Dr. Alan Grant is our traditional archaeologist. You know the type—covered in dust from head to toe, tiny little pick in one hand, brush in the other. He digs in the dirt all day, picking and brushing and maybe uncovering one tiny dinosaur bone a day, if he's lucky.
To some people, this might be a big snore. But to Alan Grant, it's his life. He hates computers and worries about the day when they become commonplace in archaeology. For him, technology's not making his job easier; it's taking all the fun away.
Like Dr. Ellie Sattler—with whom Grant is romantically involved even though the two only hug each other on screen, like, once (the mating dinosaurs are getting more action)—Grant is an expert on archaeology, which prompts John Hammond to invite him to Jurassic Park.
Although Grant is thrilled by the sights of live dinosaurs—who wouldn't be?—he's wary of their existence. Bringing back extinct creatures somehow seems against nature to him. And when the formerly-extinct creatures almost kill everyone, that just affirms his belief that this whole experiment was doomed from the start.
Grant is probably secretly glad that all the technology completely craps out in Jurassic Park. If he hated computers before, he definitely hates them after escaping Jurassic Park…or at least he hates the total reliance on technology. When it fails, people die.
Grant's opinion of technology doesn't change during his visit to Jurassic Park…unless you count hating it even more by the time he leaves. But one major aspect of Grant's personality does change: his attitude toward children.
Before traveling to Jurassic Park, Grant taunts an obnoxious kid at his dig site. The kid compares a Velociraptor to a turkey, and Grant pulls out a sharp raptor claw and tells the snarky little butterball that a raptor would have him for Thanksgiving dinner. Later, when Dr. Sattler says she wants a kid, Dr. Grant clearly does not want one: "They're noisy, they're messy, they're expensive. […] They smell. Babies smell." That's a very scientific observation, Dr. G.
So when they get to Jurassic Park, of course Dr. Sattler does everything she can to get Hammond's grandchildren, Tim and Lex, into Grant's way. Tim is a precocious dinosaur expert, and Lex likes computers. Maybe Dr. Sattler can use these kiddies to change Grant's mind.
After the T. rex attack, Lex and Tim are abandoned by the cowardly lawyer, so it's up to Grant to lead them to safety. "He left us! He left us!" Lex cries, enabling Grant to deliver the heroic line: "But that's not what I'm gonna do." All Grant really wants to do is survive, but he keeps the children safe and comforts them when they get scared along the way. Maybe he'd be a good dad after all?
One of the last shots of the film shows Grant and the kids asleep on the helicopter fleeing Isla Nublar. Sattler watches them, and she smiles—perhaps there will be a child in her future. It reminds us of what Grant says when he and the kids have to spend the night in the tree. Lex asks, "What are you and Ellie going to do now if you don't have to dig up dinosaur bones anymore?" Grant responds, "I guess we'll just have to evolve, too." Cue tender instrumental music. We're still unsure if dinosaurs are cold-blooded or warm-blooded, but the kids have definitely warmed Dr. Grant's heart.
Before Winnie Cooper grew up and made math hot, there was Dr. Ian Malcolm, the only mathematician in history to ever be described as a "rock star." While most mathematicians conjure up images of the guys on The Big Bang Theory but with even fewer social skills, Dr. Malcolm "suffers from a deplorable excess of personality."
We're not sure why Dr. Ian Malcolm is brought in as an expert for a dinosaur theme park, but we're sure glad he is. Maybe he only seems like he has an excess of personality because everyone else basically stands around gawking at dinosaurs.
When Malcolm isn't flirting with Ellie Sattler or making snarky comments (or both simultaneously: "I'm always on the lookout for a future ex-Mrs. Malcolm"), he's talking about Chaos Theory. As he explains to Dr. Sattler via the water-drops-on-the-hand experiment, Chaos Theory is basically the Butterfly Effect. No, not the Ashton Kutcher flick, but the same basic premise: Teeny tiny changes can cause unforeseen consequences. A drop of water may roll off your hand one way, but another drop hitting the same spot may head somewhere else.
