Michael Crichton: from print to screen

Michael Crichton: from print to screen
07 Jun

Welcome to Crichton World. You will not find time travel or space pilots here, not even flying cars or pew-pew laser pistols.

But you will find humans using science that is here today, perhaps advanced a couple of decades into the future.

In Michael Crichton’s novels, gene engineers construct dinosaur DNA from blood found inside gnats fossilised in amber; roboticists make pleasure androids so guests can live out their darkest fantasies without moral judgment; and biologists discover, to their horror, that a returning satellite has picked up space microbes capable of extinguishing life on Earth.

The American writer, who died in 2008 at the age of 66, is hot now. Two of his novels, Jurassic Park (1990) and Westworld (1973), have been turned into a blockbuster movie franchise and one of the highest-rated television shows, respectively.

But there have been several more print-to-movie or print-to-television works, and more to come.

Because, as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director J.A. Bayona says, Crichton speaks to people’s anxieties as a species that loves poking at things it does not quite understand, getting stung, then poking again.

Books by author Michael Crichton which have been made into films include The Andromeda Strain, starring Paula Kelly (above); Rising Sun,
starring Sean Connery and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa; and Sphere, starring Sharon Stone. PHOTOS: MEDIACORP

He says to the press in Shanghai last week that Crichton was “obsessed with talking about the monsters we create when we don’t respect the natural order”.

“The T-Rex, for example. It’s a beautiful creature, but it’s also a ferocious monster and it reminds us of where the red lines are, the lines we cross with technology.”

Here are a few Crichton books turned into films and television series.

The Andromeda Strain (1971) This movie, based on the 1969 novel of the same name, was among the first of what would turn out to be an evergreen subgenre – the pandemic thriller. The movie is today praised for its technical accuracy in portraying what it is like to live and work in a laboratory designed for research of lethal pathogens.

Westworld (1973)

Before it became a popular HBO series, now in its second season, there was this movie, a sequel (Futureworld, 1976) and a television show that flopped (1980).

Again, as with The Andromeda Strain, the setting is technologically realistic and humans are in a paradise where dreams come true.

Yul Brynner plays The Gunslinger and the big baddie when a glitch causes the robots to go rogue.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Crichton’s 1990 novel was turned into a film that still has film fans wondering: How did they, in 1993, deliver computer-drawn dinosaurs that look more realistic and awe-inspiring than any number of today’s films? The answer, many have pointed out, lay in director Steven Spielberg’s good taste and keen eye for detail.

Crichton’s warnings are embodied in Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr Ian Malcolm. Among his quotes: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Rising Sun (1993)

Not a techno-thriller in the true sense, but a look at a future in which America’s dominance in commerce and technology is overshadowed by sinister Japanese corporations.

In this xenophobic crime thriller, cops played by Wesley Snipes and Sean Connery investigate the murder of a prostitute at the hands of thugs employed by a yakuza-linked corporation.

Sphere (1998)

This science-fiction thriller with psychodrama overtones was a commercial and critical flop, proving that Crichton’s ideas cannot survive a poor screen adaptation.

An A-list cast including Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and others play researchers sent into the ocean’s depths to investigate a craft of alien origin.

John Lui



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