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SYFY WIRE Michael Crichton

The Major Differences Between The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Michael Crichton's Original Novel

Ian Malcolm's Site B adventure was very different in the book.

By Josh Weiss
(L-R) The cover of The Lost World by Michael Crichton and a scene from The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Dateline: Summer 1993. Almost two decades after the release of Jaws, legendary director Steven Spielberg once again changes the landscape of summer blockbusters with Jurassic Park. The film — based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton — is an instant hit, garnering acclaim for its groundbreaking special effects and ultimately netting more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office. As the rules of Hollywood dictate, a sequel must be made.

Spurred to action by an avalanche of fan letters and, of course, Spielberg's growing desire to make another Jurassic blockbuster, Crichton publishes The Lost World in 1995. Set in the not-too-distant aftermath of Jurassic Park, the book places the main narrative focus on mathematician Ian Malcolm, who undertakes a dangerous journey to Isla Sorna (aka Site B), a secret InGen facility where the dinosaurs were initially bred and raised before being transferred to the park proper on Isla Nublar. Things go awry as they always do in these situations, and characters are promptly gobbled up by hungry dinosaurs.

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Flash forward two years later to 1997: Spielberg releases The Lost World: Jurassic Park, an incredibly loose adaptation of Crichton’s book. Jeff Goldblum returns to play Malcolm, albeit with shorter hair, but no shortage of whip-smart dialogue about man's destructive hubris. Despite following the general story beats of its source material, the highly-anticipated cinematic follow-up forges its own path.

Thirty years after Jurassic Park kicked off the film franchise — and with Jurassic ParkThe Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III, and Jurassic World all now streaming on Peacock — we're taking a look at the biggest differences between the two Lost Worlds...

5. Rich people problems

The Lost World movie opens with a group of Compies attacking the young daughter of a rich couple who have made the rather poor choice to take a break from sailing on their yacht to enjoy a bougie brunch on the beach of Isla Sorna. While this little prologue does not appear in the Lost World novel, it was derived from one of the opening chapters in Jurassic Park. In fact, a number of scenes from the first book that went unused in the 1993 film were saved for moments in The Lost World (the T. rex forcing humans to take refuge behind a waterfall) and Jurassic Park III (the aviary sequence). Plot elements of The Lost World book that went unused in the 1997 adaptation (mainly the concept of finding a boat as a means of escape) were ultimately revisited for Jurassic Park III.

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4. Hammond lives!

In Crichton's original novel, both John Hammond and Ian Malcolm became casualties of the Jurassic Park incident on Isla Nublar. When the book was finally released to the public, however, fans kept writing the author, demanding that he write a sequel. Crichton relented and retconned Malcom's death, so the chaos-minded mathematician could return as the central protagonist of the follow-up story. But since the first movie kept both characters alive until the end, Steven Spielberg didn't have to worry about dancing around the already-established lore of the blossoming film franchise. As a result, Sir Richard Attenborough was able to reprise the role of John Hammond who, in his twilight years, has given up his entrepreneurial ways and adopted a stance of conservation (most likely a nod to Richard's naturalist brother, David Attenborough). To that end, he dispatches Malcolm to Site B on a mission to prove that the dinosaurs are worth protecting.

3. Combining characters

Since Hammond does not appear in the source material, the circumstances and characters surrounding Malcolm's reluctant journey to Isla Sorna are vastly different. In the film, for example, Ian throws himself back into the dinosaur line of fire to rescue his girlfriend, Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), who has been recruited by Hammond to document the animals and their behavioral patterns. In the book, on the other hand, the inciting incident comes courtesy of Richard Levine, an arrogant paleontologist who travels to Site B to prove that dinosaurs still exist (a theory that Malcolm originally shoots down).

When Ian learns of what Levine has done, he mounts a rescue mission co-led by Jack Thorne (owner of a company that customizes vehicles for scientific expeditions) and his chief foreman, Eddie Carr. For the Hollywood-ized version, Thorne and Carr were rolled into one character — played by Richard Schiff.

Sarah Harding is present in both mediums, though the book presents her as a young field biologist who briefly struck up a pseudo-romantic relationship with Malcolm while he was recovering from the numerous injuries sustained in the first book.

The mission to rescue Levine in the book gets a shade more complicated when Malcolm discovers a pair of seventh-grade stowaways: Kelly Curtis and Arby Benton. Similar to the situation with Thorne and Carr, Kelly and Arby became one single character for the big screen. Furthermore, The Lost World movie establishes Kelly as Ian's teenage daughter for added emotional weight and to emphasize one of Spielberg's favorite themes: absent parents.

Lastly, Vince Vaugh's role as photographer/saboteur Nick Van Owen (another member of Team Hammond) does not appear in the novel.

3. We've got Dodgson here!

Perhaps wanting to tie up the remaining loose ends left dangling by Jurassic Park, Crichton brought back Lewis Dodgson as the main antagonist in The Lost World. The cunning head of Biosyn research bribed Dennis Nedry into stealing dinosaur embryos, but never got a return on his investment. More importantly, he never got his comeuppance for essentially causing the disaster in the first place. That all changes in the second book when Dodgson travels to Isla Sorna with a small group of confidants in the hopes of stealing fertilized dinosaur eggs. Thankfully, his plan is foiled and he's gruesomely devoured by baby T. rexes.

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But the film version leaves out Dodgson and introduces a brand-new villain, John Hammond's nephew, Peter Ludlow (Arliss Howard), whose motivations are also driven by a greedy desire to profit off the cloned dinosaurs. His methods are a little more audacious with an entire team of boisterous mercenaries flooding the island to trap the animals and bring them back to the mainland. Ludlow meets a similar fate to Dodgson when daddy T. rex chomps down on his leg, immobilizing him and allowing the juvenile rex to hone its hunting skills on a slow-moving target.

Dodgson — who hadn't been seen in the Jurassic film series for close to three decades — made his smug return in Jurassic World Dominion, where he was played by The Amazing Spider-Man actor, Campbell Scott.

1. From San Diego with love

The differences between the endings of The Lost World novel and its movie adaptation cannot be understated. In the book, once the characters arrive on Isla Sorna, they stay there for the remainder of the story.

The film goes for a bigger, King Kong-inspired finale in which a T. rex (shipped over to the mainland by Ludlow, who plans to open an improved version of Jurassic Park in Southern California) wreaks havoc throughout downtown San Diego until its lured into a trap and sedated by Malcolm and Harding.

During an interview in 1997, Crichton stated that the title of his sequel was meant to serve as an homage to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel, The Lost World, which centers around an expedition to a remote jungle setting populated by prehistoric creatures. Doyle's book was adapted into a silent film in 1925, with its theatrical poster depicting a group of terrified humans fleeing the path of a raging T. rex-looking dinosaur.

This marketing tool was a tad misleading as the end of the '25 adaptation actually involves a Brontosaurus being the source of the trouble. With that said, the aforementioned poster art probably inspired the action-packed conclusion of The Lost World movie more than seven decades later.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park — along with Jurassic ParkJurassic Park III, and Jurassic World — is now streaming on Peacock!