If favourites are judged by the ability to engage them 97 times in a row, and enjoy them as much or more on the 97th go as on the first, then without question, Jurassic Park is my favourite movie. It's a modern classic, and Spielberg's last great thriller. It ushered in (for good or bad) the era of digital effects, and did more for public knowledge of dinosaurs (again, for good or bad) then any movie since King Kong. In fact, despite rampant evidence that many species of theropod and related dinosaurs had feathers, the public steadfastly refuses to accept this reality in favour of how the animals appeared in Jurassic Park. So, in the modern culture, it is the gold standard. And compared to it's various sequels, a masterpiece.
But that doesn't mean it gets off scot-free. After the jump, I ask and then attempt to answer the 20 lingering question that Jurassic Park failed to provide reasonable answers for. Those niggling little details that you begin to notice after your fifth, thirtieth or sixty seventh viewing. Or maybe, the ones you noticed the first time around and has been chewing at your temporal lobe for 22 years.
Before we begin, the usual caveat: the answer to many of these questions is "for the drama." It is, after all, a movie. And a thriller at that. So, there has to be some suspension of disbelief to allow for the surprising or shocking. But let us assume for the moment that the movie exists within it's own reality, that events transpire as they would in the real world, and that a dissolve between scenes does not eliminate the actions that must occur within.
1) How is the raptor holding Jophery like this?
The simple answer is: in it's mouth. Jophery is being held at approx. seven feet off the air, which would be in line with where the raptor's head would rest at full extension. It certainly couldn't be holding him in it's hands. Dromaeosaurs had locked wrists, which didn't allow for their hands to rotate out of their downward-turned position. The mouth is the only reasonable explanation left.
Except, could a raptor pick a man up in it's mouth, even briefly? Members of the dromaeosaur family were built for speed and agility, not strength. They had powerful thigh and pelvic muscles, which allowed them to tear and grip with their hind legs and razor claws. But raptors didn't kill with their heads. They weren't bulk predators, with massive jaws and bite forces rivaling industrial steel cutters. Unlike T-rex or Acrocanthosaurus, who could bring down prey by clamping on, shaking their massive heads and taking a sizable chuck out then and there, raptors were knife fighters, pouncing and ripping until their prey went down. They didn't have the strength to take down a prey animal by their mouths along, and they wouldn't have wanted to risk their comparatively more fragile teeth, jaws and necks.
Is it conceivable that the raptor picked Jophrey up in it's mouth? Sure. A two hundred pound man, soft in the middle and posing no immediate risk to the raptor's head. The question is why. From that position, it would have been easier for the raptor to use it's arms to grab hold of his legs, pull him under the animal, then use the killing claw to sever his spine or neck and shred the meat, then use his narrow snout to begin picking at the scrambled remains.
Gee, we got off on a cheery start, didn't we?
2) Where are this boy's parents?
Paleontology runs on volunteers. There simply aren't enough paleontologists, grad students and officials to accomplish what needs to happen within the limited time of a dig season. Dig seasons vary depending on location and funding available. Some last only a few weeks, other months. This is rarely long enough to accomplish the full intent of the dig, so sites will be returned to year after year, if the site is plentiful. Therefore, the vast majority of personnel at any given dig will be enthusiasts that have volunteered their time with the museum running the dig (there are many digs that run on volunteer fees). The actual grunt work, the digging under the hot Alberta, or Montana or Wyoming or Dakota sun (and many times the back-at-base recording and typing) , while overseen by professionals, is done by everyday lay persons. So, that cluster of people behind Grant and Satler in this scene, looking on without really knowing what is happening. Just some folks helping to fill in gaps in the fossil record.
And there are kids. Why wouldn't there be. Aside from marketing such summer excursions to families with dino-minded kids, if some paleo-enthusiasts decide to tooth-brush bone for a month, they'd be libel to take their kids along with them. The greater question is, in this scene, where are this boy's parents? And if they are in that clump of observers, why are they standing back and simply allowing Grant to terrorize their child? The kid seems like a pain in the ass, so maybe they are letting Mr. Dinosaur scare him straight a little, but it still seems like negligence.
3) Where does Hammond tell them they are going?
