Jurassic Park — Using Theme to Craft Character

Jurassic Park — Using Theme to Craft Character

Hi, I’m Michael. This is Lessons from the Screenplay. “There it is!” For a kid growing up in the 90s, Jurassic
Park was everything. It’s hard to imagine anything cooler than
a dinosaur, and this film brought dinosaurs to life in
a way never before possible. But as time has shown, simply including dinosaurs
is not enough to make a movie good… “Alan.” …and in revisiting the film as an adult, it’s clear that one of the most impressive
aspects of Jurassic Park is its screenplay. While the film is filled with exciting action
sequences and amazing visual effects, it is also populated by interesting characters who are used to explore an important, modern theme. So today I want to examine how the theme’s
origins inspired the creation of two very specific central characters… To look at how both the plot and supporting
characters challenge their beliefs… And dissect how every single choice made by
the writers fed the theme until it became a full-grown, unstoppable
monster. Welcome to Jurassic Park In the early 1980’s, author Michael Crichton
was working on a script about a graduate student using technology
to recreate a dinosaur. As he was writing, Crichton arrived at a problem,
explaining: “This kind of research is tremendously expensive.” “And the question arises: who will pay for
it?” “The only thing that I could think of was
that it would come from a desire for entertainment.” So the idea of a dinosaur theme park became
the foundation of Crichton’s premise, and buried inside this premise he found what
would become the DNA of the story—its theme. In his book, Into the Woods: A Five Act Journey
Into Story, John Yorke discusses the importance of theme: “A theory is posited, an argument explored
and a conclusion reached.” “That, in a nutshell, is what theme is.” “Subject matter is a static given.” “Theme, on the other hand, is an active
exploration of an idea, it’s a premise to be explored, it’s a question.” Is it a good idea to bring back dangerous,
extinct creatures? Just because we have the technology to do
something, does it mean that we should? And, more broadly, is everything we call “progress”
actually progress? This is the theme of Jurassic Park, but Michael Crichton didn’t think the question had a simple answer. So he and screenwriter David Koepp used the
theme as a blueprint for creating two characters with opposing
viewpoints. When we first meet Dr. Alan Grant, he is anti-progress
in two distinct ways. “I hate computers.” “The feeling is mutual.” We see that Grant is completely mistrusting
of technology. “Look at the extraordinary—“ “What’d you do?” “He touched it. Dr. Grant is not machine compatible.” “They’ve got it in for me.” We also see that he is not compatible with
a more symbolic representation of the future. “He slashes at you here…or here.” “Oh Alan.” “You are alive when they start to eat you.” Grant doesn’t like kids and doesn’t want
to have them. “I mean, what’s so wrong with kids?” “Oh, Ellie, look. They’re noisy, they’re messy, they’re expensive.” “Cheap, cheap.” “They smell.” Throughout the first act we see examples of
Grant’s dislike of children and his contentious relationship with technology
again… And again… And again. Grant clearly represents the anti-progress
side of the theme, but soon, someone with an opposing viewpoint
comes barging into his world… John Hammond. Hammond is so pro-technology and progress, he doesn’t even consider that genetically
engineering dinosaurs might be dangerous. (yelling) When a worker is killed by a velociraptor, Hammond’s only concern is that it might
delay the park’s opening. In fact, Hammond’s favorite catchphrase… “Spared no expense.” “Spared no expense.” “Spared no expense.” …is an expression of this mindset: forward
at all costs. “How could we stand in the light of discovery
and not act?” The first act of Jurassic Park establishes
Grant and Hammond’s opposing takes on the theme of progress. But just having characters embody different
perspectives isn’t enough. To truly explore a theme, you must find ways
of testing the characters’ beliefs. In act two, the screenplays Grant and Hammond
up, putting an entire island and a 10,000 volt
fence between them. This separation allows each of them to encounter situations uniquely designed to attack their beliefs. When power goes out all over the island, Grant is suddenly forced to get along without
the help of any technology… “Hey what’d I touch?” “You didn’t touch anything. We’ve stopped.” …while at the same time finding himself
responsible for the lives of Hammond’s grandchildren. “He left us!” “He left us!” “But that’s not what I’m going to do.” Throughout the second act of the film, every single moment in Grant’s story is
about one of these two things. “Good boy.” Eventually, Grant even acknowledges that he
has been resisting progress in his own life, and that he might be ready to change. “What are you gonna do now if you don’t
have to pick up dinosaur bones any more?” “I don’t know, I guess we’ll just have
to evolve too.” Meanwhile, Hammond is dealing with the fact
that the dinosaurs he decided to bring back to life are destroying everything he has built. But even worse, they’re now threatening
the lives he values most. By having to witness the disaster unfold, Hammond is forced to realize that he only
