While any responsible adult would probably not send a child to an island filled with dinosaurs, the stories in the Jurassic Park franchise usually develop a relatively plausible explanation as to why there are kids at this giant death trap in the first place. In the film, The Lost World, Kelly Curtis disobeyed her father, Ian Malcolm, and stowed away on his expedition to Site B. In Jurassic Park III, Eric Kirby was stranded on Site B after a parasailing accident near the island. In Jurassic World, Zach and Grey Mitchell are sent to Jurassic World to visit their aunt Claire.
However, chief among these young characters, is the brother sister duo of Tim and Lex Murphy. As Zach and Grey’s parents would do decades later, the Murphy kids are sent to the island to visit their relative to take their minds off of their impending divorce of their parents. On top of that, the book makes it clear that Hammond had his own sinister reasons for having the children on the island, as it would show the lawyers just how safe he felt the park was. After all, no loving grandfather would willingly throw the lives of his grandchildren away by making them into dino-chow.
While not as sinister as his literary counterpart, Hammond in the film when introducing the kids to the rest of the professionals invited to endorse his park still refers to Tim and Lex as the target audience for Jurassic Park. The goal behind the park, after all according to Hammond, is to introduce the world to creatures so astounding they’ll capture the imaginations of children everywhere. Children of all ages love dinosaurs. The best way to show investors that the Park is indeed for everyone, is to show them the awestruck looks on the faces of the grandchildren of the man who built the park.
This was actually part of the reason why director James Cameron says he is glad he had not gotten to direct Jurassic Park and that it had gone instead to Steven Spielberg. In an interview with Huffington Post, that was conducted at the opening of the Titanic Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland and they discussed not only his Titanic movie, but how Jurassic Park was “the one that got away”, Cameron said,
“I tried to buy the book rights and he beat me to it by a few hours….but when I saw the film, I realized that I was not the right person to make the film, he was. Because he made dinosaur movie for kids, and mine would have been Aliens with dinosaurs, and that wouldn’t have been fair…dinosaurs are for 8-year-olds. We can all enjoy it too, but kids get dinosaurs and they should not have been excluded for that. His sensibility was right for that film. I’d have gone further, nastier, much nastier.”
It didn’t stop many parents from being afraid to take children to see the movie, or for that matter kids from being scared. Not only is Spielberg capable of bringing out that sense of childlike wonder and amazement in the adults, and at the same time mixing it with mystery and just a bit of horror, he would also be the best choice for a movie about a theme park filled with cloned dinosaurs that happens to feature two children as its guests. His big blockbusters are movies that capture the imagination of everyone, regardless of age, and help redefine the movie going experience. As Jurassic World’s Chris Pratt, acknowledged in an interview from with the PR Record Gazette, the news paper for Alberta, Canada, in regards to his love for the original movie,
“For me, Jurassic Park was really kind of my Star Wars… I lined up at the theatre to see it, I saw it opening night, I saw every sequel, I’ve seen it a whole bunch of times… for me that was my big movie, I think I was 13 or 14 when it came out…And so it’s a big deal for me to be any part of that, let alone this part I’m going to be playing.”
At the same time, there is this sense of thrill, the kind of make the viewer jump out of your seat just a bit and keep watching to make sure the heroes make it out. Even a magical fantasy like E.T. will have just the right amount of thrill to keep the audience riveted during the climactic bike chase. Thus, Spielberg’s filmography is rife of with children caught up in larger than life adventures. As Roger Ebert noted in “The Filmmaker” for Time Magazine that was featured in a collection of essays celebrating the 100 most important visionaries of the 20th century, in regards to what made Spielberg’s blockbusters so successful,
“There are two important elements there: the sense of wonder and hope, and the identification with a child’s point of view. Spielberg’s best characters are like elaborations of the heroes from old Boy’s Life serials, plucky kids who aren’t afraid to get in over their head. Even Oskar Schindler has something of that in his makeup–the boy’s delight in pulling off a daring scheme and getting away with it.”
