How Jurassic Park Changes The Book’s Villain (& Why It’s Perfect)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) is the kindly owner of Jurassic Park in the original movie, but was the villain in its source novel, which director Steven Spielberg was right to change. His 1993 blockbuster introduced Hammond as a misguided businessman, though his gentle demeanor showed that his heart was always in the right place. He genuinely loved dinosaurs, but let his personal fascination with the creatures blind him to their disastrous potential. By the end of the film, he was left with the weight of the deaths he inadvertently caused, mourning his dream of a place where the prehistoric creatures could roam once more.

Though Jurassic Park ended in disaster, Hammond was optimistic in the beginning of the movie. He invited paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) to preview the park, while his investors sent lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) to confirm its safety. Bringing along chaos theory mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Gennaro feigned concern with the park's security, but only truly cared about its profitability. The attorney proved to be a cowardly personification of corporate greed, and his irresponsible endangerment of Lex and Tim ultimately made him a villain.

Gennaro's moneygrubbing instincts, however, were an invention for the film. In Michael Crichton's 1990 novel the movie is based on, John Hammond is the main antagonist instead. However, Steven Spielberg was right to make Hammond sympathetic, as it streamlines the film and allows Genarro to serve as a foil to his guest Ian Malcolm.

Instead of being a grandfatherly presence, the book's version of Hammond is a dark version of Walt Disney who was only worried about his theme park's bottom line. He introduced drastic cost-cutting measures to the park, resulting in a sub-par security system and an underpaid staff. His treatment of Dennis Nedry was especially poor, resulting in the programmer spilling the park's secrets to a rival company. Even as Jurassic Park fell into chaos around him, Hammond blamed everyone but himself, and vowed to start another park with the same dangerously cut corners. His plans were thwarted when he fell down a hill, broke his ankle, and was eaten by a pack of dinosaurs.

John Hammond's insatiable greed and lonely death were dark elements of the Jurassic Park novel that were thankfully left out of the movie. Filling InGen's leadership entirely with avaricious individuals would make the film much bleaker. Although the park's creation was a mistake, there are still moments of pure wonder within it. Knowing that the park was made entirely to make money from the very beginning would ruin scenes like Alan Grant and the kids' sweet encounter with a brachiosaurus. Making Donald Genarro the primary voice of corporate greed against the scientists' rationality straightens the film's moral compass. The characters collectively represent the best and worst motivations behind the park: advancing science and making money. The film's version of Hammond seems caught between these two motives instead of being driven by just one, making him more complex.

Although they change from film to film, the human villains in the Jurassic Park (and World) movies have consistently motivated by money. This created a somewhat repetitive "greedy human+scary dinosaur" combination when it came to antagonists. While the trend has resulted in some lackluster bad guys, the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion has a chance to go against this trope. With dinosaurs loose in the world, they are no longer a rare commodity for enterprising villains to seek out. The film will have to get creative with its own antagonists, which could help make Jurassic World: Dominion a memorable final installment of the Jurassic Park franchise.