loved progress-at-all-costs when he thought he had control over it. But it’s not just the situations that are
designed to attack Grant and Hammond’s beliefs. (Malcolm laughs) The script uses Dr. Ian Malcolm, chaotician, to test the character of Grant by flirting
with Grant’s partner, Dr. Ellie Sattler. “Did I go to fast? I go to fast I did a flyby.” And in his interactions with Grant, we see
that Malcolm might have some of the qualities Dr. Sattler wants that Grant lacks. “You got any kids?” “Me? Oh, hell yeah. Three. I love kids. Anything at all can and does happen.” This hints that if Grant doesn’t figure
out a way to evolve, he could lose Dr. Sattler. Malcolm tests Hammond by spelling out the exact problem with Hammond’s pro-progress obsession. “Our scientists have done things which nobody
has ever done before.” “Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so
preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Once Malcolm is injured, Dr. Sattler—another
well-designed supporting character— steps in to test Hammond’s beliefs for weaknesses. “When we have control again—“ “You never had control, that’s the illusion!” “The only thing that matters now are the
people we love.” “Alan, and Lex, and Tim.” “John, they’re out there where people are dying.” The screenwriter even reminds us of Hammond’s
catchphrase at the end of this scene, highlighting how Hammond’s progress-at-all-costs
viewpoint has failed in the face of disaster and now sits around him, melting. “Ellie reaches out and takes a spoon out
of one of the buckets of ice cream, and licks it.” “It’s good.” “He looks up at her, and his face is different, as the unhappy irony of what he’s about to say finally hits home.” “Spared no expense.” Ian Malcolm, Ellie Sattler, and even characters
like Dennis Nedry, Muldoon, and Gennaro are fun additions to the story, each with
their own memorable moments. “Clever girl.” But more importantly, these supporting characters
exist to sharpen the film’s focus on theme by challenging the beliefs of Grant and Hammond. And because their beliefs are challenged throughout
the film, by the end they have both learned to evolve. “Ellie! Boot up the door locks! Boot up the door locks!” During the movie’s climax, Lex’s skill
with new computer technology… “It’s a unix system!” …becomes the reason all the characters are
rescued— a fact Grant is forced to acknowledge. “Grant?” “Mr. Hammond. The phones are working.” “It’s going to cut through the glass!” And after the trauma of this ordeal… “GRANT!” …Hammond has realized that sometimes the
cost of progress is simply too high. “Mr. Hammond, after careful consideration
I’ve decided not to endorse your Park.” “So have I.” That both of them have changed their beliefs suggests that the central question at the
core of a theme doesn’t always have a neat, easy answer. As Michael Crichton said: “It seems to me that we live in a society in which technology is continuously presented
as wonderful. Isn’t it fabulous that we all have computers? Well, yes and no is my response.” Yes. And no. Jurassic Park is a great example of how to
use theme to guide the design of a screenplay. It celebrates the marvels that technology
can provide, while also warning of the dangers of irresponsible
progress. And taking it a step further, the filmmakers even found ways to weave in
moments about all kinds of “progress” issues from the early 90s, from legal and bureaucratic red tape… “No!” To feminism… “Dinosaurs eat man… woman inherits the
earth.” To corporate espionage. This commitment to theme elevates the film
above a simple monster movie, helping make it one of our most beloved and
enduring cinematic experiences— (clank) One that may never go extinct. (roar) And it allows a thrilling, meaningful adventure
to await inside the gates of Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park was first released in theaters
in June of 1993, but it didn’t come out on VHS until October
of 1994. As a seven-year-old, having to wait that long
to watch it again was very frustrating, but I filled that time by playing with my
Jurassic Park toys… (tinny roar) …and by reading the original book. The book has a much darker tone, but is really
great, and if you haven’t read it, you should. Which is why I’m so glad that Audible has
sponsored this video, because you can start a thirty-day trial today
and get your first audiobook for free by going to audible.com/lfts or by texting
“lfts” to 500500. Audible has the largest selection of audiobooks
on the planet, and you can listen to them on all your devices— seamlessly switching between your phone, car,
or tablet— picking up exactly here you left off. So head to audible.com/lfts or text “lfts”
to 500500 to sign up for the free thirty-day trial and
start listening to Jurassic Park today! Thanks to Audible for sponsoring this video. Hey guys, hope you enjoyed the video! Have you seen the new Jurassic Park, and if
so what did you think? Let me know on twitter @michaeltuckerla. Thank you as always to my patrons on Patreon and my supporters here on YouTube for making
this channel possible. If you want to support the channel you can
by heading to my Patreon or by clicking on the “sponsor” button
below. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next