It tends to be through their eyes that we get a greater sense of the dread around the characters. In War of the Worlds Ray Ferrier trying to outrun the Martian invasion is more harrowing as he has his children in the back seat, with his daughter screaming and crying as the world collapses around them. The robot boy “David” in A.I. desperately searches for a way to become more human and shows the deep longing we all have for love. In E.T., we feel great delight as Elliot, Michael, Gertie, and their friends outsmart the adults to protect E.T. and get him to his space ship. In Catch Me If You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio brings a boyish mischievous charm to the young conman Frank Abangale who manages to not only convince people he was a pilot, a doctor and a lawyer, steal huge sums of money, and outwit FBI agent Carl Hanratty, all while Frank is under the age of 20, almost to the point that we ignore that he’s a criminal.
Even if the children serve an ancillary role in a Spielberg film, they still serve a key narrative purpose. In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, we see more how Roy Neery’s obsession is destroying the family as they grow more dysfunctional and begin to drift apart and see the sad and frightened looks in his children’s faces. In Jaws, it takes Sheriff Brody’s son nearly getting attacked by the Shark to galvanize him to actually conquer his fear of water to hunt the beast for himself. In Schindler’s List audiences are haunted by the simple image of a girl in a bright red coat that stands out admits the back and white film, symbolizing the loss of innocence in that dark time of history, only to have our hearts rend even more when we later see her remains among the other bodies slated to be burnt in a garbage pit.
In Jurassic Park, Tim and Lex are not only meant to serve to advance the narratives for Grant and Hammond, but in Spielberg’s film they are fully realized characters. Much like how he would change Grant’s character in order to facilitate his growth from kid hater to father figure, or make Hammond more of a likable Santa Claus like figure upon casting Richard Attenborough, Spielberg would make changes with the children as well. Chief among them was simply flipping the ages of Tim and Lex. In the book, Tim is older while Lex is the younger sibling.
Part of the reason Spielberg did this was because he wanted to work with the young actor Joseph Mazzello, who played Tim in the movie. Spielberg had been doing visiting the set of Radio Flyer, a movie directed by his friend and Goonies collaborator, Richard Donner. Spielberg noticed how well the young boy performed in the film that he knew he had to find a role for him in one of his next productions.
Mazzello recounted in “Jurassic Park: An Oral History” for Entertainment Weekly,
“Steven had me screen test with Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman for Hook. I was just too young for the role. And because of that, Steven came up to me and said “Don’t worry about it, Joey I’m going to get you in a movie this summer.’ Not only a nice promise to get, but to have it be one of the biggest box-office smashes of all time? That’s a pretty good trade.”
Further, by making Tim the younger of the two siblings, it adds a level of credibility to the character. In the book he comes across as so knowledgeable that he almost rivals Dr. Grant and Dr. Wu, one of the park’s top scientists. In the film, while he certainly knows a lot about dinosaurs, it is easily tempered by his childlike joy and enthusiasm for the prehistoric creatures. As a 9 year old boy, he is the right age where one would expect a young child to be obsessed with, and excited about dinosaurs.
This is something that is seen in the sequel Jurassic World. Of the two brothers, Zach, and Grey, Zach actually doesn’t care too much about being at the Park. Zach is nearly in high school and dinosaurs don’t hold an interest for him. All he seems to think about is flirting with any cute girls he sees at the park, despite having a girlfriend back home. He even has to be nudge by his brother to witness the Mosasuarus feeding show. It’s only when his brother is upset over their parents getting a divorce that he tries to distract his brother by commandeering a gyrosphere and off-roading it.
Contrast his attitude with his brother and Tim. Grey, like Tim can’t stop talking about the dinosaurs and knew everything about the park. When Grey arrives at the island Grey won’t stop for a moment as the audience hears the classic main theme from the first movie rise to a crescendo that makes it feel like this is the best Christmas that Grey could have. There is a cultural mindset that boys under the age of 13 are supposed to be interested in dinosaurs, while boys older are obsessed with sports, cars and girls.
