Archive | March 2012

Old Story, New Adventure

Image of author Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton

Due to the fact that my dissertation is based on the late Michael Crichton, I thought I’d finally get round to doing another blog post and spread the word of this writer. Few realise that Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster hit started as a novel, with all of the film’s intricacies and heart pounding suspense penned by one man.

Before I look into the novel itself, here’s a quick run-down of the information you really need to know about Crichton;

  • Died of leukaemia in 2008 while finishing two books published posthumously.
  • He remains the only person in history to have a number one film (Jurassic Park) a number one book (Disclosure) and a number one television series (E.R) all at the same time.
  • Of the 18 fiction novels he has published, 11 of them have been adapted to the big screen, including Jurassic Park’s sequel The Lost World, Rising Sun, Sphere, The Great Train Robbery, Disclosure and Timeline. It will soon be 12 as Steven Spielberg has bought the filming rights to his posthumous novel Pirate latitudes.
  • He is considered the father of the techno-thriller who meticulously researched his novels. Jurassic Park took 8 years to finish.
  • He is responsible for the films Twister and Westworld, with the latter being the first film in history to use CGI, using it as a viewpoint for a robot. This is no doubt where the Terminator franchise got the idea of using a robot POV from.

A quick summary of the plot, for the rare few that don’t know, is that philanthropist John Hammond (Sir David Attenborough) has come up with a way of using dinosaur DNA, found in mosquitoes set in amber resin, to clone and reproduce real life dinosaurs. He breeds them all on an island off the coast of Costa Rica to build a theme park around them to profit on his discovery. A routine inspection made by archaeologists, businessman and investors soon turns into a disaster when the park’s defences shut down and the dinosaurs run amok.

Sam Neil looking up at a T-Rex

Sam Neil vs T-Rex

Upon picking up the book of Jurassic Park, my thoughts were that I’d find it boring and uninteresting since I had watched the film over a dozen times since it was released. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The pace at which Crichton wrote the book was electrifying. Even though I knew the outcome of the story, I still found myself turning the pages until four in the morning. Crichton had said in an interview that he only used 20% of the book when writing the screenplay for Spielberg, so the book has plenty to offer in terms of a new adventure in an old story. Unfortunately, readers still have to put up with John Hammond’s screaming grandchild, who is just as grating in the book as she is the film.

The book’s stand out character though is Dr Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum, whose constant belittling of the park and Hammonds vision with dry humoured remarks offer an insight into the writer himself. In the years before his death, Crichton was a politically outspoken critic of global warming and the extent to which scientists and media have portrayed its disastrous consequences for future generations. It’s easy to see a comparison of sorts between Malcolm’s scepticism of the park and Crichton’s criticism of global warming. Malcolm was right about the park, is Crichton right about global warming?

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