100 thoughts on “Jurassic Park — Using Theme to Craft Character

  1. Did anybody else have all the Jurassic Park toys?! Which was your favorite? (The T-Rex was mine, obviously)

  2. I love how this channel take the time of analyze amazing movies that are often ignored by other critic plataforms, there is a reason of why so many movies are so popular and is often because they are written in a quite intelligent way, a movie doesn't need to be super deep to have a great character exploration and play with plots that are immortal and always relevant.

  3. One of the most memorable lines for me, Ellie…limping and grimacing as she sees Grant, “Runnn!!!!”

  4. Intelligent, Informative, accurate, unbiased, when was the last time I saw that in a video 10/10

  5. I may love technology myself (I spend so much time on the computer)

    But I don’t like the thought of everybody having self driving cars.

  6. When you get a chance, I'd like to see you cover Dark Phoenix, in a lesson of what not to go in a screenplay. I love all the examples of what TO DO, but sometimes, breaking down what failed and why is extremely beneficial, and this movie is a great example to explore.

  7. The fact you kept saying that the characters evolved may have added a new meaning to "Life uh, finds a way."

  8. Always insightful. This underscores why the most recent entries of the franchise are SO bad. The original (and the second one to a lesser extent) was ABOUT something. The rest have just been created solely to vacuum money out of the box office – which is why they suck.

  9. This was an excellent analysis. My favorite film of all time, I’m glad that you were able to put in to words how this film is complex and exciting in a way that isn’t just “omg dinosaurs!”

  10. Can y'all stop shitting on Jurassic Park 3? It's still amazing, especially in comparison to the mess that are the Jurassic World films

  11. I remember my mom bringing me as a 7 year old to go see this movie at an 11 pm showing.

    I fell asleep when I saw some shaking cages at the beginning and slept through the whole thing. And I didn't feel like I missed anything exciting.

  12. You are one of those channels that constantly gives me new reasons to love stuff, or if I already loved it, to love it even more! Thank you for that.

    My own memory of this movie: when JP came out we happened to be visiting family in England. I was 16, and I still remember this as one of the greatest movie experiences of my life. So much so that just hearing the music unexpectedly can still make my breath catch and bring tears to my eyes! We saw it in a sold out and then some theater in England – on the floor, because by "and then some" I mean that clearly some people had managed to sneak in as all seats were taken! Didnt matter though – once that movie got going there wasn't a person in that theater who wasn't fully inside the movie with the characters.

