Soundtrack Review: Revenge of the Sith

 

Composed and Conducted by: John Williams

The conclusion to the misguided prequel trilogy is probably my favorite of the bunch. While the script still sucks and the acting still suffers from poor direction and lack of real sets in lieu of a blue screen, Revenge of the Sith focuses a lot on battles, which happen to be the one of the prequel trilogy’s only constant strengths. John Williams delivers a large epic score and the end result, while very good, seems to have missed the mark in a couple of areas.

Revenge of the Sith has little in the way of new themes, even more so on album.

Arrival: This stately motif appears after Anakin crash lands the Separatist warship and later on when Obi-Wan arrives at Utapau. It’s absent from the album.

Battle of the Heroes: “The Battle of the Heroes” showcases the new battle theme. Unlike “Duel of the Fates”, “Battle of the Heroes” is much more emotional and is more about Anakin’s betrayal and his personal duel with Obi-Wan. Although it only appears in the movie’s last quarter, it is the tune that sticks the most.

Betrayal: Showcased in “Anakin’s Betrayal”, this mournful choral music accompanies the extermination of the Jedi and actually makes it a good scene. It speaks to the power of John Williams’ music, because honestly we don’t really know and love any of the Jedi being wiped out. It appears again right before the final lightsaber duel.

General Grievous: The other new theme on album is a pompous march for General Grievous, appearing most obviously in “Grievous Speaks to Lord Sidious”. Interestingly enough, his theme does not appear in the track that states his name.

There is one major disappointment which some fans had with the other two soundtracks, but here it matters more. That is the near-absence of themes from the original trilogy. Many expected the Imperial March to appear more often since Anakin becomes Darth Vader, but it appears only briefly, except in “Anakin vs. Obi-Wan”, where it’s just ripped from The Empire Strikes Back’s “Clash of Lightsabers”. The Emperor’s theme too is almost absent, even though he has a large presence in the movie. A few notes of his theme appear in “Enter Lord Vader”, but the action variation from his duel with Mace Windu is absent from the album. The Force theme is once again the only theme from the original trilogy to a make a significant contribution.

Likewise, the prequel trilogy’s themes seem to have been shoved out of the picture. From The Phantom Menace only a fanfare and the funeral motif return. “Across the Stars” from Attack of the Clones has a couple of gorgeous moments in “Anakin’s Dream”, appearing on melancholy strings near its opening. But even as Padme dies, this theme is absent, last appearing as a barely audible tune under wailing choir in “Padme’s Ruminations”.

But for all the thematic flaws, Revenge of the Sith still manages to thrill the listener. The first track features an amazing moment in which the Force theme is accompanied by a militaristic background. The cue is further helped by a pounding action section and a grand, sinister statement of Grievous’s theme. “Anakin’s Betrayal” is an emotional choral piece accompanying the betrayal and murder of the Jedi. Despite having no thematic connection to other tracks on the album, this piece still caused an emotional response in me as I watched made-for-action-figure Jedi characters sheepishly let themselves get killed in mere seconds, proving how good it is.

“General Grievous” is my favorite action cue, with a low-key buildup that leads into a furious brassy climax. “Palpatine’s Teachings” can either bore or intrigue you with over a minute of an eerie, droning choir, which end with a soft statement of the Imperial March. “Anakin’s Dark Deeds” has one of the best moments. The beginning sounds a little too ripped from Lord of the Rings, but as it nears its end it features a tragic melody followed by a dramatic villainous fanfare.

John Williams actually fails to create an appropriate end credit suite. The last track’s first half is amazing, with several well-thought references to the first movie’s themes to connect the two trilogies, plus a rendition of Princess Leia’s theme as the end credits start to roll. After another presentation of “Battle of the Heroes”, Williams is left with a choice: score a climax to the Star Wars movies as a whole or score an appropriate bridge between the two trilogies. He chooses the former, resulting in a rehashing of the concert version of “Throne Room & Finale”. It sounds good, but does not fit too well with the tragic apocalyptic material from the other tracks. It also is now rendered pointless thanks to Disney’s new crop of Star Wars movies.

John Williams’s arrangement of his music on album is also less than satisfactory. While not very chronologically correct, the music flows okay until the track “Anakin vs. Obi-Wan”. Tracks 9-11 actually play out in the exact reverse order of when they appear in the film, resulting in some personal frustration for me. This sequencing also completely shoves any action material out of the soundtrack’s last third. A reordering of the tracks is probably necessary for a better listening experience.

All in all, Revenge of the Sith has fantastic music, but Williams’s failure to use his themes more and some poor album production can result in a disappointing listening experience. However, fans might be pleased with an additional DVD disc which doesn’t affect the price. This disc features most of the concert arrangements set to montages of scenes from the movie to create the story of Star Wars.

Rating: 7/10

  1. Star Wars Main Title And Battle Over Coruscant (7:31) 8/10
  2. Anakin’s Dream (4:46) 8/10
  3. Battle of the Heroes (3:42) 10/10
  4. Anakin’s Betrayal (4:03) 10/10
  5. General Grievous (4:07) 9/10
  6. Palpatine’s Teachings (5:25) 6/10
  7. Grievous And The Droids (3:27) 6/10
  8. Padmé’s Ruminations (3:16) 5/10
  9. Anakin Vs. Obi-Wan (3:57) 6/10
  10. Anakin’s Dark Deeds (4:05) 7/10
  11. Enter Lord Vader (4:14) 7/10
  12. The Immolation Scene (2:41) 6/10
  13. Grievous Speaks To Lord Sidious (2:49) 6/10
  14. The Birth Of The Twins And Padmé’s Destiny (3:37) 8/10
  15. A New Hope And End Credits (13:05) 6/10

Soundtrack Review: Attack of the Clones

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Three years after the disappointment of Phantom Menace, many fans still found their expectations building for Attack of the Clones. It’s about as bad as its predecessor, some would say worse. While there is no child Anakin or Jar Jar, there is still unmemorable characters and too much politics. Also added to the mix is a whiny Anakin Skywalker who spends a good chunk of the film engaged in the worst love story of modern cinema. But also like Phantom Menace, a bright spot is John Williams’ score.

However, Williams did show a troubling trend of holding back on new themes, even though the score is still a thematic one.

Anakin and Padme: Showcased in “Across the Stars”, this sweeping love theme has been accused of deriving too much from Williams’ Hook theme. There’s a similarity, but it’s only one part of the theme, maybe a couple seconds. This lovely theme dominates the soundtrack, just as the cringeworthy romance between Anakin and Padme does. Though it is a love theme, it does swell up fairly often to show that this romance will have ramifications across the entire galaxy. Continue reading

Soundtrack Review: The Phantom Menace

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The long-awaited prequels started to hit theaters in 1999 and immediately fans were hit with great disappointment. The charm of the original trilogy is missing from Phantom Menace, which suffers from a confusing and boring plot about trade and taxation, Jar Jar Binks, and characters that are just not interesting. The question for the next several reviews is: did John Williams new scores fail to live up to the originals as well?

First here are the new themes that Williams created.

