WHEN: 8:40pm EST, July 26th, 2013
WHERE: My parents’ house in western Maine
FORMAT: Digital download on my iPhone 3
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Full. A little sleepy.
A BOAT AND A STORM:
Everyone knows that the storm is a pivotal plot point in Jurassic Park. It causes the island to be evacuated, leaving the tour group alone in the dark with the T-Rex. Or does it? Before I started watching Jurassic Park once a week, I certainly would have thought so. Evidence within the film, however, would indicate that the storm does very little to advance the plot. Today, I will attempt to show how the storm, while great for visual effect, has nothing to do with the island’s evacuation.
Alright, lets take a look at the key moments when the evacuation of the staff and the storm are mentioned in dialogue. If we approach this beat by beat, we can establish what the storm affects, and what it does not, over the course of Jurassic Park.
“That’s up to your guy on the boat.” – Dennis Nedry
From Nedry’s comment to Dodgson, we know that the boat had a scheduled departure time at least a day in advance.
“A reminder: the boat for the mainland will be leaving at nineteen-hundred hours. All personnel be at the dock no later than eighteen-forty-five. No exceptions.” – Ray Arnold, over the P.A.
Since this line is in the background, it can be easy to miss, but it’s essential. Arnold is reminding the employees of a previous plan to get them off the island. This pertains to “all personnel” and there are “no exceptions.” Unless they knew about the storm prior to this point (which we will soon see was not the case), this does not sound like a weather-related evacuation.
“Perfect timing. I’d hoped they’d hatch before I had to go to the boat.” – Henry Wu
Another confirmation that there is a plan in place to remove essential staff from the island. Wu’s casual approach to the topic seems to indicate that this isn’t a new development.
“The national weather service is tracking a tropical storm, about 75 miles west of us.”
“Aye, aye aye, why didn’t I build in Orlando?”
“I’ll keep an eye on it, maybe it’ll swing south like the last one.” - Robert Muldoon and John Hammond
This exchange is crucial. Muldoon is reporting the storm’s presence to Hammond for the first time. The phrasing implies that this is new news, and that they have not previously discussed the possibility of a storm hitting Jurassic Park that day. As this takes place after Arnold’s announcement, I would say that it clearly rules out the idea that the island is being evacuated because of the storm. Furthermore, at this point they are still holding out hope that the storm will pass them by entirely.
“That storm center hasn’t dissipated or changed course, we’re gonna have to cut the tour short, I’m afraid. Pick it up again tomorrow where we left off.”
“Are you sure we have to?”
“It’s not worth taking the chance, John”
“Tell them when they get back in the cars.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, last shuttle leaving for the dock leaves in approximately five minutes, drop what you’re doing and leave now.” – Robert Muldoon, John Hammond, and Ray Arnold
This is the first time JP management realizes they have to take action regarding the storm. They decide to delay the rest of the tour till morning (nobody wants to see wet dinosaurs). Arnold’s announcement is a reminder to speed up the previously scheduled boat loading, not a new notice to evacuate. Confusion on this point is understandable, given his urgent tone, but it seems clear that he is giving a last call to get to the boat, not a first call to evacuate.
“There’s nothing I can do. The captain says we gotta go, we gotta go.” – Dodgson’s Guy on the Boat
Finally we have it from Dodgson’s agent on the boat, that the captain wants to up the departure time slightly. This causes Nedry to rush his theft, and ultimately get lost in the wrong neck of the park.
Given the above pieces of dialogue and their placement within the film, we can come to three conclusions:
The storm did not cause the island to be evacuated. The boat was taking all personnel off the island before Hammond and crew ever heard about the storm. Why they were being removed is anybody’s guess. You can see my further thoughts on the boat conundrum here.
The storm caused the tour to be delayed. This is fairly important, as it places the vehicles in front of the T-Rex paddock when Nedry’s program turns off the power. If they hadn’t turned around, they might have been stuck in front of some nice non-people-eating dinosaurs.
The storm causes Nedry to rush. This leads to his sloppy driving, and eventually to his untimely demise.