As I was writing two recent posts, one on whether or not we need to reevaluate The Circle in light of our current discussion of how powerful and intrusive tech companies have become and another on recent movies where scientists are held accountable in some manner for their actions, I started thinking about scenes from novels that didn’t make it into their film adaptations.
These kinds of things happen all the time, of course. Even in the four-hour versions of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy there are scenes that have been cut on the journey from page to screen. When someone says “I like the book better,” this is often what they’re referring to, that some key moment from the story wasn’t translated either at all or not to their satisfaction.
The Circle and Jurassic Park, which came to mind while writing about character accountability, both contain scenes that jumped out at and resonated with me but which didn’t make it into their film versions.
Throughout much of the first two thirds of the story the character Annie, played by Karen Gillan, is portrayed as a fast-moving power broker working on the company’s behalf. She jets all over the world and fixes whatever issue comes up, often in ways that don’t match the definition of “totally legal.” In the movie she falls from grace when she has a breakdown, no longer able to maintain the necessary pace because her body can’t handle a diet of food supplements and uppers. She quits but reappears at the end happily enjoying some off-the-grid self-care.
In Dave Eggers’ book, though, her downfall is much more dramatic. As The Circle has gathered and processed every bit of data about someone’s life, the reach has naturally extended into the past. Some distant ancestor of Annie’s, it turns out, was a terrible slave owner and she’s being judged because of that. She’s literally being held accountable for the sins of not just the father but the 3x grandfather or some such.
The way she’s disposed is one that not only warns of the dangers of all information being searchable combined with the mob mentality that often overtakes reason online but of how disposable otherwise good people are to companies who see them as having outlived their usefulness. Annie’s breakdown confession to Mae in the book is tragic because it’s so pointless. She didn’t own slaves and she’s been unquestionably useful to The Circle. An accident of heritage has now rendered both qualities moot, despite being out of her control.
Whether or not the dinosaurs that have been brought back to life to serve as amusement park attractions are breeding is a core conceit in both Steven Spielberg’s cinematic blockbuster and the Michael Crichton book it’s based on. In the movie this unauthorized behavior is discovered by Dr. Grant while he’s out in the wild of the island with John Hammond’s grandkids. The trio happens across a nest full of broken eggs and concludes that life has indeed found a way.
The novel reveals that same information in much more dramatic fashion. Before all hell has broken loose on the island, Grant and the team that manages Jurassic Park are debating whether or not there are dino babies out and about. The technicians assure him that this can’t happen and there are only X number of dinosaurs in the park because they have cameras placed throughout the area that regularly count and track how many of each species are seen.
Grant then asks them to search for X+1. When they do they find X+1 dinosaurs. Then they search for X+10 and find that many. Eventually they increase the number to one that’s actually greater than the number of animals currently roaming the park. It turns out they programmed the monitors to only search for a certain number of each group and when it hit that number it stopped. That’s allowed a problem to fester that would have been caught much earlier if the assumption weren’t being made that it couldn’t happen and the software programmed on that belief.
Both are gripping, dramatic sequences that convey some core theme of the stories and are scenes that leap immediately to mind when I think of the books, ones I was disappointed to find didn’t make the cut in their cinematic adaptations
What are yours? Leave them in the comments here or reply to @cinematicslant on Twitter.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.
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