After years of waiting, we're finally getting a fourth Jurassic Park movie in Jurassic World, and the internet has been alive with details from the new film, spearheaded by star Chris Pratt's excited tour of the set and unboxing of his action figure. That got us thinking about the original and best entry in the franchise, which had a similarly interesting cast of character actors filling out an ensemble of complicated characters. Yes, there's heroes (Sam Neill's Alan Grant) and villains (Wayne Knight's Dennis Nedry), but the real villain is our desire to play God, and the real hero is that T-Rex who stomps everyone. When we watch Jurassic Park, we're not so much rooting for our heroes to survive as we are rooting for the dinosaurs to eat people.
The problem is, ours is not a perfectly just world. Even when rendered by Steven Spielberg, cosmic justice is rarely meted out with complete fairness. Who lives or dies in Jurassic Park is largely satisfying ... but it could have been more satisfying. In a perfect (Jurassic?) world, which characters would bite the dust if JP had dispensed of its characters in order of who deserved it most?
1. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough)
In Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park, John Hammond is a lot grouchier, not into children, and his willful blindness regarding the grand experiment of a dinosaur park leads to his doom, as he is munched on by little dinos even as he foolishly plans to regroup and rebuild. Spielberg made Hammond a cuddly grandpa who survives the movie, and this is infuriating. It's all his fault that this nonsense happens to begin with, and he's so focused on creating this ridiculous tourist attraction he doesn't realize the insanity of playing God and creating dino-life. Hammond escapes with everyone at the end of the movie having realized his foolishness. Alan shoulda kicked him out of that copter for his hubris. —DS
2. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong)
The secret villain of Jurassic Park is Henry Wu, tinkering away in his lab, making dino-eggs out of some fossilized blood and just mixing in frog DNA to fill in the gaps. Oh, and he makes them all female so they won't breed, because that's as easy as putting strawberries in your oatmeal. We only get one scene with Wu where he explains all this (he's more prominent in the novel, where he also gets eaten, because Crichton had a sense of JUSTICE), but he's everything that's wrong with all this experimenting, sitting in his lab, poking at DNA, thinking it won't all go wrong. We should've gotten a scene of his lab getting invaded by dinosaurs, with Wu screaming, "What fools we all were!" while getting munched on. —DS
3. Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight)
My inclination is to want to give a character like Dennis Nedry a break. After all, he was played by Wayne Knight just at the time in pop culture history when his Newman character was becoming one of television's most banally loathsome creatures on Seinfeld. Plus the laughs had at the expense of the big fat guy trying to scamper up a tiny waterfall in order to escape a poison-spitting dinosaur are not Jurassic Park's proudest. But let's be real: Dennis Nedry introduces the element of greed into the equation. Sure, Hammond's hubris wasn't un-tainted by potential financial gains, but Nedry made a deal to commit industrial sabotage in exchange for a sack of cash. That kind of crass avarice is always going to be punished in a story of elemental forces of life and survival. Always. Nedry is one of the first characters to die in Jurassic Park (after Gennaro and that poor, nameless son of a bitch in the cold open); he doesn't deserve much better. —JR
4. Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards)
Let's get it out of the way up front: Lex is not a bad person. Nice girl. Humors her grandpa. Refers to herself as a "hacker," but it was 1993; nobody knew how obnoxious that sounded back then. In terms of karma, Lex doesn't deserve to die. In terms of cause-and-effect, however? How this girl makes it to the end is beyond. Basically every action she takes from the time the T-Rex emerges from its enclosure should get her killed, from turning on a spotlight to screaming when the group needs to stay quiet and undetected, to thinking that the best place evade a velociraptor attack is inside a chrome pantry cabinet. Lucky for her those superintelligent raptors don't know what reflections are. —JR
5. Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero)
In the words of John Hammond himself, Gennaro is a "blood-sucking lawyer." Sorry, dude, but the old man is right. There's nothing wrong with being a lawyer, of course. Many people are. You probably know a few. (Maybe you ... are one? Hey, good for you.) But you just can't reasonably expect to survive an action movie — much less a monster movie — and be a lawyer. It's never been done on film and it never will. Also, the first one to make a run for it always dies. Maybe not while sitting on an outhouse toilet, though. That one's unique to Gennaro. —JR
6. Ellie Satler (Laura Dern)
Ellie is great. Laura Dern is great. Couldn't be happier that Ellie survives the movie, especially after showing such grit and making a run for the pavilion while her ankle is probably broken and she's dragging a flashlight behind her. That said ... staying behind to dig through a mound of triceratops poop when in the middle of a dinosaur preserve that's already experiencing electronic snafus and there's a hurricane coming? That is textbook asking for it, monster-movie-wise. —JR
7. Tim Murphy (Joseph Mazzello)
Tim proves himself to be far more capable of handling a crisis during the whole T-Rex-stomping-all-around-the-jeep affair than his sister. However, the part where he's just chilling up on the perimeter fence, refusing to jump down into Dr. Grant's waiting arms, even though 1) he's a tiny boy and Dr. Grant is a reasonably hale man and Dr. Grant would easily catch him with no harm done, and 2) there are alarms blaring all around him that might as well be saying "Get ready to be electrocuted!" That Tim begins to release his grip just early enough that he's only mostly dead (and thus revivable by Grant) when the electricity jolts back on only shows Spielberg's weak constitution when it comes to killing kids in his movies. —JR
8. Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck)
Muldoon is a hunter, and he dies a hunter's death. No shame in that. He knew what he was signing up for, he was as vigilant as he could be, he tried to warn Hammond and the rest of them, but he ultimately stuck around of his own free will. Maybe because somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew this day would come. The day when he would be staring into the eyes of a steely predator, locked in unspoken combat. There was a bloodsport in that gaze, but also a mutual respect; perhaps even an attraction? A dance, certainly. Yes, this was a dance he was always meant to take part in. Who would take the lead was the only question that remained. That question was answered when Muldoon spotted the second and third combatants on his periphery. "Clever girl" aren't just famous last words. They're words of respect for a worthy competitor; or a whisper of regret to a lover he never fully knew. —JR
9. Alan Grant (Sam Neill)
Grant is a curmudgeon throughout. He's legitimately amazed by Hammond's achievement, but he's never really convinced, and that's why he's our hero. Sure, other characters exist to be naysayers; others have to be champions for the resurrection of dinosaurs. Grant, who admires velociraptors more than anything, is amazed to see them alive, but he knows what terrifying killers they are better than anyone. So it's fitting and necessary that Grant survives, and leaves telling Hammond that he doesn't endorse his park. —DS
10. Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson)
Ray just works at Jurassic Park. He's a security computers guy, he works in an office, he's just trying to keep everything running smoothly. He clearly gives zero shits about any dinosaurs, and he dies off-screen when he goes to check the power, which he does without complaint. All we see is his severed arm, dropped onto Laura Dern's unsuspecting shoulder like a cruel joke. It's a truly tragic end for Ray, who didn't ask to be laden with incompetent co-workers like Dennis Nedry. And why the hell doesn't he have some intern he can send to his doom before going into the dark power room himself to be eaten by raptors? —DS
11. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum)
Of course Ian can't die.
1. He's the coolest
2. He's the hottest
3. He's the only one who consistently and repeatedly points out what a bad idea everything is.
4. Jeff Goldblum is the best. —DS