First off, thanks to Jordan for contributing our Reader Review for this week, and doing a fine job.
This script is certainly a blast from the past for me.
Not only did this cinematic phenom spawn two sequels, but it also led to countless video games, some of which are still coming out. (I actually recalled the old SEGA Genesis game from way back when.)
I apologize as I couldn’t find a PDF of the version I read way back when, which is rumored to be BEFORE Michael Crichton wrote the novel, and doesn’t have Ian Malcolm. My goal for picking this script was to show how much a story can change from initial concept to end product. Although we don’t have that particular angle with an updated version, it’s still a worthwhile read.
One of the things I noticed with this version however, is just how much it seems to hit those important points, beats, etc. of a story without us even realizing it. I’ll cite the examples here, of course, but please feel free to check out our forum too, where I’ll be discussing how great I thought the midpoint was.
Jurassic Park by David Koepp and Michael Crichton
During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.
Open on a jungle island, where workers are waiting for something to come out of the woods. The trees shake and moan, and we’re presented with…a bulldozer. Oh, let down, but not quite, as it’s pushing a mysterious box with a dangerous animal inside. Everyone’s on edge so it must be REALLY dangerous. Oh, and it attacks some poor fella.
Then something about a mosquito stuck in amber, but our main character’s mentioned, so FLASH FORWARD to him, Dr. Grant, digging up velociraptor bones in Montana. His boss comes and offers him the tour of a lifetime, on a park Dr. Grant and his girlfriend, Ellie, have to sign off on.
Whisked away in a helicopter, we also meet Ian Malcolm, who knows what the park’s about, but doesn’t tell, only suggests that things will go to crap with it.
Once on the island we finally see what we’ve been waiting for. A real live Dinosaur!
We also see the show, the raptor enclosure, eat Chilean sea bass, and meet the old man’s grandkids, who Ellie forces on Grant because he doesn’t like kids, but she eventually wants to have them so he needs to deal with them.
Out into the park they all go, and don’t see any dinosaurs.
Malcolm’s gloom and doom comes to fruition as the main programmer tries to make a bit ‘o cash on the side by stealing dinosaur embryos, but gets killed because he’s Newman, so all the park fences get turned off.
Now our characters are trapped, without phones or protection from some very serious meat eaters, can they escape?
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Yep. Probably helps that I was basically reliving the movie in my head, but here’s a bit from my favorite part. Page 22:
Grant notices that several of the tree trunks are leafless –
just as thick as the other trees, but gray and bare.
Grant twists in his seat as the jeep stops and looks at one of
the gray tree trunks. Riveted, he slowly stands up in his seat, as if
to get closer. He moves to the top of the seat, practically on his
He raises his head, looking up the length of the trunk. He
That’s no tree trunk. That’s a leg. Grant’s jaw drops, his
head falls all the way back, and he looks even higher, above the tree
Grant, never tearing his eyes from the brachiosaur, reaches over
and grabs Ellie’s head, turning it to face the animal.
It’s the first time we see a “live” dinosaur full camera, and the script sets it up just like the movie does. Doesn’t rush it, doesn’t drag it out, but paces it perfectly.
Another quick bit from page 122:
A hand comes into the foreground and takes a firm grip on one of
the tight fence cables. Another hand follows it, then a third.
GRANT, TIM, and LEX climb over the fence, pulling themselves up
by the tension wires, crawling right past a “DANGER!” sign that tells
them this fence ought to be electrified.
That’s a cool way to open a scene.
10 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
I actually chuckled as I read this, because this script SCREAMS, “We’re on a DEADLINE!”
The script is littered with typos, alternate scenes, alternate dialogue, and some stuff that didn’t make the cut in the finished movie.
As I promised to grade these scripts like they were first time specs, I’m forced to deduct points here, BUT what probably happened is this is a version of a rewrite where they just needed to get it done, so grammar was sacrificed for speed.
We can’t do this, however. Typos like “witch” instead of “which”, “cheep” instead of “cheap”, etc. won’t be forgiven if they happen more than once or twice.
Unless you’ve sold the script, don’t put alternate scenes in. Chances are someone asked for this with today’s script.
The script does a really good job of NOT directing us too, which is important to note, especially if it was a rewrite for production.
5 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
The dialogue was kind of hit or miss. There’s definitely the zingers that made Jeff Goldblum a household name again, but there was too much back and forth between characters in some spots. (Again which was trimmed down for the final movie, and rightfully so.)
Now, seriously. Show of the hands. How many of you
have read my book?
Everyone stops laughing and looks away. Ellie raises her hand
supportively. So does the Volunteer, Grant sighs.
Great. Well maybe dinosaurs have more in common with
present-day birds than reptiles. Look at the public
bone – – it’s turned backwards, just like a bird. The
vertebrae – – full of hollows and air sacs, just like a
bird. Even the word raptor means “bird of prey”.
There were parts where characters just seemed to start monologuing, and this was handled much better in the movie.
I’m simply saying that life – – finds a way.
“You can’t control anything.” I agree with that. I
She walks over to Malcolm, he smiles at her, too warmly.
You can talk. I don’t k now how to say it. You’re just
articulate. You say everything that I think, that I
feel. It’s exciting.
