Study Guide

Jurassic Park Analysis

  • Dinosaurs

    Blast From the Past

    What would Jurassic Park be without dinosaurs? It wouldn't be a death trap, that's for sure. But more than that, it would also be really boring.

    Putting aside what the dinosaurs mean—nature vs. science, technology, etc. (that's what our "Themes" section is for, so check it out)—the dinosaurs just look amazing. Jurassic Park combined old-school animatronics with top-notch (for the time) CGI for some of the most impressive movie imagery before the Titanic went down a few years later.

    The dinosaurs are filmed to highlight their sheer size and spectacle. The first live dinosaur we see is the towering Brachiosaurus. The actors stare at the top of the screen, mouths open in wonder, before we see the gigantic dinosaur standing on its hind legs and munching on some branches.

    From there, we get some impressive animatronic dinosaurs, namely the baby Velociraptor hatching from the egg and the sick Triceratops. The benefit of animatronics, as opposed to CGI, is that the actors can actually touch them. They can pet the baby raptor and practically ride the Triceratops as it breathes.

    The baby raptor is a nice contrast to the Velociraptors that hunt and devour people later on. The one hatching from the egg is as cute and cuddly as a raptor can get—which makes the adult ones even scarier by comparison.

    Dino-Scare

    Speaking of scary dinos, aside from glimpses of the Velociraptors at the beginning, the rest of the dinosaurs are kept hidden from view. During the initial tour of the park, we hear about the dinosaurs, but we don't see them. Ian Malcolm makes the snarky remark, "Eventually you do plan to have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour, right?" The dinosaurs are just biding their time until they jump out and kill everyone.

    The dangerous dinos are the T. rex, which everyone knew, and the Velociraptor and Dilophosaurus, which were popularized by the movie. The Dilophosaurus is always known as the spitter, "spitting its venom at its prey, causing blindness and eventually paralysis, allowing the carnivore to eat at its leisure." Nasty.

    From this point on, the dinosaurs aren't just a spectacle for the humans, they're a danger, whether it's getting eaten by a T. rex, sneezed on by a Brachiosaurus, or squished in a Gallimimus stampede. We, and Lex, have to be reminded that not all the dinosaurs are monsters. "They're just animals," no matter how terrifying some of them may be.

  • The Raptor Claw

    Dr. Claw

    Dr. Grant's raptor claw is arguably the only true symbol in the movie. It's a fossil that Dr. Grant keeps with him at all times, presumably to taunt children with. When an annoying young boy compares a Velociraptor to a turkey, Grant pulls out his trusty raptor claw—which he describes as sharp "like a razor"—and proceeds to demonstrate how the raptor would gut the kid and eat him. "You are alive when they start to eat you," he says, just in case this whole situation wasn't scary enough.

    What's the point of all that? To demonstrate to the kid that he should "try to show a little respect" to an extinct creature. Lesson learned.

    Of course, the raptors turn out to be un-extinct, and just as scary as Grant describes them. When Grant finds himself protecting children from dinosaurs instead of using the threat of dinosaurs to intimidate children, he isn't that fond of the raptor claw anymore. Up in the tree with Tim and Lex, Grant sits on the raptor claw. We can't think of anything more uncomfortable than a razor sharp claw in the butt, so it's no wonder Grant pulls it out of his pocket and tosses it away.

    So if the claw is a symbol, what's it a symbol of? Has Grant sworn off archaeology because now he knows how terrible these ancient lizards can be? Or is he throwing away his hatred for children and embracing them instead? You'll have to dig up your own interpretation.

  • Hammond's Amber-Tipped Cane

    Amber Alert

    John Hammond is so old he needs a cane to walk. But not any old hickory stick will do for him—no, he has to show off. His cane is tipped with a sphere of amber with a mosquito trapped in it. Sure, it's a big achievement that scientists extracted dino DNA from an ancient mosquito, but this would be like Bill Gates wearing a PC around his neck or Steve Jobs being buried inside a giant iPod.

    The amber-tipped cane shows just how prideful Hammond is, and, as we all know, pride comes before a fall. In Jurassic Park, though, it's other people who fall (a.k.a. die) for Hammond's mistakes. At the end of the movie, melancholic instrumental music plays as Hammond stares at his little mosquito. Oh, poor John Hammond. His theme park failed, and he's sad about it. What about all the people who died? Someone should whack Hammond upside the head with his own cane.

  • The Barbasol Can

    Close Shave

    The Barbasol Can is the ultimate symbol of greed. Okay, not really, but it is really awesome that Dennis Nedry stores his stolen dinosaur embryos in a high-tech shaving cream can filled with coolant. Plus, if he needs to shave along the way, he's all set. It's like a bit of James Bond technology found its way into our movie. Alas, there is no "along the way" for Dennis Nedry because he is killed by a Dilophosaurus and loses the can.

    In 2015, Barbasol finally realized how amazing it would be to have an actual tie-in with Jurassic Park and did so with Jurassic World-themed shaving cream cans. Dinosaur embryos not included.