  13. Jurassic park is one of the greatest blockbusters of all time, perfectly blending special effects spectacle with human character development and philosophical concepts of man playing God, as well staying faithful to the book while still being an original blockbuster. Steven Spielberg made a movie that isn't just a dinosaur or monster movie like its 4 sequels were, it's a movie about our obsession with God like power and what we want to use for. Truly a masterpiece that'll never be replicated.

  14. a film produced by Kathleen Kennedy, staring Laura Dern in a strong, likeable role and it's one of the masterpieces of the decade with a long lasting legacy. how times change…

  15. The more I think about it, the more this is my favorite movie of all time. It's perfect in almost every conceivable way.

  16. I'm not sure how many times I've watched this vid since release, just like the movie it reviews. Splendid work.

  17. When I first read the title I thought you were gonna talk about the music…. not gonna lie.. but the main theme still brings tears into my eyes…

  18. Gosh, I love Ian in this movie. This film made me fall in love with Jeff Goldblum as the intelligent philosopher archetype, now he plays kooks.

  19. This is a much needed video. I came up with a theme for a book I'm writing and I've struggled with character and how to plot scenarios ever since. Hoping this helps my process

  20. Am I the only on that still cries when they first see the triceratops, the acting in that scene feels so genuine

  21. The book was even more brilliant in this viewpoint, with Malcolm going on a morphine induced rant about scientists and their lack of intelligence in favor of regurgitation of facts. They can't see past their own narcissism and greed. Thats how you get an A-bomb into the hands of the morons in government.

  22. You suggest the writers, emphasis on the plural: a mistake. You should distinguish between movie screenplays simply, or "original screenplays," as opposed to movie screenplays based on books or other source material, or "adapted screenplays." Jurassic Park, and to a lesser extent, its sequel, The Lost World, are adapted screenplays, based on the novels by one man, Michael Crichton, whereas all subsequent Jurassic Park movies have been original screenplays, written indeed, no doubt, by a team of writers. Not hard to distinguish the wheat from the chaff.

  23. they need to make a Jurassic Park movie that is a period piece like Stranger Things only instead of the 80s it's the 90s and the cast are a bunch of sterotypical 90s juvenile delinquents who think they're just on another regular vacation only they end up having to fight for their survival.

  24. Don't lie to me. The book is NOT really good. It was trite and predictable, and ended with going into a velocirapter nest and setting off explosives.

  25. This is probably just me but i love the visual with nature and technology conflicting. Like structures, buildings, fences, etc. Around jungle, primal creatures, and treacherous landscape. Idk why it's really appealing to me.

  26. My wife tried saying Fallen Kingdom was better than the original. No I didn't divorce her but I went on a 45 minute rant about genius writing vs lazy garbage

  27. They should have stopped at the first one. Just rewatched it and the new ones and the new ones are so bad in comparison.

  28. Great video. I read the book, too, and don't remember putting it down thinking it was darker. If anything, I thought it was less scary than the film, and that the sense of wonder came through even more strongly.

  29. Maybe it's just nostalgia, but it seems to me nowadays movies can either be blockbusters or they can have good story and theme, rarely do you get both like in Jurassic Park.

  30. I love the scene between Ellie and Hammond. Hammond is obviously sunk in a depression at how badly things have fallen apart, looking for something to cling to, some redemption that might be possible for him. He hearkens back to the magic of his past endeavors and it makes him think that simply pushing forward the same as always will lead to success. But Ellie slaps him in the face with how that same thinking might cost them – might have already cost them – the lives of their loved ones. She breaks through his megalomania and gives him another way out, but it comes at the cost of destroying everything he's built. The look on his face after he makes the choice is so powerful, his jaw is set with resolve but his eyes are full of pain at seeing his dream die.

    SPOILER – This scene did not happen in the book. Hammond never received this lesson from Ellie. He continued to believe that all he needed was more resources and planning and he would be able to do everything right on the second try. He was never redeemed, and he was eventually killed by the dinosaurs.

