Jurassic Park is a subtle tribute to the inherent duality of life. How technology can both be good or bad, nature can be both beautiful and deadly, life is both good and evil.
So let’s RANK THE DEATHS BY DINO IN THE FILM FROM WORST TO BEST!
4. SHOOT HERRRR!!
Just to establish a baseline, all the deaths in Jurassic Park are epic. So even though the opening scene death comes in last, it is still terrific.
What happened: Muldoon and his crew are unloading a velociraptor into the velociraptor paddock. The raptor is able, in what seems like a structural oversight, to push his cage away from the opening, reach outside of his cage and drag a worker into the cage by his legs in one of the best “grab the doorframe” deaths in cinema history. Muldoon grabs the man’s hand screaming for the other workers to drop the effing tasers and “SHOOOOT HEEERRRRRR!!!”
This scene is good for the same reasons it is ranked as the least great JP death. This entire scene is hinting at what is to come, at the danger that we see before we are blinded by the splendor that masks the menace. We don’t get to see the raptor- it would be too soon- so we don’t get to see how she maneuvers her way to her kill. We also are generally unsure of what we are watching at all at this early point, so Muldoon isn’t fully fleshed out, the significance of asking his crew to kill a precious raptor isn’t fully realized. But all of that stuff is present during the re-watch, so the death ages well.
On the whole, however, there is just not a lot to go off of. The mystery of the death makes it intriguing and it does a good job setting up the tone for the rest of the film, but compared to some of the other, more blatant and developed deaths, it doesn’t stack up.
3. No wonder you’re extinct.
What happened: Dennis Nedry, fleeing Jurassic Park with stolen dino-DNA, crashes his jeep into a mini-waterfall in a rainstorm. He tries to pull the vehicle out of its predicament using the winch on the front of his jeep and a tree. As he does so, he comes across a dilophosaurus, which at first unsettles him, but the dino’s curiosity rather than threatening nature lulled Nedry into think it was dumb, useless, and deserving of extinction. After he hurls insults at it and nature, he falls down on the way back to his jeep. The dilosphosaurus follows him, threatens him with a freaky cowl and rattle, shoots an acidic dino-lugie into his eyes, and then Nedry locks himself in his jeep with the “dumb” dinosaur before we see it rocking and shaking to the soothing sounds of Nedry’s death.
This dino-death is great because Nedry was a character we didn’t mind watching die. We can fully appreciate the dino-damage. However, the scene was still tense enough that the power of the dinosaur was fully realized.
The scene could be seen as a transitional moment, where the beauty of the dinosaur (the first half of Nedry’s interaction and the movie) makes way to the threat and danger of the animals (the second half of the interaction and the movie) emphasizing the dual nature of technology, nature, and anything man tries to wield or control.
And what’s fun is that we see it all coming. From the moment Nedry leaves his car we sense he is going to be eaten. And certainly when the dilophosaurus shows up we know this is going to go terribly wrong. So the majority of the interaction is a tense waiting for when the shoe’s gonna drop.
This makes Nedry’s insults even more unforgivable, and the quick shift from cute dinosaur into a cowl rattling monster even more shocking and fearsome. Sometimes the scariest stuff are the things we know are waiting around the corner.
2. Clever Girl
What Happened: After Dr. Sadler and Muldoon follow Dr. Arnold to turn the power back on, their journey becomes complicated. Muldoon informs Dr. Sadler that, “We’re being hunted…” Muldoon engages the velociraptor long enough for Dr. Sadler to get away, but in a later scene gets blindsided by a second velociraptor in waiting while he was distracted by the first velociraptor. Muldoon, who showed his love for the hunt all film, took a moment to appreciate his demise, “Clever girl…” before he was dismantled by the raptor.
Muldoon does a lot with very little. Maybe it’s the accent? But every line pops, and he presents a cool character who tries to physically control the animals. He stands in contrast to the many other characters who are trying to control the dinos through intellectual or technological means.
After all the technological and intellectual means fail, we still hold onto hope that maybe, in a balanced playing field, we humans can take on the dinos in a hunter vs hunter battle to the death and assert our dominance at the top of the food chain.
And Muldoon is the man for the job. He respects the dinosaurs, unlike Nedry and Hammond, so he will not die for taking them too lightly, and he also appreciates and understands their tactics. When he describes the raptor’s attempts to escape, he says proudly, “They remember.” And when the t-rex almost catches his jeep and devours him and his passengers, Drs. Malcolm and Sadler sigh in relief at their escape, but Muldoon smiles at his near death.
So there is always a sense that Muldoon wanted it this way- him versus the raptor, one-on-one. I imagine he has been a big game hunter his whole life, killing alpha after alpha (he does claim to have (hunted most things that can hunt you”), looking for the beast that would finally best him. This desire could have drawn him to Jurassic Park, and he may have even felt disappointment at the cages that surrounded the raptors, and hoped that one day they might escape, and he could test his meddle against theirs.
Then, when Dr. Sadler was leaving the safety of the control room, Muldoon had his opportunity. And when he declared that they were being hunted, it was not with fear, but the tension of the test he had been waiting for, and the understanding that it would be his toughest one yet. And when the second raptor bursts out of hiding, catching him with his gun pointed the wrong way, he was not afraid of imminent death, but appreciative of the new greatest hunter on the planet, “Clever girl…” This scene is awesome.
1. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
What happened: When the t-rex breaks out of his paddock and starts to mingle with the tourist jeeps, Genaro, the blood sucking lawyer, immediately bails on his jeep of small children and heads for the bathroom, showing his cowardice and causing daddy-issues in both children for the rest of their lives- “HE LEFT US!” After Dr. Malcolm gets the t-rex’s attention with a flair and takes off, the t-rex destroys the bathroom, causing it to fall down around Genaro, revealing him sitting on a toilet. The r-rex cocks his head at this interesting specimen, bites him, and shakes him to death.
This death portrays the futility of man in the face of dinosaurs, and since that is the main idea of the movie, it feels like the best dino-death. Genaro, continually portrayed as a fish out of water in any situation outdoors, tries to run from the t-rex, both showing their menace and his lack of understanding. These people will not escape Jurassic Park by running or hiding.
Therefore, Genero’s bathroom demise sets a tone for how the more important characters need to operate in order to get out of Jurassic Park uneaten. But less thematically, there is a pacing to the death that is hard not to enjoy. The t-rex paddock scene is one of the greatest in film, with tension for days. And by the time Dr. Malcolm starts running from the t-rex, we expect someone is not going to get out alive. On top of this, everyone watches this movie with a special anticipation for the t-rex, the most fearsome of all dinosaurs, and therefore, wouldn’t mind seeing it hunt and kill. But maybe don’t kill Dr. Malcolm… we’ve all come to like him. Then, when the bathroom falls apart revealing the long forgotten Genero, there is some glee. We no longer have to fear a beloved character dying, and we also get to see the t-rex eat someone. But also, are we actually going to see such an exposed kill? And what will it look like to see a t-rex eat someone? Oh, just you wait.
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