At a first glance, there are two answers to this question. Therefore, it could be argued that the character who was of the most ‘crucial importance in relation to the development and success’(1) of Jurassic Park I's movie plot was…
Dennis, our answer isn’t in your hands, you’ve got butterfingers!
In that case, John Hammond?
My dear debate judges, welcome to…
THE WRONG CONCLUSION.
…and that’s when the answer comes, not from the front, but from the side… from Dr. Alan Grant, who you didn’t even know was there.
Without Grant’s choices and acts of heroism, Jurassic Park’s plot would have barely existed.
To show that the dramatic Brachiosaurus sized reveal in the intro had a point, we first have to understand why Hammond is the wrong answer.
Being the eccentric billionaire park owner, visitors to my debate tour are possibly adamant that Hammond HAD to be the most pivotal character. No Hammond, no park. But that’s a really dumb conclusion.
Hammond had the cash, but lacked scientific creativity to make dinosaurs, unlike “the real miracle workers of Jurassic Park”, including Henry Wu and his team of geneticists. He didn’t have the I.T know how to create an automated jeep tour, unlike Nedry and Ray Arnold. He also had little knowledge of dinosaur behaviour and safety protocols, unlike Robert Muldoon.
Eventually it becomes obvious that the creation of Jurassic Park could never have been credited to one character. Even then, that creation simply produces a theme (park) concerning dinosaurs. Leaving it at that point, we’re left with a plotless wonder that would more likely be associated with Hammond’s real life brother David Attenborough. That’s a glorified pseudo-documentary, not a Hollywood blockbuster.
When analysing the actual development of the plot, Nedry looks integral. As the main human antagonist, he seemingly caused havoc in the park; stealing the embryos and turning off the park fences. However, he will have to remain totally unappreciated in his time. Nedry would have been fairly irrelevant without Grant’s wonderment.
Dr. Ian Malcolm, erm… was, uh… one of the cooler, more interesting characters in the, er… movie… but in terms of affecting the overall plot, his input was limited. However, Malcolm’s role as the narrator’s voice is
important to this debate. With chaos theory ramblings, he foreshadowed the park’s downfall. This couldn’t be any more relevant than when he poured water on Ellie Sattler, dampening her hands, and quite possibly her knickers with his smooth talk.
“A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine”.
“Tiny variations… vastly affect the outcome”.-Ian Malcolm
By flapping his “wings” and leaving the tour jeep hosting that conversation, Grant was the tiny variation, pivotal to Jurassic park’s plot. If he hadn’t exited to see the sick Triceratops, the tour wouldn’t have halted, delaying progression by over nine minutes. Instead, the following would have occurred:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, last shuttle to the dock leaves in approximately five minutes. Drop what you are doing and leave now.”-Ray Arnold
- Arnold would have been able to bring the tourists straight back to the command centre, away from the park and impending storm, before Nedry hit the execute button for his virus and killed the power to the automated jeeps and electrified fences.
- Hammond and the tourists would have been able to evacuate to the east dock via the shuttle with the other park workers. At worst Arnold and Muldoon are left behind, but can use the command centre’s safety bunker.
- The power wouldn’t have cut out when the jeeps passed the T-Rex paddock; Gennaro wouldn’t entice the T-Rex out of her (his, if frog DNA made it grow a willy) paddock and cop his shit scary death on the toilet.
- Ellie Sattler wouldn’t have had access to the petrol jeep that allowed her to save Malcolm and turn the park’s power back on.
- Without the T-Rex attack, Hammond wouldn’t have panicked the uncooperative Arnold and Muldoon into re-booting the system in a naïve attempt to kill Nedry’s virus, freeing the Velociraptors; allowing them to kill Arnold and Muldoon and fight the T-Rex.
- Without Hammond’s presence, Muldoon and Arnold would have brought the lysine contingency into play, killing off the dinosaurs while they hid in the bunker.
Minus Grant, Nedry’s scheming wouldn’t have led to anything resembling Jurassic Park’s plot. Nedry was merely the Barbasol cream on top of Grant’s plot pie.
“Who better to get the children through Jurassic Park, than a dinosaur expert?”-John Hammond
Even after Grant changed EVERYTHING, he had a huge role in ensuring the film had a successful ending, greatly assisting in making sure the human residents of Jurassic Park weren’t made extinct.
While Lex eventually hacked the Unix system, allowing Hammond to call for the helicopter, this would have been impossible without Grant; saving Lex from the T-Rex by telling her to keep still; carrying her to safety down the cliff; guiding her through the park; using his knowledge to dodge the T-Rex again. Lex was lucky to avoid a mauling from the six foot turkey’s in the kitchen, but she was far more fortunate to have (plot) chauffeur Grant to even get her to that point. Alan kept making a difference, long after Dennis died.
Even more pertinent within Grant’s interactions with the kids, is the only major example of character development in the movie. From hating children, to forming a strong bond with Lex and Tim, Grant’s character does a total, but natural, 180 turn; a HUGE development in making Jurassic Park’s plot an artistic success.
Although it’s not immediately obvious, it shouldn't take 65 billion years to conclude that Alan Grant’s character was the MOST pivotal to Jurassic Park’s plot. His actions affected the MOST outcomes which aided the development and success of the film’s plot.
Grant is chaos theory.
Grant is the ultimate hero.
Grant is major character development.
Grant is Jurassic Park’s plot.
(2)Watch the movie, god damn it!
The character most pivotal to Jurassic Park’s plot is John Hammond
. This is due how he drives the actual plot forward, the totality of his personal evolution and how he is the personification of the themes within the film.