Hammond's introduction paints him as an enthusiastic, charming man, who isn't compunctious about using his money to get what he wants. It also paints him as a cagey old bird who walks around a point like a shadow on a sun dial. He clouds their questions with responses like "it's right up your alley." Now, I ask you, if a tottering old millionaire demanded that you go with him to a mysterious island in the middle of no where, with no indication as to what you'd find save that it was tenuously related to your profession, would you accept that at face value, or demand specifics about why he seems so adamant? Since this movie's release, you'd be wise enough to guess that the old man is playing Dr. Moreau. Back in the early nineties, the more likely guesses would have been "hunting man for sport" or "sex island."
But OK, lets assume that Grant and Satler agree to just go to this island with little to no knowledge of what they're going to encounter (we'll assume that they've assumed it some dinosaur themed amusement part). What about the one hour long helicopter ride to the island? Malcolm isn't the sort to keep his mouth shut, and clearly knows exactly what Hammond is attempting. He straight up mentions his "science experiment" before they arrive. Why that turn of phrase didn't set off Grant's alarm bells is another question, but I find it hard to believe that literally the first thing out of Malcolm's mouth upon meeting Grant and Satler wouldn't have been something along the lines of "hey, cloning dinosaurs eh? Wild, huh!"
4) What is Dodgson's plan?
Stealing dinosaur embryos, obviously. "Catching up on ten years of research," ostensibly. But why? In the novel, it explains that Dodgson works for a rival genetics company that has been working on cloning unsuccessfully, and that corporate spies have revealed that not only has Hammond succeeded, but managed to clone dinosaurs. But the question remains, why would Dodgson want them? It is unlikely that Biosyn (InGen's competitor) would be able to reverse engineer the process of developing the embryos from the reconstituted embryos. Nor is it likely that they would be able to bring those embryos to term, lacking InGen's specific process for implanting them in eggs, which if InGen were smart would require other proprietary techniques to result in a viable hatchling. The best they might be able to do is study the DNA and determine that amphibian DNA was used to fill in the gene sequence gaps, but that only works if you have preserved blood samples. And again, in InGen were smart, their methods would be proprietary. So, the best the Dodgson would get out of this deal is a shaving cream container full of proto-dinos, and little else.
5) So, the herbivores are just allowed to roam the island freely?
The introduction shot of the Brachiosaurus also includes a panoramic shot of a herd of Parasaurolophus, implying that the herbivores on Isla Nublar roam free outside of the paddocks that contain the carnivores. In fact, the sick Triceratops is spotted when the cars are travelling between paddocks, in open field. This doesn't seem like such a good idea to me. First of all, these are massive creatures that move in herds, much like modern day cows and deer. And while yes, they would be within fenced in areas keeping them away from the rides and Visitor's Center, they are still clearly in unfenced areas within the island where they could pose a danger to guests.
I'm thinking of an angered Triceritops charging a jeep during mating season. Or a Brachiosaur stepping on one as it crosses the road. Or a stampede of hadrosaurs barreling towards the Explorers that can't go off track. I'm also thinking of real world scenarios, where cows in India hold up trains, where the hippo is the most lethal animal in Africa, or where moose getting slammed into on Northern Canadian roads are more dangerous then drunk drivers. It seems incredibly naive of InGen to let them just go into the wider park because they don't eat meat. The things with pointy teeth are behind electric fences, but it seems like it would have only been a matter of time before some poor tourist ended up on the pointy end of a thagomizer.
6) What mistake is Wu trying to erase?
Henry Wu, the genius who cracked the trick to bringing dinosaurs back to life, has exactly one scene in Jurassic Park. And throughout most of that, he is seen feverously erasing something from his science board. When they first enter, his pencil is lead-end up. After the raptor is born, again, eraser end down. What mistakes does he keep making, and trying to get rid of. How good at his job is he really? Maybe Malcolm was right, and that life found a way for the female population to breed, or maybe the animals were never all female, but that Wu just made oversight after oversight that didn't contribute to the issues within the film, but would have snowballed over time.
The alternative is that, rather than doing his job, Wu is just hanging around the lab doing crossword puzzles, and he just can't crack 5-Across.
7) No one eats a single bite of the Chilean Sea Bass prepared by Alejandro.