So what the heck does any of this have to do with dinosaurs? We're not exactly sure, but it's the teeny-tiny frog DNA that enables dinosaurs to change sex, which causes them to breed, which…well, which honestly means nothing within the two hours of the film. There's also the fact that John Hammond didn't pay Dennis Nedry, which leads him to betray the park and shut down the power, which causes a bunch of chaos that gets a few people killed. Yikes.
Unfortunately, Dr. Malcolm is knocked out of commission during the T. rex attack and is relegated to simply lying prone in the visitor's center and looking sexy. We leave with this pic, fellow Shmoopers. If that doesn't get drops of water rolling off you, we don't know what will.
Ellie Sattler is a paleobotanist and Dr. Grant's love interest (or so we're told). She sticks her hand in a big pile of Triceratops poop to diagnose its illness, and she brings electricity back to the park when Ray is killed by raptors in the power station. She also finagles the kids into Grant's path every step of the way, hoping he'll want children by the end of all this.
Sattler is the only adult female in this movie who isn't a giant scaly carnivorous lizard (unless Laura Dern has tricked us for many, many years). To distract you from the fact that Laura Dern is the only adult female in this movie—and basically has nothing to do for most of the movie except look amazing in khaki shorts (but still not as good as Muldoon) and scream and run from a T. rex and/or a pack of Velociraptors—she gets a couple of big girl-power lines. Here's a classic for you:
DR. IAN MALCOLM: God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.
DR. ELLIE SATTLER: Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.
And when John Hammond, a crippled old man, suggests he might be a better choice to restore power to the park because he is a man, Dr. Sattler takes charge and says, "We can discuss sexism in survival situations when I get back." And she does survive, which is more than a lot of the men in the movie can say. In fact, those dudes can't say anything because they're dead. So good for her.
At the end of the movie, Sattler smiles at Grant, who has two sleeping kids hanging off him. They just survived the most traumatic event of their lives, but if she gets some kids out of it, she'll be happy. Maybe they'll name them after all the people who died in Jurassic Park. Say hello to Ray Dennis Muldoon Sattler-Grant, future attorney.
John Hammond is a rich old man who wants a theme park filled with dinosaurs, and he doesn't care if anyone gets hurt in the process. He seems like a cuddly old man, but underneath the grandfatherly warmth, John Hammond is the biggest villain in Jurassic Park. Everything that goes wrong can be traced back to his overzealous ambition and his disregard for safety.
John tells Ellie that the first attraction he ever built was a flea circus: "With [Jurassic Park], I wanted to show them something that wasn't an illusion. Something that was real. Something that they could see and touch," he says. He doesn't even consider that the dinosaurs can see and touch people, too…and touch them with their giant claws and sharp teeth.
John tells Ellie this as the two of them eat ice cream in the visitor's center while hoping Dr. Grant will return with Hammond's grandchildren, Tim and Lex, in one piece. He is worried about his grandchildren, yes, but here his primary feeling isn't for the potential loss of life, but the potential loss of his park. Stay classy, Gramps.
He isn't entirely selfish. He offers to fully fund Grant and Sattler's dig if they assist him, plus he states that "This park was not built to cater only for the super rich. Everyone in the world has the right to enjoy these animals." And be eaten by them. But if Hammond had taken his time, been patient, fairly paid his employees, and made safety a priority, Jurassic Park wouldn't have been a fatal disaster.
At the end of the movie, Hammond might have a smidgen more respect for human life, but one of the last shots shows him looking longingly at his amber-tipped cane. A half-dozen people have died but Hammond only mourns the end of Jurassic Park.
Tim and Lex are John Hammond's grandchildren. They're intelligent and well-behaved, making them appealing characters to children and adults alike. Tim is the precocious dinosaur expert, and Lex is the vegetarian computer nerd. "I'm a hacker! […] I am not a computer nerd; I prefer to be called a hacker," she exclaims. Oh, excuse us, "hacker" it is then. Hacking must have been different in the early 90s.
Tim and Lex exist to enable John Hammond to show his not-evil side and to warm Dr. Grant up to the idea of having children of his own. Grant must lead the kids across the island after the T. rex attack, making him a father-figure to the pair while their awful grandfather sits helplessly back at the visitor's center.
