Jurassic Park is undeniably one of the biggest and most iconic franchises from the past thirty years. After earning billions of dollars worldwide, it becomes ironic that the film that started the franchise in 1993 contains an anti-capitalist message. Jurassic Park criticizes how capitalism views life—particularly through the lives of prehistoric creatures. Michael Crichton’s novel adaptation looks at the ways in which investors will cut corners to increase their paybacks, and how science is only seen as a means to gain more profit rather than as a complex and true explanation for the natural world.
In the world of Jurassic Park, dinosaurs are cloned using DNA from mosquitoes filled with their blood that was originally preserved in fossilised sap. John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) hired scientists to use this DNA to clone dinosaurs, using frog DNA to fill in the gaps, so that he could create what is essentially a zoo with dinosaurs. The only people who seem to view the dinosaur clones as real and living creatures are the scientists—Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum)—whom Hammond has hired to receive an outside opinion and appease his lawyers. When they first see a dinosaur while arriving to the reservation, the three of them can’t believe their eyes. But Hammond’s lawyer, Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), instead thinks about how they are going to make a fortune off this scientific breakthrough instead.
Later in the movie, Sattler, who works as a paleobotanist, observes that some of the plants on the island are poisonous to the dinosaurs, but they were picked because they looked aesthetically pleasing. She foreshadows that the dinosaurs will fight back violently because these plants create an unsafe environment for the dinosaurs. The unsafe environment could be seen as an allegory for the unsafe work environments of the proletariat. The dinosaurs defending themselves acts as a metaphor for the violent but necessary revolution which has to happen if workers want to lose their chains.
Hammond takes the scientists on a mock tour of the main facility, which later gets derailed when they want to see the unfertilised dinosaur eggs. The audience learns that “there is no unauthorised breeding” and that they are controlling their chromosomes by denying them the extra hormone that turns the “inherently female” embryos into males. Grant, Sattler, and Malcolm are shocked by this process. Malcolm reminds Hammond that this type of control isn’t possible, but he famously replies, “Life, uh, finds a way.” This choice of cutting corners becomes a problem because by using frog DNA, the dinosaurs are able to reproduce since frogs have the ability to switch genders in a single sex environment, a fact that had slipped the minds of the park’s scientists.
Throughout the film, we’re constantly reminded by Hammond that he “spared no expense,” but yet he doesn’t pay his employee Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) what he feels like he’s truly earned, motivating him to betray Hammond and the park. Hammond trades safety for more money in his pocket by not paying to have locking mechanisms installed on the doors of the tour jeeps. In the typical capitalist fashion, he hates wasting time on safety inspections because “they slow everything down.”
At the round table, Hammond and Gennaro want to hear the scientists’ thoughts on the park. Malcolm sees the situation in full truth as a gross display of the lack humility for the power they possess. He calls them out by saying that, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Science is only valid to Hammond as a money-making machine. If he could invest in something else with a bigger profit margin, he would have pursued that option.
This perspective is explained at the beginning of Jurassic Park when he bribes Grant and Sattler to come out to the park in exchange to continue funding their archeological digs. He takes advantage of their financial situation to gain more money after receiving their approval towards the park. Malcolm also sees discovery for what it is, “a violent, penetrative act.” His language effortlessly brings to mind the “discovery” of the Americas, which was a violent, penetrative act on behalf of the white colonisers.
When Jurassic Park is viewed as a movie with an anti-capitalist message, everything about it becomes ironic, especially the promotion material. Hundreds of different merchandise items were created, from fanny packs and sleeping bags to McDonald’s launching its first “super-sized” meals, which originally were called “dino-sized” for the movie. The latest installment of the franchise, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, released in 2018, grossed just over a billion dollars worldwide, making it the second highest grossing film of the franchise. Universal Pictures already has plans to release a sixth film, tentatively titled Jurassic World 3, while Netflix and DreamWorks plan to release their own animated series. Like Gennaro and Hammond, the studios realized that people will show up for these films for the sake of CGI dinosaurs, so they’ll ignore the irony of making a franchise out of a book with an explicit anti-capitalist message.