Why Jurassic Park Cut Hammond's Death (& Ruined The Ending)
Why Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park cut John Hammond's death and why it ruined part of the blockbuster dinosaur movie's ending.
John Hammond should have died at the end of Jurassic Park and Steven Spielberg's decision not to kill him ruined the message of the film's ending. Played by Richard Attenborough with the sort of misty-eyed enthusiasm his natural historian brother David would be proud of, Hammond is, of course, the driving force behind Jurassic Park. The entire endeavor is based on his vision and his dream to give everyone something truly wonderful.
In Michael Crichton's original novel, John Hammond is a significantly less likable character, blinded completely by his ambition (and his greed) and fatally ignorant of the disaster that his park becomes around him. The book version of the character doesn't survive the story, dying at the tiny claws of a flock of Procompsognathus (Compies) as he contemplates his plan for opening a new park only a short time after the death of Mr. Arnold. His movie counterpart is softer at the edges, but he remains just as driven and there is a significant spark of his blind ambition in him.
Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Jurassic Park lets John Hammond off all too easily, allowing him the opportunity to turn his back on his park by the end and humorously pulling his endorsement of Jurassic Park as the survivors flee. But Jurassic Park should have followed through on killing Hammond because his death was still deserved, and the ending was poorer for changing his fate.
John Hammond Should Be The Second Villain Of Jurassic Park
John Hammond is not as much of a villain as Jurassic World's Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), but he shares the same thing that gets Hoskins killed: an insatiable ambition that fundamentally disrespects nature. Both wish to exploit the dinosaurs, albeit in different ways and both would probably follow through on incredibly dangerous aspirations were it not for dramatic impediments. Hoskins dies for his sins, but Hammond is allowed to live because he's played by Richard Attenborough and because Steven Spielberg wanted to leave the door open to him returning in the sequel. Which he did for a very slight cameo, revealing his redemption as a naturalist who believed his dinosaurs should be left to live freely on Isla Sorna but that wasn't enough.
Early storyboards for Jurassic Park actually revealed initial plans to have Hammond killed in a velociraptor attack, but the sequence didn't make it to the final film. That reprieve meant Hammond is never brought to justice for his negative influence on Dennis Nedry, who turns to the desperate measures of stealing embryos because of financial worries that Hammond willfully ignores. Even when Hammond has his supposed redemption moment when eating ice cream with Ellie Satler in the Visitor Center, Hammond holds onto the idea of launching a new park with "more control" up to the very last moment. It's only when he's scolded by Satler that he seems to change track, but having him change his heart after holding onto a dream since he was a child doesn't ring true.
Why John Hammond Should Have Died In Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park is a morality tale about anxiety over humanity's over-reaching fascination with science. It is a modern Frankenstein story and in such stories, those who "play God" and do not respect the natural order - who "destroy God" in the words of Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Ian Malcolm should be killed for their defiance. That they have grandchildren they don't want to be eaten by dinosaurs shouldn't come into it.
In not killing him, Spielberg gives Hammond what amounts to a slap on the wrist for his defiance of the natural order and his unwillingness to learn his lessons. The original Jurassic Park ending, as written by Michael Crichton, would have offered a far more satisfying conclusion to Hammond's obsession with his magical flea circus that had cost so many lives. And that's not to mention the irony that a man so obsessed with the idea of control (even after his supposed "redemption moment" over ice cream) would be killed by the smallest of his dinosaurs.
In the end, we do get to see John Hammond's book death, in a way, because the scene was rescued from the cutting room floor and re-worked for the death of Dieter Stark (Peter Stormare) in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Sadly, because Stormare's character is little more than a grunt - whose death comes as he's relieving himself in the forest - it has little impact other than in comic terms and the sequel barely gives him a second thought. It should have been Hammond and it should have come as part of the ending of Jurassic Park.