Anakin: This innocent theme is for the child version of Anakin, only resurfacing once in the next two installments. It’s pretty good, and the best part is that the end references a piece of Vader’s theme without sounding villainous. It gets its own concert arrangement.

Darth Maul: Darth Maul gets a whispery Sanskrit chant which can actually get pretty creepy.

Duel of the Fates: The most popular theme from prequels, this is a mix of racing notes and grand choral chanting in Sanskrit. It appears in the final act of the film, with the choral bombast occurring during the lightsaber duel. Actually, the prequels were noted for using much more choir. The original trilogy had the low male voices for the Emperor and that was about it.

Jar Jar Binks: This is a goofy, comedic motif which is okay, but I’m not excited when it comes on. It does suffer from being associated with such an awful character. It is appropriately introduced in “Jar Jar’s Introduction”.

Qui-Gon Jinn: Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon gets a very noble theme which doesn’t appear too much, and not even on the original album release.

Shmi: Shmi has her own little motif. It’s mot notable appearance is in “Anakin is Free” on the two-disc set.

Trade Federation: The Trade Federation gets its own military march, showcased in “Droid Invasion”. It doesn’t appear a lot, but when it does it’s pretty awesome. It’s kind of sad that such an awesome theme accompanies the worst foot soldiers of Star Wars.

People were curious which themes would return from the original trilogy. The Main Theme graces the opening crawl and end credits per tradition, but otherwise gets just one brief statement in “Panaka and the Queen’s Protectors”. The Force theme appears much more often, as it’s a concept very much at the forefront of the prequels. Yoda and Darth Vader’s themes are referenced in “The High Council Meeting”. The Emperor’s theme appears too in scenes with Darth Sidious, who obviously is Palpatine in Sith guise.

One-Disc Release

The Phantom Menace soundtrack was released with over seventy minutes of score. Williams decided to release in what is a called a concert suite form. Basically, the music is not arranged as it is in the film and in many places two or three cues are spliced together. For some listeners this can get frustrating, wondering why the Trade Federation theme bookends the music from the fish chase scene or bits of Sanskrit chanting appears to slow down action cues. I find some of the edits to be a little annoying, as it makes the presentation feel jumbled at times, but in general this is a good listening experience. The only missing highlight is “Anakin is Free”.

Things kick off with the opening crawl and some stately music from the arrival on Coruscant scene, though it’s incorrectly titled “Arrival at Naboo”. Following are the concert arrangements of Duel of the Fates and Anakin’s Theme. Track five, “Sith Spacecraft and Droid Battle”, is an interesting highlight. It starts with sinister chanting and ominous percussion before breaking out into all-out action. If you listen closely you can hear that it’s a variation on Darth Vader’s theme!

The standout moments of the next few tracks are the pompous “Flag Parade” and the sinister “He is the Chosen One”. There’s not much else of note until track thirteen, “Panaka and the Queen’s Protectors”. This is rousing heroic piece which suddenly slows down towards the end with some slow percussion before picking up again for the finale.

After the aforementioned “Droid Invasion” is “Qui-Gon’s Noble End”, which kicks off with action music from a way earlier scene. After some haunting usage of Darth Maul’s motif a tragic rendition of Duel of the Fates breaks out. “Funeral” showcases yet another Sanskrit choir, this one a very mournful tune which would make a return for the ending of Revenge of the Sith.

The last track is “Augie’s Municipal Band”, which is actually an upbeat and happy version of the Emperor’s theme! This is largely accomplished by changing the last note to make it more uplifting, as well as children chanting in lieu of a sinister male chorus. The end credits is basically tracks 2 and 3 pasted together.

Overall, Phantom Menace, like most John Williams scores, has a lot of great music. But there’s actually quite a bit I don’t find interesting. Queen Amidala and Naboo Palace” isn’t terrible, but it’s not a track you’re going to go back to a lot. A lot of the action tracks not from the last act don’t have much in the way of references to themes and motifs, something which was always a great strength in the original trilogy. I think another problem that I have personally is that my impressions of a film can reflect on its score. When I hear music from Empire Strikes Back, I think about that movie’s wonderful moments. When I listen to this soundtrack, I think of a lot of bad and underwhelming moments. I just can’t get the same thrill I do with the original scores.

So does John Williams disappoint? He does maybe a little bit, but his music is still one of the few genuinely great things about the prequels,

Rating: 8/10

Two-Disc Ultimate Edition

Just a year later the Phantom Menace received a two-disc release, and is the only prequel score to have gotten one. It’s completely in chronological order and if there’s any music you wanted on the original release that wasn’t there, it’s here. “Anakin is Free” is the best one. It starts with Qui-Gon’s theme before a few minutes of amazing emotional music and then a statement of the Force theme. One little cue I really like is “Darth Sidious and Dart Maul”, which kicks off with an evil fanfare before going into the Emperor’s theme.

Listening to this album can actually be a little jarring during the final battle sequences, as they were re-edited in post production, meaning the music goes all over the place. Many of the tracks are also really short, making it hard to keep up with what track you’re on.

I think I actually prefer the original release. Some of the concert arrangements flow much better.

Rating: 7/10

Track Listing for One-Disc Release

  1. Main Title and the Arrival at Naboo (2:55) 6/10
  2. Duel of the Fates (4:14) 10/10
  3. Anakin’s Theme (3:05) 10/10
  4. Jar Jar’s Introduction and the Swim to Otoh Gunga (5:07) 6/10
  5. The Sith Spacecraft and the Droid Battle (2:37) 8/10
  6. The Trip to the Naboo Temple and the Audience with Boss Nass (4:07) 5/10
  7. The Arrival at Tatooine and the Flag Parade (4:04) 7/10
  8. He is the Chosen One (3:53) 8/10
  9. Anakin Defeats Sebulba (4:24) 7/10
  10. Passage through the Planet Core (4:40) 6/10
  11. Watto’s Deal and Kids at Play (4:57) 6/10
  12. Panaka and the Queen’s Protectors (3:24) 8/10
  13. Queen Amidala and the Naboo Palace (4:51) 4/10
  14. The Droid Invasion and the Appearance of Darth Maul (5:14) 7/10
  15. Qui-Gon’s Noble End (3:48) 8/10
  16. The High Council Meeting and Qui-Gon’s Funeral (3:09) 8/10
  17. Augie’s Great Municipal Band and End Credits (9:37) 8/10

Soundtrack Review: Shadows of the Empire

Composed and conducted by: Joel McNeely

In the mid-1990s, Star Wars fandom was experiencing a large revival, with hundreds of new action figures, many new video games, and a whole new expanded universe in the form of novels and comics. George Lucas, who by now had become the marketing-obsessed man who would torment us with an inferior prequel trilogy, decided to pick a book and treat it like a movie. This would mean for a written novel there would be toys, a video game, a comic book adaptation, a making-of book, and, most unusually, a soundtrack!

That’s right. A soundtrack would be created for a movie that didn’t exist. Unfortunately, instead of choosing the superb Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn, Lucas picked Shadows of the Empire, which takes place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I guess the the fact that Darth Vader was still alive in said novel probably helped it. The multimedia event would ensure that this book became one of the most highly praised among fans, particularly nostalgic ones that played the video game. Actually, the novel is pretty decent, with a good story, but some issues when it comes to how it is written.

