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Jurassic Park: How The Book Killed Off Dr. Henry Wu (& Why The Movie Didn't)

Dr. Henry Wu died horribly in in Michael Crichton's original novel Jurassic Park, but Steven Spielberg's iconic film adaptation opted to keep him alive, instead — but why? In the novel, Wu, a gifted geneticist, is recruited by billionaire John Hammond to clone dinosaurs for his ill-fated theme park and spends years working on Hammond's dream of bringing dinosaurs back to life. The ethical questions behind Wu's work are the basis for the novel (and the film franchise that it spawned), but Michael Crichton's original novel saw Wu pay the ultimate price for his work.

In the novel, Wu attempts to help John Arnold get the park's power back online, but when the velociraptors break free, they attack Wu, and he is eaten alive by his own creations. Jurassic Park did reference Wu's book death but instead opted to have him survive the film, with Arnold's death by velociraptor becoming a solo affair for the film adaptation. Wu's survival in Jurassic Park places him alongside Ian Malcolm — another character that Crichton killed but that Spielberg kept alive for his franchise.

Related: Why Jurassic Park Always Struggled With Dinosaurs Being Birds

Having Dr. Wu killed by his own creations is the sort of poetic end met by countless fictional mad scientists, so its inclusion in Crichton's original story makes sense. The juxtaposition between Wu's loving pride in his creations and the brutal way in which they gorge themselves on his still-living flesh is an obvious indicator of the differences between man and dinosaur, and narratively, it lends extra credence to the franchise's central tenet: that the two species cannot coexist. However, the film changing that death allowed for an interesting narrative twist, with Dr. Wu returning as a villain in Jurassic World.

The reveal of Wu as a villain was over two decades in the making, though, and it most likely wasn't the reason he was kept alive in the 1993 film. As the character didn't return as a villain for either The Lost World: Jurassic Park or Jurassic Park III, it's safe to say that Wu's survival wasn't solely to have him reappear as an antagonist. His survival of the film does however allow him to continue his work for InGen, which offers a more plausible explanation for exactly why there are still so many dinosaurs in the film's sequels.

Much like Jurassic Park cut the book's controversial ending, it's also possible that his death was taken out as it wouldn't have been as impactful as in the book. This is partly because Wu's character is significantly less important in the film; in the novel, it's Wu who explains the cloning process, but the film replaces him with an unforgettable cartoon strand of DNA. This reduced role makes Wu little more than a minor character in the original film, and the lesson that Wu learns in the book — that he shouldn't have meddled with nature — was simply redistributed among its protagonists.

Keeping Wu alive was a small change to the original story, but ultimately, it came back to pay off for the franchise, with Wu's survival enabling the events of Jurassic World. While many believe that this directly contributed to the Jurassic Park franchise's worst problem — the creation of super-intelligent dinosaurs to act as primary antagonists — it's certainly paid off for the franchise, with Jurassic World introducing a whole new generation to the idea of being devoured by long-extinct predators. As much as Crichton's novel is a classic, it's fair to say that having Dr. Henry Wu survive Jurassic Park was a wise move across the board.

Next: Jurassic Park: How A Book Scene Fixes The Franchise's Biggest Problem

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