I find it so exciting. It’s exciting that you can’t
control life, that you know – –
You know that, I find it terrifying. Life will always
find a way.
That’s right. Will break through.
I get ah – –
I know, it’s very exciting.
When people try to control things that it’s out of their
power – –
Malcolm talked a lot more in this script than he did in the movie, which I think argues, would he have been as successful a character if his great dialogue and one liners were after some expository back and forth?
I don’t think so, since in the script he just talks a lot.
You’re all right, John You’re okay. It’s just you don’t
have intelligence. You have “thinktelligence.” You
think narrowly and call it “being focused.” You don’t
see the consequences. You’re very good at solving
problems, at getting answers – – but you just don’t know
the right questions.
Preach on, Brother Malcolm.
6 out of 10 points.
4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?
I’ll never forget the buzz around this novel, and how everyone was reading it. I just thought it was a book about dinosaurs. never did I dream it was such an awesome story until I saw it on the big screen. My biggest pet peeve (after later reading the book) is that they didn’t include MORE from the book. (Like that super cool river raft part.)
10 out of 10 points.
5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?
I know this was adapted from a novel, but Michael Crichton was a genius. (So much so that books are still coming out under his name, which my wife tells me isn’t uncommon.)
His blend of researched material into a world “slightly different than ours” as Roy says, is unmatched. I know he’s not solving world hunger, but each of his books always led to fast reads for me, and we know me doing “smart stuff” is challenging.
We even have to give David Koepp credit for fitting in as much of this large story as he did.
10 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
First two pages is about a crate, and an employee being attacked by what’s in it. Now even if we went into the story not knowing it’s a dinosaur movie (which I’m sure we didn’t), that’s captivating.
These are the types of scenes we should be trying to create at the beginning of each script. (Notice he didn’t cheat and show us a later scene!)
We’re teased by the plants in the jungle moving too, like we know it’s about dinosaurs, and with everyone waiting around, will this be the first thing we see in the movie? Oh, NO! Lame, but you’ve got us Crichton, so we’ll keep reading.
*Quick Note* We need to be careful when teasing the audience. Too much and it’ll piss them off. Not enough, and our script gets thrown in the garbage. Best advice? Don’t drag it out.
15 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Here’s where I was surprised to see how bang on the inciting incident was.
Right on page 15 we have Hammond offering to take Ellie and Grant to his new park, where their input is greatly needed. It’s the inciting incident, LITERALLY where the world of fossilized dinosaurs becomes flesh and blood creatures.
The beauty of this is it isn’t forced.
Before that we have a lawyer in Latin America talking about how the park’s going to be shut down because of the attack on the employee.
It’s also where we get to see how they get dinosaur DNA for the cloning, in amber.
On top of that, the characters are talking about things leaving us mostly in the dark, but it’s fascinating so we can’t help but read on because we want to know what they know.
15 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
It’s just a rocket ride from there.
I won’t go too much into particulars, as I’m sure most of us have seen the movie, but the story definitely delivers.
We get to see the island and meet a dinosaur face to feet.
Taken on a theme park style ride to see how the dinosaurs get cloned, while also seeing some of the behind the scenes of Jurassic Park.
The main thing I want to mention here is the midpoint.
Now the script is 144 pages long, but at page 76 (almost halfway) the fun world of dinosaurs changes to a fight for survival as the T-Rex breaks through its fence.
There’s no better example of night and day, and I can’t state how baffled I was by never seeing the contrast before.
We should all strive to have that kind of contrast right in the middle of our stories, and make it fit as perfectly as this does.
10 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
Jurassic Park didn’t disappoint, which is why it did so well at the box office.
There was a bit of suspended disbelief at how they were actually able to get the dino-DNA and clone it at the time the movie was made, but I don’t think that was a major issue. (Although they did try to address with The Lost World, which I think only clouded the issue more.)
One thing the script did well, that the movie didn’t was in it’s treatment of the sick triceratops. Remember Ellie reaching into that big pile of poop? She didn’t find any lilac berries, but the movie just leaves it at that, and we’re left with the dead end of, “So why was the triceratops sick?”
In the script it actually draws another tie-in to birds, that the animal was swallowing stones (to help with digestion) near the berries every six weeks, which was what made it sick. I was happy to finally learn this.
The ONE problem I had with the script, and is still a problem to this day with the movie is the tyrannosaur paddock. WHY in the WORLD was there a huge drop off in it? It didn’t make sense other than to have the super cool scene with the Ford Explorer.
One minute the T-Rex is up on top, flush with the fence, then he’s tossing the SUV into a giant chasm.
The script actually suggests that the goat is initially on a bluff at the top of the paddock, with this valley below it, but it still doesn’t make sense. You’re building a zoo more or less for people to see the animals, you’re not going to have the animal be fifteen feet below a concrete fence.
Minus two points.
8 out of 10 points.
As I said, I was reminded why Jurassic Park remains one of my favorites. It’s damn near a perfect example of storytelling. As my kids begin to watch it now, it only goes to show how timeless the movie is too, one of those rare gems that entertains generation after generation.
Total 89 out of 100 points.