  • Hero's Journey

    Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

    About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

    Ordinary World

    Jurassic Park is your normal, average, everyday zoo…just with dinosaurs instead of tigers and prairie dogs. There's even petting allowed, as long as you're only petting the dinosaurs that don't have sharp teeth the size of your forearm.

    Call To Adventure

    John Hammond summons Drs. Grant and Sattler to check out his park and make sure everything is up to snuff so that his investors will continue to fund it. It's a good thing Grant and Sattler are archeologists and not proctologists. That would not be a fun adventure.

    Refusal Of The Call

    Grant and Sattler aren't interested in helping the eccentric old rich man who helicopters into their dig site. However, when he offers to fund their dig in exchange for their services, they hop aboard the chopper for Isla Nublar.

    Meeting The Mentor

    When tracking the Hero's Journey, Dr. Grant is our mentor. He's the voice of reason. Well, pretty much everyone but John Hammond is the voice of reason. But Grant gets extra-special mentor status because the kiddos like him.

    Crossing The Threshold

    We've got a pretty clear, literal threshold here. Those great big honking gates to Jurassic Park open up and admit the crew inside for enough adventure to last two lifetimes (or three sequels and counting).

    Tests, Allies, Enemies

    Pretty much every dinosaur presents our heroes with some sort of test. From triceratops poop to T-Rex roars, there's a challenge in every paddock across the park. And the handy rule of thumb is, herbivores = allies, carnivores = enemies.

    Approach To The Inmost Cave

    Here's the tipping point when this little trip to the zoo goes pear-shaped: the massive T-Rex breaks loose. It splits up our heroes into two different groups—Grant and the kids, Sattler and the man-children.

    Ordeal

    Every character has a supreme ordeal to overcome. Grant must keep the kids safe as they navigate the wildest parts of the park. Sattler must restore power. And Dr. Ian Malcolm must maintain his position as the sexiest male mathematician north of the equator. All equally important, of course.

    Reward (Seizing The Sword)

    The reward for our heroes is being reunited back at the Visitor's Center and simply staying alive. Hammond wants his park to be successful, and Nedry wants to steal the dino DNA, but at the end of the day they all simply want to not be dead.

    The Road Back

    The road back is actually a helipad in Jurassic Park, and our heroes are determined to get the helipad off this blasted island. However a handful of velociraptors stands between them and escape.

    Resurrection

    All hope seems lost when our heroes end up dangling from a shattered dinosaur skeleton, but the T-Rex shows up and distracts the raptors, allowing our heroes to escape. The T-Rex's final appearance totally messes with our little "carnivore = enemy" cheat sheet from before, as the T-Rex becomes an unexpected ally to our heroes.

    Return With The Elixir

    Remember the whole "make it off the island alive" goal? They totally do. However, Ellie and Alan may find themselves with an unexpected bonus, because their little island adventure has softened Dr. Grant up toward the prospect of having children of their own. Aww.

  • Setting

    Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar, 120 Miles West of Costa Rica, 1993

    A Place Right Out of History

    Isla Nublar and Jurassic Park (the park itself) are just as important as the humans and dinosaurs in the movie. Isla Nublar is probably the worst place possible to have a theme park. Sure it's tropical, which offers the perfect climate for prehistoric plants and animals to come back to life, but a storm forces everyone to evacuate, leaving those who don't isolated and in danger. You've heard the phrase tropical storm, so you know they happen a lot in tropical climates like this one.

    But the big attraction—literally—is Jurassic Park itself. Jurassic Park is filmed as if you're going to the park yourself. The huge gates open up and the automated voice in the jeep says "Welcome to Jurassic Park." Hooray. Pretty much everything has the Jurassic Park logo on it, from the jeeps themselves to the walls of merchandise inside the visitor's center. It's corporate sponsorship at its best.

    Aside from all the merch, Jurassic Park is "kind of a biological preserve" according to Hammond. He's right. It's like a safari, except instead of lions and tigers you see Triceratops and T. rexes. Do not attempt to feed the dinos.

    The state of the park reflects the state of events inside the park itself. As the situation gets more and more dire, the park itself seems to deteriorate in front of our eyes. And boy does it happen fast—the entire timeline of Jurassic Park once everyone sets foot on the island lasts only two days.

    First the perimeter fence goes down. Then the T. rex smashes right through it. When Sattler and Muldoon rescue Dr. Malcolm, there are dozens of muddy, torn Jurassic Park signs scattered on the ground. The park isn't so fun anymore, is it? Even the glorious visitor's center isn't exempt. But you'll have to head over to our "What's Up With the Ending" section to find out what happens then, when dinosaurs take over the earth.

    Aside from the Island of Dr. Moreau or The Island of Blue Dolphins, Isla Nublar might be one of the most famous fictional islands in pop culture. A massive map of the island is used for the board of the Jurassic Park board game. And the island has even been recreated in Minecraft. Now those two are islands we wouldn't mind visiting. We'd at least be much more likely to make it out alive.

