Steven Spielberg could have taken the easy way out.
He had dinosaurs—arguably the greatest achievement in CGI up to that point in history. Jurassic Park already had its selling point, its hook, the shiny thing that would make every kid and his family hyped to see the film. Because of the dinosaurs, Spielberg could have skimped on other aspects of the movie, and it would almost certainly still have turned a big profit. But would it be the stunning classic we know today without John Williams’ legendary music? Without Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, and Laura Dern? Without Michael Crichton’s and David Koepp’s storytelling/screenwriting skills?
And would Jurassic Park have been as, yes, lovable without its brilliant characters?
Spielberg/Koepp could have created cardboard cut-outs, based on clichés from bygone films, and used them to keep the plot in motion. But they didn’t, and the result is that Jurassic Park is full of characters who defy stereotypes. Let’s take a quick look at three of them!
First, there’s John Hammond. If the movie had gone the clichéd route, he would have been the true villain of the film. I mean, a super-rich old guy with a British (okay, Scottish) accent who owns a mysterious island and dabbles in strange science? Are you kidding me? That’s textbook villain. If this was a textbook movie, that is. But it’s not. Even though Hammond is ultimately the one to blame for dinosaurs coming back to life and wreaking havoc, the film never paints him as a villain. A shyster, maybe. A showman, absolutely. But also a loving grandfather and a great host (yes, even considering everything).
Then we have Ellie Sattler. I know quite a lot has been written about her and how great of a character she is, but I’ve got to say a little more. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the fact that, though the only adult female character, the film never sexualizes her or turns her into a screaming damsel in distress that needs saving. She’s got this, and then some! Ellie is a paleobotanist who knows her stuff and knows that she knows it. However, because of all that, her character could have gone in a different direction and still have ended up in cliché territory: the woman who wears glasses and is very stern and uptight until the perfect guy comes along. But Ellie isn’t like that, either. One of her traits that I actually find very relatable is how she’ll laugh at almost everything—such as when Ian Malcolm is talking to her and Alan on the way to Isla Nublar. She isn’t uptight. She’s capable of handling things, and she’s brimming with love and laughter.
Then, there’s Alan Grant. Alan is quiet. Diffident, even (at least in some situations). He’s nothing like Indiana Jones, another of Spielberg’s heroes. Instead of taking charge of the whole situation on the island, bringing the film to a triumphant ending, and making out with the heroine at the end, he… babysits. But he’s still just as much a hero as Indy (if not more so). Probably my favorite Grant moment is when Lex is freaking out over that horrid lawyer abandoning her and her brother and Grant, with an intensity that comes right out of the screen and grabs at you, says “But that’s not what I’m going to do”.
Last (but certainly not least) we have the fan-favorite character Ian Malcom, played by Jeff Goldblum. Here is another character that subverts audience expectations. Most people (at least before Jurassic Park–and probably even still today!) would scratch their head over the term ‘chaotician’ and probably conclude that anyone who was one of those…things would be pedantic and boring (after all, chaos theory is mathematics). Ian Malcolm, however, turns out to be arguably the coolest character of the bunch. But that’s not all! He could have been an ‘anything goes’ type of guy, but instead, he’s the person who takes the whole dinosaurs-coming-to-life thing the most seriously. He’s disturbed by Hammond’s/the scientists’/the lawyer guy’s attitude toward the dinosaurs, toward what has been unleashed on the natural world. Ian isn’t just there to make the film snazzier and sexier. He’s there to raise important, serious questions–questions that make you think instead of just sitting there, watching dinosaur-on-dinosaur violence. As with so many of the amazing characters in Jurassic Park, there’s a lot more to Ian than first meets the eye.
I could discuss the rest of the characters in Jurassic Park, but I won’t. I’ll simply say that they are a huge part of why I love the film so much.
Oh, and Jurassic World? They took almost every cliché I mentioned and ran with them. So, no thank you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eva-Joy Schonhaar is an aspiring author who has written several novels and hopes to be published some day soon. She’s a Christian fangirl who drinks insane amounts of coffee, thinks that chocolate chip cookies solve pretty much everything, and always uses the Oxford Comma. In her spare time she can be found geeking out over superheroes and reading The Hunger Games for the millionth time.