  31. Oh my God yes it took FOREVER for the move to come out on VHS. And I swear there are a couple differences between the video release and the film I saw in theaters. Anyone else remember the raptor busting through the ceiling tile twice near the end of the movie? Once right in front of Lex and the second time he lifts her up on a panel. There was also a shot of Ellie grabbing the leaf she examines in the jeep that was left out of home release. I saw that movie 3 times in theaters so I'm pretty confident that my memory is accurate.

  32. Something about Jurassic Park I find really interesting but too subtle to notice unless you're looking for it are the transitions. Character mentions something, cut to the thing. Hammond says "what's for lunch", cut to lunch. Grant asks to see the raptors, cut to them seeing the raptors. It's fantastic.

  33. Loved this film as a kid but haven't seen it since I was one. I never picked up on some of the subtleties like Hammond always saying "Spared no expense".

  34. Whats terrible and never really touched on in the movies; Grant truly learned to love children and wants them but his girlfriend leaves him in between this movie and three.

  35. I'm not so sure anyone was killed in the opening Velociraptor scene. I believe he was injured. In the book he was also just injured.

  36. "Weave in moments of progress issues…. feminism" Hmmm I'm pretty sure that "Woman inherits the earth" was just a joke but you do you man.

  37. Good work, but as a 20 yr old at the time, I recall feeling rather underwhelmed by how much the stripped out of the incredible now. It felt really shallow overall. I'll have to watch it again and see if it still strikes me in the same way.

  38. I watched Jurassic Park a few weeks ago and was struck by how good it was. This movie actually had meat on its bones, and the conversations the characters had were about more than simply transitioning from one action sequence to the next. It made me realize how shallow today's action/adventure movies really are and helped me understand why I really don't enjoy them.

  39. We should bring one back to life then kill it then we can be like 🖕 you asteroids we are the supreme killers on earth

  40. Funnily enough the Audible version of this book isn't all that great. The narrator is alright I guess, but I didn't realize how much I glossed over the, "he said," and "Grant said" or "she said," etc. when reading the text version. It was almost as bad as some early Agatha Christie novels. I love Christie and Chrichton both, don't get me wrong, but it's just distracting. (0.o)

  41. Great analysis. Jurassic Park is a classic, but none of the sequels are, precisely because the original movie was not only about cool dinosaurs, but also about bigger questions regarding science and ethics. The sequels are much shallower; they include the creatures, but lost all the heart that made the original timeless.

  42. I was 9 when I first saw Jurassic Park at the cinema, 11 when I eventually got to see it on VHS. It was a long 16months!
    I went through puberty waiting for it! 😂

  43. Absolutely brilliant breakdown! I was 12 when I saw Jurassic Park four times during opening weekend. I was excited to see it because the autumn before, my parents and some friends were in Hawaii and actually happened across production! They got to fly over the main gate and sign, flew the same route in the helicopter, and bumped into the crew at a bar! They were even there for Hurricane Iniki, which is some of the storm footage shown in the film! I was obsessed with this film when it came out, and a while later when the "Making of" book came out, my mom bought it for me and I pored over it, over and over and over again. This was the film that motivated me to get into film myself. I'm currently working on a web series I hope will take off, and your channel – and others like it – have been invaluable resources, supplementing my film school journey, so an earnest and grateful thank you from this guy in Hawaii, trying to make a dream come true! Oh – and I have a velociraptor puppet I still play around with and my 3-year old loves.

  44. What fascinates me, is how many people are fans of Jurassic Park. Growing up, I thought I'd never come across anyone who loves it as much as I do.

  45. I rewatched this movie today (totally not because youtube keep suggesting this video) and I didn't remember it being so great.

  46. This makes me love the movie even more. I think that theme being one of the driving factors of a film makes it better a lot of the time. I like to think that when writing you either come up with a theme, character, or premise, then fill in every detail of the other 2 to match that one. At least that’s how I write. Challenging viewers on multiple levels of attention like themes and details makes a film experience all the better for me.

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