The kids seem to get into danger more than the adults do, building tension throughout the movie. They're the first ones attacked by the T. rex, Tim is shocked by an electric fence (becoming "Big Tim, the human piece of toast"), and in the visitor's center kitchen they almost become the main course to a pair of hungry Velociraptors. Why so many scenes with the kids? It's almost like when Hammond says they will "spend time with our target audience," he's talking about the kids going to see the movie…and buy all the groovy Jurassic Park toys to go with it.
Dennis Nedry believes he isn't getting paid enough, so he betrays John Hammond—and everyone in Jurassic Park—to steal dinosaur embryos and sell them to a man named Dodgson, who only appears once in the film. How much did dinosaur embryos go for in 1993? "$750,000 on delivery, $50,000 more for each viable embryo. That's $1.5 million if you get all species off the island." That's a pretty big payday.
It's difficult to tell if Nedry is greedy or rightfully angry. He definitely comes across as unlikable, as played by Newman from Seinfeld. He tells Dodgson that Hammond "has no problem paying for paleontologists, but won't pay his own staff." We never get to examine Nedry's W-2s, but we do see Hammond agree to fully fund Drs. Grant and Sattler's dig for three years.
Can Nedry possibly be getting equal compensation? He seems to be one of only two programmers for the whole park. However, Ray Arnold, the other programmer, doesn't seem to be bitter at all.
Nedry's betrayal puts everyone in danger. He shuts off the power, letting all the dinosaurs loose. Even though Hammond eventually escapes unscathed, the abrasive, unlikable Nedry is consumed by a Dilophosaurus, losing the dinosaur embryos in the process. Nedry teaches us not to be greedy and unlikable. If you're likable and greedy (a la Hammond) that's totally okay, though.
Robert Muldoon is a game warden from Kenya, moving from lions and tigers to T. rexes and Velociraptors. And he's not happy about it. Muldoon is actually the first character we see, in the scene where the raptor eats a man. As a result, Muldoon seems to be the only one aware of how dangerous these creatures are.
Muldoon helps rescue Malcolm after the T. rex attack and guards Sattler when she has to enter the power station. Unfortunately, despite knowing how intelligent and dangerous Velociraptors are, Muldoon gets eaten by one.
Actually, Muldoon is a victim of foreshadowing more than raptors. In one of the movie's early scenes, Grant describes the hunting style of the Velociraptor: "That's when the attack comes, not from the front, but from the side. From the other two Raptors you didn't even know were there." That's exactly how Muldoon dies, even though he should know this. Distracted by one raptor, another jumps out of the bushes and eats him. "Clever girl," he says, just before the raptor pounces.
He's a man who can respect being bested by a smarter foe. At least he dies a heroic death, protecting Dr. Sattler, and probably provides a healthy meal for the raptor. Did you see that man's thighs?
Most of the film's other characters exist to feed the dinos, and we're not talking about the goats and cows, either.
First is poor Jophery, the black guy who dies first.
Then there's Donald Gennaro, the lawyer whose job it is to inspect the park's safety. He actually has a good point here. The park isn't safe, and John Hammond needs this dissenting opinion to keep from getting carried away. However, where Gennaro screws up is when he cowardly abandons the children to a hungry T. rex. He hides in the bathroom, which the T. rex checks for a quick snack.
Next is Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson), the film's chain-smoking pink-sock-wearing, soon-to-be-dead other black guy. He decides to just traipse across the Velociraptor-infested park to flip some switches in the power shed. His catch phrase is "Hold onto your butts," but he can't hold onto his own butt—or his arm—when he gets chomped up by a raptor.
Finally, we have a few characters who actually survive. There's one Latin American guy who digs up the mosquito-filled amber, though we don't even know if he has a name. There's Henry Wu, played by B.D. Wong, who spouts some scientific jargon (and returns in Jurassic World). Dr. Harding is checking out the Triceratops poop before Ellie digs in, but he doesn't even have any lines. And Hammond mentions Alejandro, who isn't the inspiration for a Gaga song, but instead a chef who prepares Chilean Sea Bass for dinner.