Jurassic Park celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer, and it is one of the best movie-going experiences of my lifetime. The film features my childhood love of dinosaurs and introduces a world where they could be reintroduced into modern society. Now, this doesn’t mean that I expected a life of dinosaurs to come into existence after seeing the movie, but it left me ready to imagine such a reality and then debate whether or not dinosaurs were a good idea, including the cost of creating them.
The blockbuster hit doesn’t throw its viewers into the beginning stages of the park’s development, when the idea is conceptualized, but it propels everyone into the final stages, prior to the park opening to the public. The main characters introduced early in this film are Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, and the creator of the park, John Hammond. One of the primary motivating factors for these characters, if not the only one, is the potential for a large financial payout. Now, the reasoning behind wanting the monetary gain may differ for each character, but in the end, money makes this Jurassic world go round.
Grant and Sattler are both scientists looking to further their understanding of dinosaurs by digging for fossils and then sharing their findings with the world. At an active dig site, we see a child mock their discovery of a velociraptor, further validating their desire to have others appreciate their work and respect the prehistoric creatures that lived millions of years before humans. Presenting this moment of adversity set the stage for Hammond’s unscheduled and destructive appearance, as his helicopter disturbs a recently uncovered specimen.
Hammond is a wealthy tycoon who has founded a theme park with cloned dinosaurs. Hammond uses his financial resources to build something larger than anyone could have ever imagined, while making everyone aware that “we spared no expense.” It is safe to say that if this adventure fails, a great financial downfall would come to Hammond, especially since his visit to see Grant and Sattler comes on the heels of a worker being killed at Jurassic Park.
Hammond needs experts in the field to validate that his park is safe before it can open. This validation creates a murky bridge to the prevalent theme of “what’s worth the price of admission?” Hammond has already “spared no expense” and the potential earnings would catapult Hammond’s legacy beyond any previous successful venture. On the other hand, Grant and Sattler need money to maintain their professions, and Hammond unceremoniously pops a bottle of champagne before officially making a lucrative offer for them to visit his park – and share their opinions.
The initial response of both scientists is laden with hesitation. There are a number of reasons not to go, until they realize how much money they’ll receive, extending their research for years. Both Grant and Sattler seem determined to complete their dig and bring something exciting and informative to the world. Money is a common catalyst in film, and in this case, it sets the stage for these three to fly to the theme park, and money will also set the stage for the park’s collapse.
As the movie introduces Dr. Ian Malcolm, an expert in chaos theory, and “the blood-sucking lawyer” who represents investors in Hammond’s company, we begin to see a line in the sand being formed – one represents the morality behind bringing back extinct creatures and their ecosystem and the other signifies the earnings from high-ticket prices once the park opens. Of course, they’ll have some kind of “coupon day” for those that aren’t ultra-rich.
Malcolm’s intentions are to make everyone see how dangerous this park is to the world. Money isn’t an obvious motivator for this character. Now, the lawyer isn’t the only one specifically referencing the money to be gained. Dennis Nedry is a computer technician who secretly agrees to steal samples from Jurassic Park and give them to a competitor for a hefty fee. The fundamental greed from Nedry is blatantly apparent. He laughs at the chance to make a fortune, and his diabolical cunning leaves everyone else in the park vulnerable to the unknown dangers associated with dinosaurs.
Money influences people, but it doesn’t make all of them corruptible. Grant and Sattler, and even Malcolm, could probably suggest an approving opinion for an additional fee, yet they believe the inherent problems associated with bringing dinosaurs and humans together are too risky to make any claim other than to say it’s unsafe. This virtue seems to avoid Hammond’s line of sight, as he can only see the financial future he hopes to make. As he sits in a room eating melting ice cream with the park falling apart and his grandchildren missing, he can only see how to make the park better next time. Hammond only sees the grandness that will be associated with a flawless Jurassic Park, ultimately tying to him and his ego, despite the fact that he’s already failed. Normally, failure isn’t the end, but when you have a T-Rex breaking down fences and raptors opening doors, it’s time to call it a day and take whatever losses are bound to unfold.
In the end, for these specific characters, the money-hungry lawyer and the underhanded computer specialist died, while those in search of something more profound were left shaken by their experience and alive to see another day. Hammond stated, in reference to his reasoning behind the park, he wanted “something that was real, something that they could see and touch.” Ironically, he did create something that could be seen and touched – unfortunately, the touch involved dinosaurs eating people.
Money is a determining factor in many choices, in and out of film, and the payouts for successful ventures are sometimes worth the risk involved with taking a Jurassic leap forward. How would this film play out if Grant and Sattler declined to visit or only agreed to discuss the matter over a conference call? If money didn’t play a factor in coming to the island, perhaps listening to the park fall apart while on the phone would lead these scientists to assemble some kind of rescue mission, changing the entire tenor of the movie.
If we take away anything from this, it’s that money is a recurring trigger point for the franchise. In Jurassic Park III, Grant is (again) presented with a lucrative offer that he isn’t keen on at first glance. What can we learn from Jurassic Park? Money doesn’t mean you ignore your gut. If you ignore that feeling, changing your mind becomes exponentially more difficult, especially if you’re trapped on an island full of dinosaurs. Now, money won’t buy your way out of that situation.
The essence of this film is the supreme wonder that comes with discovering something special. The moment in the jeep where our main characters see dinosaurs for the first time was, and still is, dramatic and spectacular and worth seeing again and again. If our characters did not come to the island because of the money, and instead were inspired to come on some kind of rescue mission, this particular moment of discovery would’ve been lost. We wouldn’t have seen their reactions to raptors being bred or the famous line, “Life finds a way,” after being informed that only females are bred. Many of these scenes where the characters, and audience watching the film, are curious about what they’re about to stumble upon has left an awe-inspiring impact within the scope of filmmaking. Again, hoping to acquire money doesn’t mean people will be or become corrupt, but it might skew their vantage point beyond sound reasoning – leaving us with a film that’s simply gigantic in nature and long-lasting, much like the prehistoric creatures of old.