Joel McNeely, who had scored the Young Indiana Jones series, was chosen to do the soundtrack. He found himself with virtually no limitations, other than the amount of music he could create (around fifty minutes). The result is a surprisingly eclectic, although fairly thematically driven score.

John Williams’ themes would only grace three of the tracks, but new ones would be created. The first track is completely credited to John Williams, as it is the famous Main Title and a re-orchestrated section of the carbon-freezing music from Empire Strikes Back. The only original material here is a slowly descending motif that bridges these two pieces together. The same motif crops up in a couple of other places.

The new material goes full force with “The Battle of Gall”. The first half features the descending motif in its longest appearance, followed by a brief action outburst, some jaunty battle preparation music, and a Rebel hymn. The second half is exciting, but doesn’t match up to Williams, especially since it lacks the battling themes of the maestro’s cinematic scores.

“Imperial City” is one of the best tracks on the whole album. The cue is for a scene that would never be put into a movie due to its length. As we approach the city planet of Coruscant, things start off quietly with light piano music, the planet just a tiny speck. As we start to get into the clouds, some fanfares break out, and when the city is revealed in all its glory the music becomes an Olympic-style fanfare. The music somewhat subsides for a bit, but breaks out into more fanfares at the end before trailing off the way it began. This is a fantastic cue, although it is very hard to hear the opening notes.

“Beggar Canyon Chase” is more Indiana Jonesesque than Star Wars, but does end heroically with what is, according to the liner notes, supposed to be a “brief iteration of Dash’s theme”.  As far as I can tell, no such theme exists anywhere else on the album. “Southern Underground” gives us a new recurring theme, but what it is for I have no idea.

McNeely’s crowning achievement is his new master villain theme for the horny, reptilian Prince Xizor, showcased in track six. There’s a lot of dissonance here to represent his criminal and two-sided character, but it’s all worth it for the last minute and a half, a full percussion-backed march of evil which presents his theme three times. This is the most obvious and popular of McNeely’s Star Wars themes, in large part thanks to its presence in the video game’s final levels.

“The Seduction of Princess Leia” is an interesting waltz that I think deviates a little too much from the Star Wars style. “Night Skies” is a dramatic cue that obviously deserves a spot among my highlight cues. It features Xizor and Vader’s themes as they contemplate their schemes. The best moment however is supposed to occur when Vader reaches out to Luke Skywalker, prompting a grand version of the Force theme which surpasses even Williams’ “Light of the Force”.

After the underwhelming “Into the Sewers”, McNeely lets loose with a ten-minute finale which features most of his new themes. It’s full of choral crescendos, which seems to give a hint at the more prevalent use of choir in the prequel trilogy, and some bold statements of Xizor’s theme. The most interesting part is when Xizor and Vader’s themes actually weave around each other, with the dark lord’s fanfare winning out in the end. The Rebel hymn and a brief reiteration of “The Imperial City” give the album a grand satisfactory closing.

Personally, I would have liked it if more money was invested into this project, if only to create an actual end credits suite which is customary for Star Wars films. Some editing software could create such a track using the usual closing credits opening, “Southern Underground”, and the finale of “Xizor’s Theme”.

Shadows of the Empire is a unique soundtrack, and is actually quite good although McNeely really should have used his themes more often. I actually find this album almost as good as the prequel scores, which likewise could have used some of their new themes more. Surprisingly, this soundtrack is still easily available online, so listen to the music samples to make sure you want it and then buy it.

Rating: 7/10

Track Listing

  1. Main Theme from Star Wars and Leia’s Nightmare (3:41) 6/10
  2. The Battle of Gall (7:59) 7/10
  3. Imperial City (8:02) 8/10
  4. Beggar’s Canyon Chase (2:56) 6/10
  5. The Southern Underground (1:48) 6/10
  6. Xizor’s Theme (4:35) 8/10
  7. The Seduction of Princess Leia (3:38) 7/10
  8. Night Skies (4:17) 10/10
  9. Into the Sewers (2:55) 5/10
  10. The Destruction of Xizor’s Palace (10:44) 8/10

Soundtrack Review: Return of the Jedi

The third installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi is in my opinion the weakest of the three, showing some troubling signs for the future prequel trilogy. We are treated with laughable characters such as Jabba the Hutt, cutesy antics by the Ewoks, and some rushed plot twists. However, while the music too is down a notch, John Williams still delivers an amazing score and a fitting end for the series musically. Here I will review the original record album and the two-disc set, since those are the two versions I’ve listened to. But first, the themes.

Emperor: This is my favorite of the ROTJ themes, an evil piece that stands out because it often uses a choir (unusual in the original trilogy). It perfectly captures the dark evil of the Sith and is featured heavily in “The Emperor’s Throne Room”. This theme is one of the reasons why the Luke-Vader-Emperor scenes in the film were so strong and moody. Continue reading

Soundtrack Review: Empire Strikes Back

Here it is, my all-time favorite musical score ever composed for film! Not only does it accompany my favorite Star Wars movie, it also has the greatest assembly of themes and motifs. For its time The Empire Strikes Back was a surprisingly dark film for an action-adventure and the music by legend John Williams follows suit, especially in the second half. Following are the new additions in what is the greatest assembly of themes ever devised by John Williams. Continue reading

Soundtrack Review: Star Wars

Everyone’s excited for the new Star Wars movie. As a soundtrack fan, I’m really looking forward to John Williams’ next musical installment. In anticipation I’m reviewing all six Star Wars movie scores, as well as an interesting entry from the expanded Universe

I don’t really need to say much about the start of the Star Wars franchise, since it’s pretty much common knowledge. It’s also commonly accepted that John Williams made grand, orchestral soundtracks popular again with his amazing well-known score for A New Hope, perhaps the most consistently entertaining and easy-to-listen-to entry in the Star Wars music saga. Continue reading

Top Ten Celtic Gods and Goddesses

The Celtic peoples used to inhabit most of western Europe, residing from Spain to eastern France and from northern Italy all the way to Ireland and Scotland. They even had pockets of civilization in areas such as modern day Turkey. Different groups of Celts had different deities, though some were shared among them. Before going down the list there are several important things to consider.

  1. The Celts had many more gods than other peoples, as they would have a special deity assigned to each individual spring, river, and natural landmark. This list only focuses on gods with greater spheres of influence.
  2. The Celts can be said to have several pantheons, although several popular gods crossover. There are Celtic gods unique to Hispania, Gaul, Britain, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Gods on the British isles tend to be shared more between different sub-groups of Celts. Thanks to the preservation of their myths and legends by writers, the Irish and Welsh are the most well-known (Irish gods will be referred to as the Tuatha De Danaan, meaning “Children of Danu”, Danu being a primal mother goddess).
  3. Because Celts did not produce images of their gods, or write down their myths, preferring oral tradition, information on most deities is rather scarce. Any images or information comes from their Roman conquerors, who believed that they were merely their own gods under different names. As a result, any images of Celtic gods were of Roman design, and made to fit the images of characters such as Zeus and Apollo.
  4. Celtic mythology is further muddled by Christianity. Celtic legends and myths were put to paper by Christian monks and other writers. Along with Christianizing many aspects of the tales, it’s believed that many of the heroes and other characters were originally gods turned into human, though still very incredible and supernaturally gifted characters. Suspected examples are Cuchulain and Merlin. This list only includes names that are definitely known to have been worshipped as gods.