Not a question so much as an observation, but during the course of what is arguably the film's best scene (certainly it's most philosophical), not one character eats any of their meal. Which also means that Grant goes close to twenty four hours without food, and the only thing Satler eats in that time is a spoonful of ice cream.
8) Does Hammond really think Orlando is a better location?
Isla Nublar is located about 100 miles south-west of Costa Rica, in the North Pacific Ocean. There are, on average, 16 tropical storms in this region per year, with only 4-10 developing into hurricanes, and most making landfall in Mexico, but very few in Central America. Yes, a tropical island will receive a healthy amount of weather, but over the lifetime of the park, it is highly unlikely that it will suffer a major meteorological events.
Orlando, on the other hand, lies in Hurricane Alley. Yes, it is far enough inland that hurricanes usually weaken by the time they reach Orlando, and that Orlando sees significantly less hurricane damage then coastal cities like Miami. But the fact remains that Florida sees at least one significant landfall per year, often and increasingly more, and that in 2004 Orlando itself has hit by three within a single season. The result is cumulatively millions in damage and hundreds dead. So yeah, rather than risk the wind knocking over a fence and letting a herd of scared triceratops out into southern Florida, maybe stay away from the Gulf region.
9) Is Muldoon seriously the only one who thinks car locks are a good idea?
Why don't the car's automatically lock? I mean, even in '93, automatic locks were a feature in vehicles. And when the car is in motion, the doors automatically lock. Even without adding in control from central, the scenes inside the Explorers clearly show that they have door locks. Which mean that the engineers had to purposefully disable the automatic door locks. And considering that kids would be far more likely to jump for a moving vehicle to get a closer look a animal through a fence, and add in the danger of venom-spiting creatures, the concept of keeping people in the cars seems like it should have been a top priority.
10) What exactly is Nedry's problem with Hammond?
Money, as he makes clear. But why? Nedry's position is one which he bid on, not applied for, as the book makes clear. So, that means that Hammond took competitive bids, and that Nedry low-balled his offer in order to get the job. So, if he's upset about not getting paid enough, then he really has only himself to blame. Even if he feels that the amount of work that he is doing is worth more than he's getting paid to do, again he made the bid based on what I assume would have been a thorough prospectus provided by InGen at the time. Having been on the offering end of the RFP process, I can tell you that specifics of requirements are integral. Otherwise, failed bidders can turn around and demand reconsideration. So really, Nedry's problem likely boils down to low self esteem and perceived lack of appreciation.
11) Why did Crichton, Keopp and Spielberg all think that visual acuity was a nifty plot device?
'Cause it makes no goddamned sense. First of all, T-rex was an apex predator. It was likely a stalker, possibly an ambusher. It had binocular vision, the muscle to run prey down, the bulk to take them down quickly. It was also huge, and precariously balanced. A visual acuity based on movement would have rendered all those things impossible. If T-rex tripped, it risked crippling itself in the fall. Therefore, the ability to spot rocks, uneven ground, felled trees and over detritus, while moving at speeds of likely 20 miles an hour (realistically) would have been key. More so if it was a night hunter, as has been suggested, when the ability to spot any potential prey, moving or sleeping, in the dark would have critical.
But more than that, even if the T-rex had the worst eye sight in the world, it still would have smelled them. T-rex had the largest olfactory bulbs of pretty much any dinosaur discovered, and large even by living animal standards (the sequel says it was bested only by the Turkey Vulture, which can scent up to ten miles away). This makes perfect sense. The super predator would have had to track prey over a large territory, lay markers for other T-rexes to stay away or come closer, and if the animal had an scavenging instincts, to trace the smell of carrion from a great distance to ensure survival. So rather than Grant and Lex disappearing entirely at this proximity, that T-rex, who knocks Grant's hat off with a scoff from it's nostril, it would have clamped it's mouth around them immediately.
12) Where the fuck did this moat come from?
Seriously? When the rex knocks the car over, it does so laterally. Up off the tracks, and straight over. It then pushes the car across the y axis, while maintaining it's position on the x, up and over the fence barrier. At no point does the car move further forward on the track, to a different position then was established mere moments before in a tracking shot that established the car was lined up with the goat...
A goat standing on level, solid ground. Then, moments later, the T-rex makes it's full appearance, stepping down off an elevation between the two cars.