Tim, in the movie, is as enthusiastic about seeing the dinosaurs as Grant, if not even more so. Tim doesn’t have any of the ethical qualms about the park that any of the adult professionals have. He also doesn’t have the dollar signs in his eyes like Generro, he just wants to see dinosaurs. It was an excitement level that Mazzallo shared with his character, as he said further in Jurassic Park: An Oral History,
“For a long time, I was upset, because I didn’t get to see any [dinosaurs]. We were running around in Hawaii with the gallimimus that were supposed to be running past us that were just computer animated. And I remember one scene where the T. rex comes out of the woods, snatches one up, and eats it. What I got to look at was this wooden stick with a dinosaur head drawn at the top of it that I think I, as a 9 year old, could have drawn and a couple of guys moving it around and Steven screaming into a megaphone, “Okay, now he’s eating him, Joe. He’s eating him now. You’re looking at him. He’s eating him.” I was a little upset. I was like “Yo, when are we getting some dinosaurs. I keep hearing this movie’s about dinosaurs.”
Further, it only furthers Grant’s role as a father figure for Tim. In the novel, Lex makes a disparaging remark about Tim’s love of dinosaurs, quoting their dad on saying that he has dinosaurs on the brain. She then remarks that their father thinks dinosaurs are stupid and that Tim should get out more and play sports. However, Grant doesn’t mock him for this interest, but asks him how long he dinosaurs have been a hobby. Tim informs him it has been for a while, and that he only gets to go to museums when he a can talk his family into it. He then thinks back to a trip where, among other things, Tim noticed there were more vertebra on the tale of the Tyrannosaurus then it should have. His father seems surprised to learn through a guard that Tim was correct, and while he is amazed by Tim’s knowledge, they quickly leave the museum because his dad wants to catch the Mets game.
Here is Dr. Grant, a professional who shares his interest, and has even written some of Tim’s favorite books on the subject. In both the book and the movie he is seen carrying a copy of Grant’s book around with him and is all too eager to discuss Grant’s theories with him, in contrast to those of other scientists. Eric Kirby in Jurassic Park III shares the same passion level, all the way down to reading the books by both Dr. Malcolm and Dr. Grant.
Despite his intelligence and love for dinosaurs, Tim, by being younger gets more of a chance to act like most of the boys in the audience would. During the tour he takes great delight at the prospect of the T-Rex feeding, while his sister, a vegetarian, is mortified. Later when they are stuck in their vehicles due to the power outage and the storm is raging around him, he finds a pair of very expensive night vision goggles and pops up from the seat to yell “boo” in order to scare her. He is also reluctant to admit that he threw up to Dr. Grant while stuck in the tree, not wanting to be embarrassed in front of his sister or his hero. Later, when Grant tries to lead him and Lex away from the T-Rex while it is eating a gallimimus, Tim can’t help but lag behind and stand up and watch and marvel at all the blood.
He also can’t resist teasing his sister further when they climb up in the tree with Grant to sleep for the night. Grant calls the brachiosaurus over and Lex, still shaken by what happened earlier, begs him not to bring the monsters over to them. When Grant points out they are only herbivores, Tim says,
“ That means they only eat vegetables, but in your case, I think they’ll make an exception.”
More importantly, aside from it making more sense for Tim to be younger, and allowing him to be a surrogate for the other 9 year olds watching the movie, in switching the ages of Lex and Tim, Spielberg fleshed out the character of Lex considerably for film in contrast to her literary counterpart. Lex, in the movie is a computer nerd, or as she likes to call herself a “hacker”. Now, there is a huge push to get girls into careers in science and technology. In 1993, however, audiences saw something bold in Lex being a computer expert. Moreover, while one sibling may be younger, neither are played as subservient to the other.
As Sonya Bell noted in “Clever Girls: Is Jurassic Park More Feminist then it’s sequel Jurassic World” for the National Post
“The movie’s younger stars, Lex and her brother Tim, are similarly portrayed as each other’s equal. Each has an area of expertise that proves critical to surviving the park — Lex knows computers and Tim knows dinosaurs. Over the course of the film, both show fear, and both show courage…Jurassic Park broke box office records, becoming the top grossing movie the world had ever seen, with smart, strong female leads whose role and contribution were equal to their male counterparts. ”
Granted, it could be argued, that the role of Lex is actually greater than Tim. Tim. While Grant and Tim may know a lot about dinosaurs, they tend to spend most of their time running, and in the case of Tim, getting stuck in a tree, and getting tried by an electric fence .In fact Tim tends to be the one in more distress then Lex. Actress Ariana Richards, who played Lex in the movie, said in an interview with Moviephone for Jurassic Park’s 20th Anniversary when asked about the notoriety she received by being immortalized in a classic film, and if she has a problem watching it,
“I don’t have a problem watching it. It just brings back neat memories when I see it every so often. It’s true, age 12 to 13 is an interesting age to be immortalized in. But it’s also kind of fun. It’s kind of in between childhood and adulthood. It was neat that Steven gave me an interesting role, where even at that young age it can be kind of awkward for a girl. It was a really powerful role for a girl, where I got to save the day and have all this knowledge about computers.”