10th. Britannia

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This familiar goddess was actually a Roman creation. Britain was finally conquered by the Romans under the rule of Emperor Claudius. Claudius was presented with an image of himself standing atop a defeated woman representing the island. Under Hadrian the woman started to appear in a far more dignified manner on coins and was even elevated to the status of goddess. The representation of Britain, Britannia was depicted as an Athena-like figure, paying homage to both the Greco-Roman world and the Celtic lands dominated by Rome. Like Athena, she wears a soldier’s helmet and a white dress. In her hands are a spear and a shield. She was later brought back on British coins in the 17th century. She became and still is one of the signature symbols of Great Britain, though the origins of the warrior woman on coins is unknown even by many British citizens. Although not an original Celtic god, she was nevertheless worshipped after the Roman invasion by both the island’s native inhabitants and its colonists.

9th. Taranis

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Taranis is the Gaelic god of thunder and the wheel. Like other deities from Gaul, no myths survive about him, only his functions as a god. Ancient statues and art show him as a bearded figure, holding a lightning bolt in his right hand and a wheel in the other. Romans saw him as the Celtic interpretation of Zeus thanks to his apparent ability to wield and throw lightning. As for the wheel, it was associated the cyclical nature of time and the sun. The six or eight spokes on wheels corresponded to major, annual Celtic festivals, and in fact the calendar for the Celts was the Wheel of the Year. Although most information about him has been lost, Taranis can be seen as one of the most important deities of ancient Gaul.

8th. Balor

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Balor was not worshipped, but still a god. He was the king of a race of monster-gods called the Fomorians. At one time they ruled Ireland until the Tuatha de Danaan, the gods the Irish worshipped, arrived. Balor was a giant, and his greatest weapon was a third eye on his forehead. The lid of the eye was so heavy that servants had to attach ropes to it in order to pry it open. Once this was done, the third eye would destroy anything in its gaze. In the beginning of his myth, Balor rules over Ireland, even having dominion over the Tuatha de Danaan. He learns that his grandson is prophesied to overthrow him. Locking his only child, the woman Ethniu, in a tower, he believes that his fate is averted. However, she is rescued and eventually gives birth to Lugh, god of light. Lugh sides with the Tuatha de Danaan. In the Battle of Mag Tuired, the Fomorians and Tuatha de Danaan fight to decide the fate of Ireland. Balor keeps the battle in the Fomorians’ favor, even killing the silver-armed king Nuada. But Lugh kills him, with a spear or slingshot depending on the interpretation. Balor’s eye is hit and it is sent out the back of his skull, vaporizing his own army. Balor is associated with the concept of the evil eye.

7th. Brigid

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Also known as Brigit and Bridget, Brigid is one of the most well-known Irish deities, and in a way is still worshipped today. She is the goddess of art, blooming of the spring season, healing, high dimensions, livestock, poetry, smithing, and springs. She was merged with the Christian St. Brigid. However, some scholars argue that, since St. Brigid is given such magical qualities and has conflicting and unclear biographies, that she is merely a Christianized form of the goddess. Many Catholics in Ireland and its neighboring isles still revere Brigid, and depending on how you view the saints, she could be considered a holdout from the pagan era. Although her Irish form is well-known, Brigid was actually a mother goddess worshipped all over Europe, known in Britain and Gaul as Brigantia.

6th. Epona

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Although performing the common function of a fertility goddess, Epona is more noted for her dominion over horses and all similar animals. In the ancient world, horses were an integral part of both land transportation and warfare, so much so that Epona received widespread popularity among non-Celts as well, with cults to her ranging all the way to North Africa. Roman cavalry in particular were fond of her. She is depicted riding sidesaddle on a white mare. Kings would symbolically marry her to affirm their royal status. Unfortunately, this involved actually having intercourse with a white mare and then killing the animal afterwards to distribute its body. The name Epona is familiar to gamers, as it was given to the hero Link’s horse in Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series.

5th. Artio

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Yet another goddess of fertility and animals, Artio was noted for a specific association with bears. One uncovered statue shows a woman, believed to be Artio, seated on a throne and holding fruit. Approaching her is a bear, evidently being fed by her. No myths survive about Artio, but I think she’s a very cool goddess just from the fact that she is associated with bears. Bears had religious significance in Ancient Europe. In addition to being symbols of power, several prominent animal-shaped constellations were named after them, such as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. It is debatable whether Artio’s bear association was related to hunting, protective power, or both. Romans saw her as Artemis/Diana, their goddess of the hunt who often transformed into a bear.

4th. Lugh/Lugus

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Lugh is the grandson of Fomori king Balor and the Irish god of light and crafts. Worshipped all over the British Isles, Lugh is most well known in Ireland, where he for a time serves as the king of its gods. Aside from killing Balor and bringing the Tuatha de Danaan to power, Lugh’s accomplishments also include creating a regular pan-Irish series of athletic games and fathering famed hero Cuchulain. Lugh is also the god of the spear, which in most versions is what he uses to kill Balor. His own personal, magic spear is incredibly sharp at its point, able to go through anything, and is one of the four great treasures of the Tuatha de Danaan. Many historians and others believe that Lugh was downgraded and heavily altered by Christian monks and scholars to the point that he became the leprechaun. This would indeed be a humiliating end for the savior and king of the Irish gods.

3rd. Cernunnos

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Cernunnos is one of the more well-known Gaelic gods thanks to several recovered pieces of artwork. These include the Pillar of the Boatmen and the Gundestrup Cauldron, showing Cernunnos as a man sitting cross-legged and adorned with stag antlers. Cernunnos, often referred to simply as the “horned god”, was associated with hunting, animals, fertility, and nature in general. Cernunnos, as a fatherly god associated with the male activity of hunting, might have a link to stag parties, as he himself has the horns of a stag. Thanks to his appearance, the “horned god” was equated with the devil in Medieval Europe.

2nd. Manannan Mac Lir

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Manannan Mac Lir is the main Celtic sea god, and appears quite often in surviving tales. He is a protector of Ireland, as the sea surrounds it. He himself is a master of magic, and he rides the ocean on a chariot driven by sea-horses (of the mythical equine kind, not the real ones). Other portrayals show him in a much more simple boat, using an oar to row himself around. The Isle of Man is named after him. According to one tale, the name is given from another god, Mac Cuil. Mac Cuil is not much of a god and actually practices thievery. However, he eventually converts to Christianity, changing his ways and spreading his new religion all over the island he is on. Manannan Mac Lir approaches him and sadly notes that in this new age his name will be forgotten. Mac Cuil assures him that as long as he himself remembers the sea god, The Isle of Man will keep its name, and thus the name of its god, alive.

