethics of playing God by resurrecting behemoths that have been extinct for tens of millions of years. Michael Crichton’s novel, rather than marvel at the beauty of having dinosaurs exist in the modern age like the movie, not only touches upon themes of soulless capitalism, but also the ever-persistent debate of scientific progress unchecked by moral constraints, or, in the words of Ian Malcom, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
While the movie and the book may hit different emotional beats, I think they’re both valuable interpretations of the same story, which each provide a different yet equal experience. The movie focuses more on the human element, having more developed characters and a more optimistic ending for then, while the book more or less ignores characterization in favor of the overarching morals, much like the political books of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.