Most refreshingly , unlike in the book, Lex is not the most obnoxious, insufferable child on the face of the planet. The original novel sees her moping about being bored, at a park with real live dinosaurs none-the-less, complaining or whining or asking to be carried, and saying hurtful things to her brother, including telling him he isn’t their father’s favorite. Further, in some of the more intense moments during their journey, she does all she can to draw attention to herself, Grant and Tim.
Spielberg made her into a girl audiences could care about. It was a change that Ariana Richards, and the fans of the movie liked. As Richards said in the Moviephone interview,
“ I had read the book and I was aware of that when I saw the script and the changes there, which I was happy to see. I didn’t have to play some spoiled little brat sister who was just kind of annoying. It added some meat to my character.”
To many book purists any change from a source material for a film adaptation is seen as blasphemy in a film. However this is one of the instances where the change made the movie better. As Ryan Vlastelica noted in the article “In Jurassic Park, Spielberg Made a Family Favorite From An Adult Book” that looked back at the differences between the book and the film and what made them both successful, prior to the release of Jurassic World,
“These are small changes, amounting to very minor subplots, but it’s no coincidence that they appear in Spielberg’s version, where they contribute a warmth that isn’t in the book at all. Even the grandkids are portrayed as coldly in the book, to the point where if movie-Grant met those versions, he would not have undergone his emotional evolution and would have been justified in feeding them to the raptors….in the movie the kids are likable and mature for their ages…Movie-Lex is a surrogate for the target audience, so she’s not insufferable.”
Like her brother does towards her, while she may love him, she can’t help but tease him from time to time. When he’s reluctant to go up in the tree after getting stuck in the last one, she mocks him and points out that they don’t bother her. Later, when climbing the electric fence she challenges him to see who can get higher up the fence faster, offering Tim nothing but respect which he accepts. However, when he is electrocuted when the fence turns back on she is frantic and nearly devastated and once they are back at the compound does her best to take care of him.
We also see that while Grant is a hero and father figure to Tim, Lex by being harbors a bit of a crush towards the rugged outdoorsman. When she sees him she blushes a little and plays with her pony tail, in the same way any teenage girl would in meeting any older celebrity. Grant is oblivious to it, while Ellie finds it hilarious. Later, as the story progresses between the father that is leaving their mother, the lawyer who left them to become dino kibble, and the grandfather who sent them out in an untested park filled with dangerous animals, she comes to see Grant as a reliable father figure for her, as she is the one to first snuggle up to him in the tree, and trusts any advice he gives during their trek through the island.
However, one problem that often befell the of Jurassic sequels in their depictions of children was falling in the trap of making them hyper-competent. In the Lost World, Malcolm’s daughter is able to kick a velociraptor using her gymnastics skills, while more incredulously, Eric Kirby in Jurassic Park III is able to survive on Site B with no supplies or survival skills of his own, and somehow even managed to extract T-Rex pee. The same thing happens with Tim in the book, where he is able to not only fight and kill some of the dinosaurs, but is single handedly able to turn the Park back on.
Contrast this to the first Jurassic Park movie. Much like how Zach in Jurassic World is able to hotwire an old 1992 Jeep Wrangler for he and his brother to get away, and Grey outsmart a Raptor by startling it with a hologram of a dilopasaurus, Tim and Lex put their separate skills to use and end up being very helpful.