So, where the fuck does the moat come from? There is literally no answer for this question. It is just a stupid mistake that messes with the continuity of the entire sequence.
13) Why is there a bathroom here?
The trip around the park is vehicular. The park is too big to be transversed on foot, and too dangerous to do so without the protection of the car. the cars stop, but passengers don't get out. So why is there a bathroom in the middle of no where, outside the T-rex paddock. It's clearly meant for public use, not maintenance.
My best guess is that people were meant to be able to get out of the cars, thus explaining why the car locks don't work. When the cars pulled up to a paddock, they'd stop, the guest would get out to take pictures, then be alerted to get back in the cars. This explains why the cars didn't stop when approaching the Dilophosaurus, merely slowed so as not to allow any opportunity for anyone to get out. The presence of the bathroom makes sense given that a guest wouldn't have been expected to hold it, especially a child, for several hours while they drive around the park.
14) What was Nedry's plan, exactly?
He has eighteen minutes. In that time, he has to shut down all the security features of the entire park so he can go to the lab, steal the embryos, grab a jeep, go into the park, drive to the East Dock, deliver the package, then turn around, drive back to Command before the eighteen minutes runs out, and pretend like nothing happened. Even without a storm, that time frame is tight, but how exactly did Nedry intend on explaining himself when he got back (I assume he would have accepted getting fired rather than taking off on the ship and likely being sued by Hammond). He shut down the entire security grid! Even if everything goes off without a hitch and the T-rex and a myriad of other predators didn't escape, that is still one hell of a glitch to try to explain away to Arnold and Hammond. And Nedry clearly doesn't work well under pressure.
15) Why, in the middle of a tension-filled dinosaur action sequence, did Spielberg add in a Three Stooges sound effect when Nedry falls down the hill?
It is hard to capture in a picture, but at this moment, there is a fly-whistle sound as Nedry falls. And it has always bothered me.
16) How exactly did Muldoon think the Lysine Contingency would be helpful in this situation?
The contingency is a great plan for containment, but in this situation, how does Muldoon expect it to help? It takes seven days for it to take effect. Even if they are on the sixth day of the seven day schedule, in the amount of time it would take the animals to drop into their comas, hours, likely days would have passed. In which time Malcolm would have died of his wounds, Grant and Tim and Lex would have died of hunger or thirst or been eaten, and the park would still have no power, dooming Arnold, Hammond, Muldoon and Satler to a brief life of desperate terror as their food slowly ran out.
17) Why did this raptor come into the bunker at all?
To eat Arnold, clearly, but it seems like it would have had the opportunity to do so outside, if it followed him in. Coming in seems like a massive inconvenience for the animal, when it could have just waited outside for him to reappear and jump him. Plus, now it's trapped in a bunker with no food supply, and a more difficult time getting out.
18) How did Arnold's arm end up inside the wall?
I'd like to think that it flew off Arnold's body as the raptor was dismembering him and lodged there. Or, considering that the raptor just popped, Birthday-surprise style out of the wall, maybe raptors are just really big into jump scares.
19) Muldoon was a pretty shitty raptor expert, wasn't he?
It's a good thing Bob Peck was a great actor, because the more I think about it, the more I think Muldoon was the Boba Fett of Jurassic Park. He was pretty shit at his job, had some pretty stupid ideas, and in the end didn't know the most important thing about the animal he was meant to be an expert on. There is a kid in Montanta with negligent parents that knows more about raptor hunting techniques then Muldoon did.
20) How the fuck did the T-rex get in there?
Setting aside impact tremors and all that, physically how did the T-rex get in there? The doors weren't big enough to accommodate her, and she didn't burst through the wall, Kool-Aid Man style. Did the aliens observing these events beam her into place. And if so, is she now trapped, doomed to spend her remaining, Lysine-lacking days in an atrium cage, stepping over the bones of her distant relatives, bemoaning her choices as a predator? The original ending had seen Grant using a robotic T-rex skeleton fighting off the raptors, but Spielberg decided that the T-rex needed to be, inexplicably, the hero. So we end the movie with an impressive but illogical deus ex machina, which is a soar note on which to end a wonderful film.
Any unanswered question that I didn't spot?