1st. Morrigan

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Morrigan, the “Phantom Queen”, is the Irish goddess of war and death. She is perhaps the most feared deity, as she often appears in one of her various physical guises to let a warrior know death is around the corner. She might appear as a hag washing his armor, or as a bird sitting atop his future corpse. Morrigan’s main animal is the crow or raven, birds noted for hanging around battlefields to scavenge on the dead. Morrigan is responsible for the death of famed Irish hero Cuchulain. With a crush on him, she uses various disguises to gain his affections. Attempts to approach him in animal form see her getting wounded. With each rejection, her ire grows hotter and she eventually causes him to die in battle, resting on his shoulder as a crow to assure his enemies that he is truly dead. Morrigan is also a triple goddess, a confusing concept in which one deity is actually three separate individuals. Morrigan is Anand (or Anu), a goddess of fertility, Badb, a war goddess who transforms into a crow, and Macha, the death crone. Other versions have Morrigan as the third of another triple goddess.

Other Notable Celtic Gods

Aengus Mac Gog: Aengus is the closest thing the Celts have to a full on god of love.

Belenus: Gaulish god of healing and light, Belenus was equated with the ever-popular Apollo and thus was highly favored by Roman colonists.

Dagda: Powerful father of the Irish gods, Dagda wields a club while holding a cauldron

Danu: Danu is the mother of the Irish gods and in Welsh mythology is Don.

Ogma: Irish god of eloquence and learning, he is also a great warrior and wields a Fomorian sword.

Sucellus: Also known as the “Hammer God”, Sucellus carries a long-handled hammer and a bowl of what cold be wine. He is believed to be the god of agriculture and wine.

Sources

Cunliffe, Barry The Celtic World McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1979

Ellis, Peter Berresford The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends Running Press Book Publishers. 1999

Stewart, R.J. Celtic Gods, Celtic Goddesses Sterling Publishing. 1990

Various Heroes of the Dawn: Celtic Myth Time-Life Books. 1996

Wikipedia

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia, HowardJohnson.com, & Google Images

Top Ten Egyptian Gods and Goddesses

Like most polytheistic societies, the Egyptians had plenty of gods. There are at least a hundred confirmed deities (the actual number gets tricky when you consider that some gods were merged into one or others had alter egos), and they covered all aspects of life. Here are my ten favorite Egyptian gods and goddesses.

10th. Maahes

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The son of Ra, the sun god, and Bast, the cat goddess, Maahes is one of many protector/war deities. Taking after his mother, Maahes has the head of a feline, specifically a lion. Maahes has the cool distinction of being the god of knives, and is drawn holding two long knives. He’s also the god of lotus plants for some reason. The most fearsome and memorable aspect of Maahes is his treatment of prisoners of war: he ate them! Maahes is probably the one war god that enemies of Egypt would not want to meet. Maahes isn’t as well known in popular culture, possibly because he only appears in the myths as one of the deities protecting Ra (the sun) against the ravenous serpent of darkness Apep.

9th. Khnum

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With so many cults and changing views over thousands of years of history, Egyptian myths about creation are inconsistent. This applies to the origin of humans as well. Ptah was said to have used the power of thought to create humanity, but there is also the story of Khnum. The ram-headed Khnum literally builds humans out of clay. He makes two bodies for each individual, one physical and the other spirit. He then merges them to create the final product, though frog goddess Heket breathes the actual life into them. The center of worship for Khnum is the Nile island of Elephantine. Khnum is one of my favorites because the idea of fashioning humans by hand and breathing life from them brings into mind God’s creation of Adam and Eve.

8th. Ra

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Ra is the head honcho of the Egyptian pantheon, but I was hesitant about putting him higher on the list. This is because even though he literally is the sun, he actually comes across as a little weak and indecisive in many of the myths. Isis poisons him and makes him give up his secret name to that she can have magical power over him. When overseeing the meeting on whether Horus or Seth should have authority over Egypt, he can’t decide who to support. And despite having the powers of the sun at his disposal, he needs an entire entourage of fellow gods and the prayers of humans to fight off Apep. Still, Ra can be awesome, as he is the creator deity. In fact, Ra is an amalgamation of several deities. The Egyptians streamlined their religion by saying that Amun, Atum, and Khepri were actually alternate names and forms of Ra (which is why you might see Ra referred to as Amun-Ra). Ra is the father of most of the major gods and goddesses and is also the father of the pharaohs. So while he may look weak or gullible in some of the myths, Ra still has an indispensable function in Egyptian culture.

7th. Set

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Set is one of two Egyptian gods that can actually be considered a villain. He is the god of chaos, the desert, storms, violence, and later foreigners as well. Most of these things aren’t highly regarded. Still, Set did have some respect among worshippers due to his power. He is one of the chief defenders of Ra, standing at the front of the sun god’s sun barque in order to stave off Apep. His most vile act and establishing moment of villainy is murdering his brother Osiris in an attempt to gain his throne, and then spending decades trying to kill his son Horus, as well as battling Osiris’ wife Isis. Set eventually loses for good, but is compensated for his loss with multiple wives from the Canaanite pantheon (in an early example of a crossover story). Historically, Set’s popularity with Egyptian worshippers took a huge hit when the invading Hyksos took over and made him the chief deity. Set is a jerk, but he does provide most of the interesting conflict in the actual myths. Other common names for him are Seth and Setesh. No one knows for sure what his animal head comes from. It could be a fictional creature to symbolize his authority over chaos, or it could be a portrayal of a jackal or aardvark, creatures that dwell in the desert and wilderness.

6th. Sobek

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I only put Sobek in the top ten for one reason: he’s a crocodile! In addition to being a patron for one of the coolest animals, Sobek represents royal, protective, and military power. Sobek is either depicted as a man with a crocodile head or just a crocodile wearing a crown. Historically, Priests raised crocodiles and dressed them up as Sobek in honor of the god, even directing their prayers at the reptiles. He had several centers of worship, one which was actually once called Crocodopolis. Some of Sobek’s most devout worshippers went as far as to merge him with Ra, effectively making him the number one god.

5th. Apep

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Apep is the other villain of Egyptian mythology, an embodiment of darkness and chaos. Unlike Set, he has no functions that make him an object of worship. In fact, priests would utter prayers against him. Apep is usually in the form of a great black serpent, constantly seeking to destroy Ra and thus the sun, ending all life and light. At night, Apep attacks Ra’s sun barque while it is in the underworld. When the sun rises, it means Ra has won, as he usually does. However, if there’s an eclipse, it means Apep has won a rare, though temporary victory. Apep makes the list because he’s one of the rare fully evil gods, and possibly the most powerful. I wonder why he isn’t used as the main villain in popular culture as much, with Set and (mistakenly) Anubis often getting that role. Another name for Apep is Apophis. Ancient Egyptians actually didn’t want him killed, as they thought this would upset the balance of the universe and destroy everything.