For Tim, we see in the deleted scenes from the movie that he was able to find the gizzard stones that the triceratops had been ingesting that Ellie was able to deduce poisoned the creature. He also noted that the gallimimus was flocking in the direction of him, Grant and Lex which allowed them to escape fast enough to get into hiding before the T-rex came to eat the leaping dinosaurs. Later back at the compound Lex’s skill as a “computer hacker” are put to good use as she turns the entire system back on in the park.
Due to the fact she is younger then the adults, she is naturally more skilled with computers and newer technology . She has the time and patience to work with the, in ways the adult professionals don’t. Grant disdains them and sees them as replacing his work as a digger, where as Lex is as comfortable with the computer mainframe as Grant and Ellie are with picks and shovels. It can even be assumed that Malcolm in his work uses computers, but mainly as a tool.
Lex on the other hand can navigate the entire park’s computer mainframe. As she says in the movie,
“This is a Unix system. I know this. It’s the files for the whole park. It’s like a phone book – -it tells you everything…I’ve got to find the right file. Oh no, this isn’t right. This might be right, no this isn’t it…There it is, I got it! This is it, I did it. Yes, yes!…Phone security systems, everything works. You ask for it, we got it!”
While certainly capable, Tim and Lex don’t come across as uber competent in the ways that Kelly or Eric did. As children they need Grant, Malcolm, and Ellie to protect them. However in the end, even the grown-ups are powerless to help them when they are out of weapons and options and surrounded by raptors. It’s only an unlikely ally that is able to create enough of a diversion for Tim and Lex to escape to the waiting jeep and back to the main land.
Finally, after their long and arduous journey the two are able to rest somewhat comfortably with Dr. Grant on their ride back. In the book we see that during their debriefing that the two were enjoying themselves at the pool. Further, the adults had to stay in Costa Rica for a while during the debriefing in order to secure their silence while they were free to go. After all a kid isn’t really going to be blowing open some major secrets for a major genetics corporation, at least not back in the late early 1990s with no internet or social media in existence.
Overall, at the end of their ordeal Tim and Lex seem much closer to each other than before. We see the same thing occur with Zack and Grey in Jurassic World. The shared experience of surviving the dinosaur attack, and more importantly nearly losing the other causes them to value their siblings more. After protecting and helping each other they can’t help but grow closer.
The next time we see Tim and Lex in The Lost World, they are much older, and seem to be in a good place in their lives. They still love their ailing grandfather as is evident by their presence in his home. With their cousin seeking to take control, we can gather that aside from being too young to do anything, they don’t care much about taking over InGen. With al these strangers coming in and out picking on the corpse of their grandfather’s company, it is no wonder they are so delighted to see Malcolm again.
We don’t see much else from them, but the original script for The Lost World, audiences were supposed to see them again during Hammond’s funeral. Malcolm was in attendance and offered the two teenagers his most sincere condolences at the loss of their grandfather. He might have disagreed with what old billionaire did, but it didn’t change the fact that the kids loved him, and despite his mistakes, Hammond clearly loved and doted on them
They reveal to him that the two have been talking about the gag order put on the survivors of the incident at Jurassic Park. Lex tells him,
“We were going to call you, in a few days. Tim and I have been thinking, and we’ve decided we want people to know about the island. About what we all saw.”
For unknown reasons these scenes with them were cut, leaving their future with InGen and what they would want for their grandfather’s legacy in question. Prior to Jurassic World there was even a series of comic books entitled Jurassic Park Redemption which not only saw Lex inherit InGen, but she and her brother reopened the Park, and even rebranded the company with the unfortunate name of “Lexxcorps”. As “cool” as it may seem, after everything they both went through, and even what is established in the deleted and unused material for The Lost World movie, there was no way that Tim or Lex would have gone such a path. They had learned from their grandfather’s mistakes and would have wanted nothing to do with the Park and would have followed his actual dying wish to leave the dinosaurs alone and let them live their lives out in a natural way.
While their future after the events of the first two films may be certain, one thing is for certain when it comes down to the kids of the Jurassic Park series. Like his predictions with the Park itself, Malcolm was right. As he told Grant.
“Ah, I love kids. Everything can and will happen.”
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1993 Amblin Entertainment/Universal Studios