“Welcome… to Jurassic Park”
That famous line was uttered by Hammond, only after revealing the true nature of his creation to the movie’s main characters. However, none of those individuals would be there without the prompting of Hammond
. Before we get to that stage though, we must consider how Jurassic Park came to be, and how Hammond is the driving force behind it all.
65 Million Years in the Making
It goes without saying that without the John Hammond character, there is no Jurassic Park
. He provides both the bankroll AND
the creative motivation behind the park. We all know that Hammond “spared no expense” in terms of the park’s production. But we also get a touching look into the idealistic, if naive, mindset that drove Hammond to creating THIS
type of park.
Originally Posted by John Hammond discussing his flea circus
With this place I wanted to show them something that wasn't an illusion. Something that was real, something that they could see and touch.(1)
Originally Posted by Hammond regarding the park’s attractions
We have made living biological attractions so astounding, that they'll capture the imaginations of the entire planet.(2)
Hammond’s goals are ultimately motivated by instilling joy and awe into others, an aim with merit indeed. However, he fails to foresee the inherent danger of his operation for some time, even with the warnings of others.
Evolution: A Process
The viewer is exposed at several points in the film to Hammond’s inherent naiveté. Hammond is constantly trying to rationalize the park, and minimize any “issues” that arise. At every turn, he is confronted by the other characters whose judgment is not clouded by his fantastical delusions.
When first debating with Dr. Malcolm about the irresponsibility of using science in a misguided attempt to control nature, Hammond equivocates what he did to saving condors from extinction. Malcolm sees right through this false premise and shuts Hammond’s argument down quickly, and nobody but the blood-sucking lawyer comes to Hammond’s defence. Here, the lawyer is blinded by money, while Hammond is blinded by his idealistic fantasy.(3)
This process repeats itself throughout the film. Hammond tries to compare Jurassic Park’s “delays” to Disneyland; Malcolm indicates how that comparison fails.(4)
Hammond calls the lysine contingency “absolutely out of the question”, prioritizing the lives of his experiments even after they have begun costing people their lives.(5)
After the flea circus story, Hammond is thinking of ways that everything can be corrected “next time”, before Sattler stops him cold.(6)
Only once Hammond’s idealistic vision is shattered is he able to focus on saving the people on the island
, as opposed to preserving his grand experiment. We see the shift, subtly at first. When phone contact is re-established, his first words to Grant are asking about the children. Finally, and more definitively, when Grant states that he would not sign off on Jurassic Park, Hammond is in 100% affirmation.(7)
The Themes of Jurassic Park
The over-arching themes found within Jurassic Park are the notion of mankind trying to use science to conquer nature and the devastating effects of mankind’s unchecked pride and arrogance. Hammond encompasses both within his character.
He attempts to rely on scientists and technology, sparing no expense of course, to create his vision into a reality. However, his attempts to constrain nature go predictably awry. By the end of the movie, he realizes the issue with trying to control nature in this manner. Although not an area of this topic specifically, the sequel includes a line from Hammond that shows the extent to which he realized the error of his ways in Jurassic Park.(8)
With respect to pride and arrogance, Hammond’s isn’t one cultivated out of maliciousness or ill-intent. As shown earlier, Hammond’s vision was one that he wished would inspire awe within others. However, his arrogance in the technology used and his arrogance in thinking that sparing no expense was the answer to any issues resulted in him attempting to play God, to the endangerment of all others on the island.
While some characters are the embodiment of one
thematic characteristic, such as Gennaro’s arrogant greed or Henry Wu’s confidence in the technology used to create the dinosaurs, nobody embodies both themes simultaneously in the manner that Hammond does
What About Those Other Main Characters?
Some will point to Dr. Grant, Sattler, and even Malcolm as the most pivotal character in Jurassic Park’s plot. Although the movie may spend more screen-time on these characters than Hammond himself, resolution doesn’t happen until Hammond realizes the error of his ways
The true struggle in this movie, the one that reconciles the themes, is the battle between these individuals attempting to snap Hammond out of his idealist reverie, allowing them to escape alive AND
to ensure that he won’t attempt this type of creation again. In the end, the story is complete because Hammond
is convinced that he is wrong, through the repeated arguments of ALL
of the other main characters, as well as witnessing first-hand the devastation that occurred at his hands. Every other character serves to counter the main antagonist of the story – Hammond.
From the perspective of being inside the movie itself, there is literally no Jurassic Park without Hammond’s money and vision, so Hammond is ESSENTIAL
to the plot in that regard. From a nuanced analysis of the film itself, Hammond is aligned with the negative connotations that Jurassic Park the movie
whole is a commentary against. Appropriately, he provides the tension between arrogant, near-sighted idealism of man’s place in the world and harsh reality. The other characters serve to highlight this, and his mental evolution provides the resolution for the film. In the end, nature cannot be contained; man’s arrogance is his downfall. This shift is the plot that the viewer experiences, and it’s personified on-screen in John Hammond himself.
At 1:45 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLGeFfxdEkA
Any quotes unattributed to video clips can be found on this page.
The condor argument begins around 2:00.
See Note (2).
At 1:40 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4kBRC2co7Y
At 2:25 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLGeFfxdEkA
At 2:30 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTWo9oLJOWk
"It is absolutely imperative that we work with the Costa Rican Department of Biological Preserves to establish a set of rules for the preservation and isolation of that island. These creatures require our absence to survive, not our help. And if we could only step aside and trust in nature, life will find a way.
" - John Hammond, The Lost World: Jurassic Park.