  • Point of View

    The plot of Jurassic Park is pretty simple. Here are the people. There are the dinosaurs. Watch the people run from the dinosaurs.

    Once the storm hits and the power goes out, we end up with three basic storylines. The shortest is Dennis Nedry trying to smuggle the dinosaur embryos out of the park. He's devoured fairly quickly.

    As for our heroes, Grant and Sattler are separated when she decides to stay behind with a load of Triceratops poop. That leaves Grant, Malcolm, and the kids to get attacked by a T. rex. These plots intersect when Sattler arrives and saves Malcolm, bringing him back to the visitor's center.

    So now Grant must get the kids to safety, while Sattler must restore power to the park. Once Grant and the kids arrive, everyone is reunited and escapes via helicopter, minus a couple of people who get chomped on along the way.

    As we said, it's all very basic. But describing the plot is a lot easier than actually fleeing those clever raptors—you know, since they can open doors.

  • Genre

    Adventure; Monster Movie; Disaster Film

    Jurassic Park is a deep, thought-provoking drama about what it means to be human in an ever-changing world, and the psychological effects of the past vs. the fu…

    Just kidding. Jurassic Park is an adventure ride intended to provide memorable thrills and incredible action sequences. All the scientific mumbo-jumbo is merely a backdrop for amazing dinosaur chase scenes. Jurassic Park is every bit the adventure of Spielberg's Indiana Jones flicks, with the added benefit of dinosaurs—prehistoric creatures made into modern movie monsters.

    On top of all that, Jurassic Park is also a disaster film, like Twister or Armageddon, except here it's a man-made disaster that could have been prevented. Once the dinosaurs are unleashed, they're an unstoppable force of nature, though, and the goal becomes survival.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Welcome to Jurassic Park

    The meaning of the title is pretty obvious, guys. John Hammond has created a park filled with dinosaurs, and even though the T. rex and the Velociraptors actually lived during the Cretaceous period, Cretaceous Park doesn't have the same ring to it as Jurassic Park. And hey, the Brachiosaurus did live during the Jurassic period, so it's not all completely made up.

    So in case you missed the giant gates, the logo on the side of the jeeps, and the piles of merchandise in the visitor's center, along with the poster and the cover of the DVD case or the thumbnail on your video streaming service of choice, the place is called Jurassic Park.

    The logo is actually the best part of the title, a red, black, and yellow vivid image of a T. rex skeleton. It's the same one designed by artist Chip Kidd for the original novel, and it doesn't get much more exciting than this when it comes to logos. Not only do the colors scream danger and excitement, but did you see the T. rex skeleton? Everyone loves dinosaur bones. Plus, it gives all the toys a cool logo to have on the packaging.

  • What's Up With the Ending?

    When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

    After Dennis Nedry shuts down the electricity and the storm hits, bits and pieces of the island start to fall one by one. The fences come down, paddocks are destroyed, power stations are overrun by raptors. The only remaining place for safety is the visitor's center…

    But it doesn't remain safe for long. After fleeing raptors and hacking into computers, our heroes find themselves dangling from the giant dinosaur skeleton hanging from the ceiling. But that's not safe either (go figure). Raptors jump on and the dinosaur skeleton crashes to the ground, much like John Hammond's dreams for having a successful theme park.

    Strangely, our humans are saved from the raptors by a T. rex, though we doubt the T. rex does it on purpose. After all, it did try to kill them earlier. Maybe raptors are really tasty. Taking advantage of the distraction, the humans run and flee the park. The T. rex roars, knocking down a banner that says "WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH." Yep, the humans definitely lost this battle. T. rex 1, humans -5.

    So Grant quips to Hammond, "After careful consideration, I've decided not to endorse your park." And Hammond, expressing some common sense for the first time ever says, "So have I." Finally. They board a helicopter and literally fly into the sunset.

    Grant watches some birds flying near the helicopter. Remember how he compared dinosaurs to birds? We need a thought bubble here where he thinks, "At least these birds won't eat us!"

    So Jurassic Park, the park, is a big failure. Five people were killed, but six people escaped, so yay humans? They're all relieved to be safe… at least until the sequels.

  • Shock Rating

    PG-13

    Jurassic Park is mostly all shock, little violence. Although the dinosaurs do chomp on a few humans, most of the actual chomping is done off-screen or is obscured by trees or vehicles. The series doesn't get outright gory until the sequel, The Lost World.

    It's also interesting that no dinosaurs were harmed during the making of this movie—when humans and dinosaurs meet, humans either run or lose. Although Grant fires off a few shots at raptors near the end, they don't appear to be any worse for wear. Hey, he's an archaeologist, not a sharpshooter. There's only dinosaur-on-dinosaur violence, when the T. rex and raptors grapple at the end.

    As for other factors that ratchet up the shock rating—sex and language—there is none of the former (it's hard to even tell that Drs. Grant and Sattler are supposed to be romantically linked) and very little of the latter, used mainly for comic effect, like when describing Triceratops poop with a certain popular four-letter word.