4th. Hathor/Sekhmet

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Hathor is one of the most popular goddesses in Egyptian history. This is natural, as she is the goddess of love, mothers, birth, fertility, music, dancing, and miners. Except for maybe miners, all of these things are very popular with humankind. Although much art and statues show her with a cow head, this is actually not her primary form and is more symbolic of her role as a fertility goddess. In fact, she may be the most beautiful goddess, and often dances naked before Ra to cheer him up when he’s down. What really puts Hathor in the top five is her alter ego as Ra’s avenger Sekhmet. As Sekhmet, she gains a lion’s head. In one myth, Ra responds to rebellion by unleashing her on humanity. However, she grows so enamored with drinking the blood of her victims that she won’t stop. Ra just wants to teach humanity a lesson, not make them extinct. Taking the advice of some other gods, Ra creates a wine that looks and smells like blood. Sekhmet drinks it up and passes out, enabling her transformation back into Hathor. Hathor’s close relationship with Ra gives her the title “Eye of Ra”.

3rd. Horus

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Horus, often depicted with a falcon’s head or even as a human child, is the god of the sky, the sun, war, and protection. But his most important duty is as the god of pharaohs. Pharaohs are the physical human embodiments of Horus. Horus has a decades-long war with Set, which sees him lose his left eye. Horus is born with solar power in his eyes, giving him power over day, but now he is missing one. Thoth intervenes and creates a lunar eye, giving Horus power over both day and night. Horus has a couple other interesting encounters with Set. One sees them turn into hippos and fight each other, which ends indecisively thanks to Isis throwing harpoons at them. Another actually has Set attempting and failing to rape Horus, as semen was given magical qualities by ancient Egyptians and could theoretically be used as a weapon. Ra and Osiris may be the most powerful gods, but Horus gave the pharaohs the divine right to rule, justifying their authority.

2nd. Thoth

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Thoth is the god of art, diplomacy, knowledge, writing, and the moon (he has to share the moon with Khonsu). His favorite animals are the ibis bird and the baboon, and he takes their forms. What makes Thoth so awesome is that he’s really smart, and that he even though he’s not the type that fights, he still helps Horus and Isis achieve final victory over Set. He can usually be found at Ra’s side as his personal secretary, even joining in to help fight off Apep when they travel through the underworld. In the afterlife, he records the results of weighing of the souls, helping decide who can travel to paradise and who will have their soul consumed by the monstrous Ammit. Thoth is also a nerd, being the creator and patron of astronomy, botany, geometry, math, medicine, and theology. Much of his knowledge is contained in the Book of Thoth.

1st. Isis

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Arguably the most popular Egyptian deity (even being worshipped by Romans until well into their decline), Isis is the goddess of children, love, and motherhood. She also responds to the prayers of all people, with particular interest for common people and those in hard positions, even slaves. Most important to the actual myths, she is the goddess of magic. Egyptians were obsessed with magic. To them it was very real. Isis uses magic to protect and aid Horus in his war with Set, and on a couple occasions uses trickery to gain power over Ra, such as the time she learns his secret name. In her greatest feat, she is able to resurrect Osiris’ body in order to have sex and give birth to Horus (Osiris is resurrected for good later, but becomes the god of the dead while Horus takes his place in the world of the living). Isis was even more popular than Horus, and was the center of a major cult in Roman-dominated Egypt. Isis is perhaps the strongest female deity in character and power, in world as well as Egyptian mythology, which ensures her top spot on this list.

Book vs. Movie: Jurassic Park

Book vs. Movie: Jurassic Park

With Jurassic World coming out, I decided to compare one of my favorite novels with its film adaptation (and also a movie that’s in my top ten).

The Novel: For most of the 1980s, Michael Crichton tried to come up with a tale concerning cloned dinosaurs. Rationalizing that no company would spend billions, if not trillions of dollars, just to clone dinosaurs for science’s sake, he came up with the idea of a theme park, as such a park would draw in enough money to make up for such a large budget. He wrote many drafts, all of which were heavily criticized by those he sent them to. He learned that the main problem was that the title character was a kid, so he rewrote the entire story from an adult perspective. In 1990, Jurassic Park was finally published and became a bestseller. It remains Crichton’s most well-known work, though the release of the film in 1993 certainly helped with that.

The Movie: Spielberg and Crichton actually talked about Jurassic Park a year before the novel was even published. Acclaimed director/producer Steven Spielberg was interested in someday making a movie based off of his work. Universal Studios won a bidding war to obtain he rights, with the understanding that Spielberg would get to direct it. Spielberg was more passionate about doing Schindler’s List and then Jurassic Park, but depressing holocaust films were considered a little risky, so he was told that he first had to make a profitable blockbuster with dinosaurs first before he could move on to his current passion project. The movie, with its cutting-edge CGI effects as well as Spielberg’s great filmmaking in general, was a smash hit, almost hitting the billion dollar mark at the box office.

Tons of people have seen the movie and the book itself is also highly regarded. Which is better? We will look at three things. First there is the main plot and themes. Second is a comparison of all the characters in their book and film incarnations. Third is the dinosaurs themselves.

The Plot

Both the movie and the film basically have the exact same plot. John Hammond, head of InGen, brings a couple paleontologists, a chaos mathematician, a lawyer representing his investors’ interests, and a couple kids to test out his park, which happens to have real dinosaurs. It is learned that these extinct animals were brought back using DNA extracted from prehistoric mosquitoes, which drank the blood of dinosaurs. Due to several flaws in the system, as well as the carelessness of Hammond and some of his employees, security breaks down and dinosaurs start to roam the island, many of them ferocious carnivores who start picking off the humans.

Where the plot in the book and film separates is how the situation is resolved. In the movie the characters, spread out over the island, work to reunite and then make their escape, abandoning the dinosaurs. It should be noted that for some reason Spielberg decided to have the bulk of the island’s personnel leave on a ship right before things fall apart, leaving a very small cast of characters to fend for themselves. In the novel, however, no one leaves the island. With all of the security, technicians, engineers, doctors, etc. remaining, much of the island is actually brought back under control. They even manage to recapture the T-Rex. Instead of the mad dash for freedom in the movie, the survivors just calmly evacuate the island before the Costa Rican military arrives to bomb it out.

The novel also features another major plotline absent from the film. Right before communications are knocked out, the tour group see a ship leaving the island for the Costa Rican mainland, and notice that several Velociraptors have sneaked aboard. So not only is Dr. Alan Grant trying to get himself and Tim and Lex back to the island’s visitor center, he is trying to warn everyone that the boat needs to be stopped before highly intelligent and dangerous dinosaurs are unleashed on the mainland. This was understandably cut from the film for pacing and a tighter script. Likewise, Spielberg cuts out the opening of the book. The first thirty pages of the novel features Procomsognathusids, tiny scavengers, sneaking around the mainland and arousing the suspicions of local doctors and scientists with their attacks on humans.

Overall, despite many differences, the plotlines of both the novel and the film are basically the same. The T-Rex attack on the tour group and the showdown with the Velociraptors in the novel even occur at roughly the same time in the plot in the movie. The smaller parts of the plot are pretty different, though, but neither really superior to the other. The movie has less in it, but that’s because it needs to fit within a couple hours as well as move much faster.

