Jurassic Park

Inciting Event: John Hammond, owner of Jurassic Park, invites paleontologists Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler to preview and endorse his mysterious new theme park. This movie is one of the cleverer in its use of prologue hooks (which I generally dislike). We don’t meet the main characters until after two prologue scenes (count ‘em, two!). But it works well, both because the initial hook with the mystery monster is so gripping, and because the follow-up scene with the (blood-sucking) lawyer does a good job grounding the science and increasing the mystery. By the time we finally meet Alan and Ellie, the story can slow down for a character-centric intro.

First Plot Point: After arriving at the park, Alan and Ellie (and chaotician Ian Malcolm) see the live dinosaurs for the first time and are overwhelmed. I have to admit: I love this scene so much. The brilliance of this first installment in the series is how dazzlingly honest it is in its sense of wonder. At its core, this is a horror story, but its entire first half is spent exploring the beauty and awe of what it would be like to truly experience the resurrection of such monumental creatures. Backed by one of John Williams’s best themes, this is a stellar First Plot Point illustrating the characters’ irreversible departure from the world as they knew it.

First Pinch Point: While the scientists and Hammond’s grandchildren are out on their unsuccessful tour of the park, Hammond and his crew realize that the approaching tropical storm is worsening. This forces them to cancel the tour and recall the Jeeps. Not only does this amp up the sense of coming disaster (caused in no small part by the storm), it is also a turning point, in that it separates Ellie (who stays behind to help with the stick triceratops) from the others. This sets up the Midpoint.

Midpoint: Hammond’s disgruntled computer tech Nedry shuts down the park’s security and power systems, so he can steal dinosaur embryos for a rival company. As a result, the T-Rex escapes and attacks the stalled Jeeps in which Alan, Ian, and the kids are waiting. Gotta admit it: I love this scene too. When I think of Midpoints, this is the momma! It’s a tremendously memorable centerpiece that pays off the patient set-up of the first half in spades! It forces Alan and the other characters out of their quiet, reactive concern about the park and into full-blown action as they struggle to save their lives.

Second Pinch Point: Nedry experiences death by spitting dinosaur. In itself, this almost an inconsequential scene, since Nedry is really just a subplot. But it’s the significant turning point in the Second Half of the Second Act because, as Hammond’s other employee Mr. Arnold points out, “I can’t get Jurassic Park back online without Dennis Nedry.” With Nedry’s demise, there is no hope of the characters regaining control over the dinosaurs. The fact that he dies gruesomely is also a generally nice emphasis of the danger everyone else is in.

Third Plot Point: Ellie turns the power—and the electric fences—back on, not knowing that Alan and the kids are climbing the perimeter fence. Timmy gets electrocuted and is only saved from death by Alan’s mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Meanwhile, Ellie is attacked by the raptors who have infiltrated the power shed—and she discovers that Mr. Arnold has already been eaten. Muldoon the gamekeeper also gets eaten in this segment. Ellie’s seeming victory of turning the power back on is quickly overturned as the intelligent raptors take over—and people die (and almost die) all over the place.

Climax: Alan and Ellie rescue the kids from the raptors in the kitchen. Then they all barricade themselves inside the control room—only to be attacked by the raptors.

Climactic Moment: Just as the raptors are about to kill everyone, the T-Rex bursts into the lobby and eats the raptors. Everyone escapes in the chaos.

Resolution: Everyone flies home in the chopper, and the previously kid-phobic Alan holds the children while they sleep.

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