Frogs can change genders? Birds evolved from dinosaurs? “Amber” is fossilized tree sap? We learned a lot of science from Mr. DNA, but Jurassic Park also taught every one of us about the facts of life. We're all better people for these 15 lessons.
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All of us have encountered that chubby kid who said velociraptors don’t look very scary. When Sam Neill took out a claw and pretended to slash his stomach open, we cheered, because yeah, kids are awful. Not to mention the way Timmy followed around Dr. Grant, being all “they don’t look like birds to me!” You don’t know what you’re talking about, Timmy.
2. Don’t miss the forest for the prehistoric trees
Easily the best scene in the whole franchise. This isn’t just a masterpiece of cinematic tension: it’s a lesson to put down the extinct species of veriforman and look up at the goddamn dinosaurs.
3. Computers are terrible, and always crash
Anticipating all the school papers we would someday delete, Jurassic Park assured us that every “computer,” starting with the Panasonic television in the third scene, will surely fail.
4. Greed knows no bounds
Like in life, money comes up a LOT in Jurassic Park. Also like in life, characters like Newman/Nedry care more about money than human lives. #OccupyJurassicPark, am I right?
5. No seriously, life is only about profits
The whole plot is set in motion by a lawsuit, and investors worried about cost/risk analysis. When the lawyer dreams about charging schmucks $10,000/day to see dinosaurs, we realized that was us. We were those schmucks.
6. Kids need supervision
Is the T-Rex a metaphor for drugs or for unprotected sex? I wouldn’t put it past the director, whose vision of aliens was a monster that collected Reese’s Pieces. Deeper meaning or not, when a prehistoric animal breaks out of its paddock, you’re going to need an adult who won’t hide in the sh*tter.
7. The word “autoerotic” is funny
Missed that line? It’s OK, your dad didn’t. Every time our parents chuckled we picked up on the screenplay’s double-entendres: birds and bees and internal stimuli.
8. Life finds a way
By the time raptors open the kitchen door this theme had beaten us over the head like a dinosaur lunchbox. Anyway, it’s true. Just look at cockroaches or Kimmy Schmidt.
If you forgot Samuel L. Jackson was in Jurassic Park, it’s because Laura Dern didn’t just outshine Mace Windu—she eclipsed him. While Richard Attenborough is misreading a map and Jeff Goldblum is lying on his side, black shirt torn and frankly looking great, Dern digs through sh*t, does gymnastics in a rainforest, and outlives nearly every other male character.
Early in the film, she stops Goldblum’s philosophizing with: “Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.” That isn’t foreshadowing. It’s goddamn prophecy. (Her expressions are also nothing short of breathtaking.)
10. The limits of analogy Case in point, this line: “But, John, when Pirates of the Caribbean shut down, the pirates didn’t eat the tourists.”
11. Nerds aren’t all bad
On one hand, a nerd destroyed a theme park and unleashed dozens of murderous reptiles. On the other hand, a different nerd got the phone lines running again. We also learned they prefer the name “hacker.”
12. The term “sexism in survival situations”
Does the film have a second adult female character? Does it pass the Bechdel test? No, but its screenplay does sound like a Sociology course sometimes. And never mind the fact that all the dinosaurs are girls.
13. Control is an illusion
You can’t package up nature. Chaos theory, system failures, and tropical storms. We all learned human efforts look puny compared to poison-spitting thunder lizards. That didn’t stop us from buying every piece of JP merchandise and building our own theme parks, but eventually the moral sunk in.
You can’t swing a cat without hitting 10 puns in this movie, but sometimes they’re touching. That scene where Dr. Sattler cries and eats ice cream with Hammond, and Alan Grant throws the raptor claw out of the tree and says he has to evolve too, we all learned something about loss and adaptation.
15. Kids are all right
Safe on the rescue helicopter, as Alan Grant admires the pelican dinosaurs and smiles down at Lex and Timmy, he realizes they’re not so bad after— Wait. Was that really the whole lesson? That kids are all right? That he and Dr. Sattler should make their own little genetic spawns as soon as they’re back in Montana? Nothing about chaos or feminism or scientific ethics? Oh well. Still a great flick.
David Michael McFarlane is a contributor to Supercompressor.