Themes

As with the plot, the themes in the novel and the film are basically the same. In each, John Hammond and InGen are driven by excessive ambition. They think little of the consequences of bringing back dinosaurs in a modern world, as well as the potential effect they could have on ecosystems should they escape. In the words of Ian Malcolm, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”. InGen carelessly uses the power of genetic cloning and brings about disastrous results. One such careless oversight is the use of living animal DNA to fill in the gaps. As well as creating dinosaurs that are actually not perfect copies of their true selves, it gives them several biological differences that thwart the wishes of their creators. InGen makes all of their dinosaurs female so as to avoid breeding, a smart control measure. However by using the DNA of amphibians that can change gender in several of their species, they enable some of them to turn male, meaning that some of the dinosaur populations are actually growing, most terrifyingly the velociraptors. This ties into another theme, that man cannot control nature. Despite their best efforts to make a controlled environment, InGen finds their creations running amok and doing things that they were designed not to.

The other major theme is the radical shift in paleontological views on dinosaurs. This shift started in the 1960s. Prior to the 1960s, dinosaurs were for the most part envisioned as slow-witted lumbering creatures, often depicted as living in swamps. Then several paleontologists began to theorize that dinosaurs were actually warm-blooded and could act much more quickly, more akin to mammals and birds in their movement and lifestyle. However, it took Michael Crichton’s novel, as well as Spielberg’s film adaptation, to popularize the idea that dinosaurs were not sluggish lizards, but highly active animals. The T-Rex is hunched over, rather than squatting back on its feet and dragging its tail. The Velociraptors are intelligent and graceful pack hunters who can leap onto rooftops and sometimes even outwit the humans. Instead of residing in swamps as depicted in past pop culture, the Brachiosaurs travel in herds across fields and tall forests, using their height advantage to grab high up veggies.

These themes are heavily present in both the book and the movie, though more so in the novel as Crichton doesn’t have a two hour running time to limit. If you read the novel for the first time, expect pages of dialogue from Ian Malcolm touching on ideas of corporate and scientific irresponsibility.

The Characters

Warning! Spoilers abound here as to who survives or dies in the different versions. Skip to the last paragraph if you want to avoid them and see which has better characters.

Most of the characters in the novel make it to the movie, but to those who saw the movie first, they will be surprised by how different many of them come off in the novel. The question here is, which has characters we’re more invested in, the book or the movie?  While they share most of the characters, many of them are very different. In fact, the most startling differences in the film adaptation come from how characters are changed. Here’s a rundown of each character in both book and film form, as well as a couple that didn’t make if off the pages of the novel.

What should be noted is that Crichton has a limited type of character he uses. Each character is basically defined by his or her job. They might say some jokes, but otherwise they are full of exposition related to their expertise. Ellie Sattler is a paleontologist with a specific interest in paleobotany, so she provides the reader information about extinct plants.  John Raymond Arnold is an engineer, so he just talks about how the park was made and how it’s maintained. In Spielberg’s films these characters are given more personality and quirks.

Alan Grant (Sam Neil)

Book: Alan Grant is a paleontologist and can be considered the primary protagonist in both the novel and the film, as he and kids Tim and Lex are the ones who are stuck in the wilds of the park. In the novel he has to protect the kids from not just one, but several T-Rex attacks. While on a raft he also has to keep them safe from several other species, including Pteranodons. Crichton has him travel through much of the island because he’s a paleontologist. This way he can provide readers the names and details of all the dinosaurs he comes across. It’s worth noting that Grant loves kids in the novel, since they tend to share his enthusiasm for dinosaurs.

Movie: The Alan Grant of the film, however, hates kids, finding them obnoxious. This gives him a character arc. Initially doing his best to avoid Hammond’s grandchildren, he ends up having to bring them back to the visitor center, and ends up doing a really good job interacting with them. By the end of the film it is implied that he now loves kids and may even end up having some with Dr. Ellie Satler

Winner: Movie. Alan Grant is likeable enough in the book, but the way her warms up to Tim and Lex in the movie makes him endearing.

Ellie Satler (Laura Dern)

Book: In the novel Sattler is actually still a graduate student in her low twenties. One of two major female characters, she doesn’t really do all that much, spending most of the time in the main compound listening to Malcolm’s philosophizing against Hammond. It’s not until the raptors attack that she starts getting involved.

Movie: Sattler is much closer to Alan Grant in age, making her more of an equal in her knowledge of prehistoric life and also adding some romantic tension. She also actually has a personality. The Sattler of the novel doesn’t add much, but here she has a very sweet personality and does a lot more, going out with Robert Muldoon on missions.

Winner: Movie. As with Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler is much more endearing in the film, and plays a much bigger role, doing things done by other characters in the book.

Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum)

Book: Ian Malcolm is the most fascinating character in the novel. However, this is more due to the fact that as a chaos mathematician and the vessel for Crichton’s views, his dialogue naturally comes off as more engaging and intriguing. He is the voice of reason and morality, and after getting injured he spends the bulk of the novel mocking John Hammond and modern science in general. He actually dies before the book ends, like a prophet having fulfilled his task (He actually turns out to be alive in the sequel Lost World and goes to a secondary InGen site where he somehow becomes an expert in evolutionary theory as well).

Movie: Malcolm is my favorite character in the movie, mainly because of Goldblum’s performance. He is said to have a “rock star personality” in both the novel and film, and he embodies it much more in the latter. He has the same blunt personality of the novel version, but also a sense of humor, making him both the voice of reason and the comic relief. As in the novel, he gets injured in the Tyrannosaur attack and spends the rest of the time sitting in the main compound. Unlike the novel he for the most part abandons attacking Hammond with his criticisms and just makes humorous remarks until finally getting off the island alive.

Winner: Movie. Ian Malcolm is the best character in the novel, but he’s still better in the film because he is so well-written and well-acted. There’s a reason he was brought back as the central protagonist in both the novel and film The Lost World.

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough)

Book: Crichton has one other character type which he unfortunately keeps resorting to, the evil high-ranking member of the corporation, in this case CEO of InGen John Hammond. Hammond is completely unlikeable, motivated purely by profit, as well as fame for helping bring back dinosaurs. He tries to save money in “small” areas like a raise for his chief computer scientist and military-grade weapons for Muldoon in case any large dinosaurs break loose (these cutbacks prove disastrous for everybody). He cares little for the safety of the other characters as the park descends into deeper and deeper chaos, and spends the entirety of the situation inside the visitor center. By the time everyone is safe, he blames everything on his chief employees and plans to rebuild the park, not having learned his lesson at all. He then receives a rather humiliating death when he trips and falls into a ditch where a herd of Procomsognathusids eat him alive.

Movie: Hammond’s character does a complete 180 for the film. This time he’s a whimsical, well-meaning old man who dreams of letting everyone experience the wonder of live dinosaurs. He even shuts down lawyer Genarro’s idea of charging massive ticket prices, because he wants as much people as possible to enjoy his park. When things get out of control his top priority is trying to rescue everyone on the island, while in the novel he delusionally believes that things will work out. This time around he survives, saddened and having learned his lesson. It should be noted that while Ian Malcolm wears all black, something taken from the novel, Spielberg has Hammond wear all white to create a further contrast between the characters.

