Jurassic Park Is a Quietly Thoughtful Exploration of Parenthood
Jurassic Park has its fair share of chaos and dinosaur terror. However, just under the surface is a film that explores two aspects of parenthood.
Jurassic Park is one of the most beloved science fiction films from the last century. Its ability to balance ethical debates over the limits of modern science with the constant battle between humanity and nature are unparalleled. However, in all of that, it still manages to entertain and terrify its audiences by making them believe that dinosaurs have truly been reborn. Because of these factors, it's easy to miss the thoughtful exploration into parenthood that serves as the foundation for the first film.
The movie introduces Dr. Alan Grant as a man so focused on his passion for dinosaurs that he forgets how to interact with children. This is evidenced by how he terrifies a young child by explaining the hunting methods of a velociraptor. His girlfriend, Dr. Ellie Sattler, teases Grant about this while also trying to convince him about the possible joys of having a child of his own. Sadly, Grant is so focused on his work that he adamantly turns these ideas down. However, once he meets John Hammond's grandchildren, Lex and Tim, he quickly learns his capacity to be a good father when he is tasked with protecting them.
Before the power goes out, Lex's younger brother Tim shows his admiration for Grant by talking about his adoration for dinosaurs and Grant's book, along with other theories he's heard on dinosaur evolution. Grant tries not to entertain him and eventually manages to hitch a ride with the adults, leaving the kids to enjoy the tour with Hammond's lawyer, Donald Gennaro. But once the power goes out and the T-Rex escapes, Grant focuses on the children's safety while Ian Malcolm distracts the creature. From there, Grant and the children are left stranded in the jungle, trying to survive. In that time, Lex sees Grant as a father figure there to keep her and her brother safe, and rather than avoid that label, Grant embraces it, showing affection and consistently comforting them by reassuring Lex he won't leave them like Gennaro did.
As Jurassic Park evolves Grant's character to be a more open and caring figure to the children, their grandfather, John Hammond, represents an aspect of parenting that feels less organic. To Hammond, Jurassic Park and its dinosaurs are his children, and he admires them so much he wants to show them off to the world. However, he doesn't fully understand that they are still animals and that keeping them in cages is no way to treat children of any species.
Malcolm and Sattler later explain to Hammond that his illusion of power is never meant to last, and that's proven the moment the power goes out. However, even after Hammond's helicopter parenting fails and people start dying, he still can't grasp the severity of it all. It ultimately takes Sattler to offer more motherly wisdom by reminding him that people they both love are out on an island where Hammond's "children" are constantly hunting them. It's a hard lesson to learn, and even in future Jurassic Park films, Hammond still can't help but keep tabs on his creations.
Both Dr. Grant and John Hammond share a common adoration for dinosaurs. But Grant understands the beauty and importance of them, whereas Hammond merely admires them. The same parallel can be seen in how they care for those younger than them. While Grant never has children, the final shot of him embracing Lex and Tim as they sleep shows that he still has a natural inclination to care for them. Juxtaposed to that is Hammond, who simply stares at the mosquito encased in amber on his cane, thinking about his failings and how he could have changed them. The brief shot reveals the importance of parenting and explains that anyone can create life, but nurturing that life is the real challenge.