Winner: Movie. The Hammond of the novel is stock corporate villain you can find in a kids’ cartoon. The one in the movie is flawed and makes great mistakes, but he’s just so earnest and loveable.

Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero)

Book: Gennaro gets some blame for his involvement with the park since he helped give John Hammond further investors. Otherwise, he’s actually a pretty cool character. He’s an attorney sent to investigate the safety of the island, as several small incidents have occurred. Instead of being eaten off of a toiler by a T-Rex, he actually spends the rest of the novel helping park security. He helps recapture the T-Rex and plays a major part in restoring power, something that Ellie Sattler does in the film. He even wrestles a Velociraptor and wins!

Movie: Gennaro, like Hammond, does a 180 for the film. Here he is actually combined with Ed Regis, the head of InGen’s public relations. Like Regis, he is greedy. Also like him he abandons the children and gets killed by a T-Rex.

Winner: Book. While having a jerkass getting his comeuppance is nice, Gennaro in the novel is just too likeable, someone who represents InGen, but prioritizes helping others survive when things go wrong.

Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck)

Book: Muldoon’s book and movie forms are very similar. In each he notes the dangerous intelligence of the Velociraptors and wants them destroyed, and takes a large part in trying to restore some semblance of order to the park. Characteristics unique to the novel include a mustache and his willingness to get drunk.

Movie: Muldoon is pretty much the same, just not as badass since he never takes down the T-Rex and gets killed by the Velociraptors.

Winner: Book. Muldoon’s character is pretty much the same in each version. His awesome feats in the novel make his book version the winner.

John Arnold (Samuel Jackson)

Book: Arnold is a chain-smoking engineer who used to work in amusement parks. With so much money offered by InGen, he sets up the system for Jurassic Park and shares Hammond’s optimism that things will soon be back under control. Also like Hammond, he finds himself a constant target of Malcolm’s monologues and criticisms. His efforts to restore all power continually fail or cause more problems. As in the film he is killed by a Velociraptor while trying to restore power in the generator room.

Movie: Arnold has a somewhat smaller role in the film, though being played by Samuel Jackson makes him more entertaining.

Winner: Movie. I mainly chose the film version because of Samuel Jackson, plus all of his major talking points and characteristics from the book make it to the movie so it’s not like we missed out on anything.

Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight)

Book: Nedry is an obese computer scientist who plays a major role in keeping Jurassic Park’s systems running. However, because the park requires so much extra work on his part, he wants a raise. Hammond refuses, since he wants to cut costs. He therefore takes a bribe from a rival company and shuts off large chunks of the park’s security systems so he can sneak dinosaur embryos to a waiting boat before returning to work and attributing the power failures to a glitch. He is brutally killed by a Dilophosaurus, but not before his actions enable several dinosaurs to break free.

Movie: Nedry actually garners a little sympathy in the novel, since he’s being horrendously underpaid, but in the film he is completely unlikable. Otherwise, everything winds up the same for him.

Winner: Book. Nedry shows a little more intelligence in the novel. While he shuts off some fences, he has the sense to keep the security on the Velociraptors intact. Also, treating a Dilophosaurus like a dog is pretty stupid, however funny the scene is.

Tim and Lex (Joseph Mazzello and Ariana Richards)

Book: Tim and Lex are Hammond’s grandchildren. Tim is a big fan of dinosaurs and also quite proficient with computers, helping restore internal security systems during the Velociraptor sequence. He turns out to be a pretty competent character. Lex, his younger sister, is a different story, talking about how bored she is by the dinosaurs and continually screaming and making noises that attract predators. She’s just awful and if I wasn’t concerned about Tim’s feelings I probably would have rooted for one of the dinosaurs to eat her.

Movie: Tim is the same, except his computer skills are transferred to Lex, who is now his older sister. Fortunately, Lex loses her whiny behavior from the novel and is actually useful towards the end.

Winner: Movie. Tim is pretty much the same in either version, but Lex in the novel is intolerable.

Others

Book: Dr. Wu plays a large role in the novel, helping explain the cloning process and sticking around for the finale, where he is killed by the Velociraptors. He is firmly in InGen’s camp, believing that he has created perfectly manageable dinosaurs. He appears for one scene in the film and leaves the island on a boat. Another character with a larger presence in the novel is Dr. Gerry Harding, a veterinarian. In both versions he tries to heal an animal with Ellie Sattler. He leaves for the boat in the movie, but in the novel sticks around to help fight off the raptors. The final character to appear in both versions is Lewis Dodgson, who bribes Nedry into stealing embryos. He is a scientist working for a rival corporation in the book, but gives off the appearance of a shady stooge in the film.

Overall, the characters are better in the movie. Crichton doesn’t add much personality or quirks and makes most of them mouthpieces for their respective fields of expertise. Spielberg knows how to make entertaining and memorable characters for a fun two hour film.

The Dinosaurs

It’s great seeing dinosaurs on the screen, but movies have budgets. In Spielberg’s Jurassic Park the dinosaurs only appear for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Novels have no budget except paper, so Crichton offers much more species.

The film features one T-Rex. The novel actually has a second one, a juvenile. Likewise, where there’s a trio of Velociraptors in the movie, there is an entire pack in the book, which is also able to breed. By the end there are dozens of baby raptors. The film provides on sick Triceratops, while the novel features a whole herd. Other dinosaurs in the film include herds of Brachiosaurus, Parasaurolophus, and Gallimimus, as well as the frilled, venom-spewing Dilophosaurus. There’s said to be much more, but we never see them.

If you want lots of dino scenes, the novel is actually better. We get to see Apatosaurus, Maiasaura, lots of Procompsognathus, and many others. There are even Pteranodons who swoop in at Grant and the kids. The final Velociraptor attack is much more epic. The movie version is definitely scarier, with kids trying to hide while inches away dinosaurs are sniffing and clawing around, but the book has them jumping onto buildings, going up against shotguns, killing off InGen employees left and right, and slowly but surely gnawing their way through bars to get into the visitor center. The one thing the movie does way better is the climax. In the novel, Grant poisons some eggs and rolls them along the floor, causing the raptors to chase them and bite into them, thus killing themselves. In the movie we get the badass save by the T-Rex, who battles the raptors and lets the survivors make their escape.

The one dinosaur the movie does better is the Dilophosaurus. Crichton used his imagination and gave them venom, which they could actually spit. Spielberg takes it even further by giving them a pop-up frill and some scary sound effects. Like the Velociraptor, Dilophosaurus gained much popularity Jurassic Park, and also made for a pretty cool action figure.

So dinosaurs are better in the novel if you want a lot more of them. But seeing them on screen with Stan Winston and Phil Tippet’s special effects is still amazing today.

So Which is Better?

I’m going to have to chicken out and make this a tie. Without budgetary and time constraints, the novel is able to offer more dinosaurs and a lot more information on how Jurassic Park was built and why it failed. The movie has far better characters, plus the special effects and John Williams’ musical score. I would recommend that you both read the novel and see the movie. Despite sharing the same basic plot and themes, they are actually pretty different from each other. So if you grew up watching the movie, you can still have a fresh experience reading the novel.