Thursday, May 14, 2009

Character Profile: Dr. Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park

In a movie with transcendent dino stars, Jeff Goldblum found a way to outdo them all. How did he do this? One by a being a terrific actor, two by getting to play the best character of all time, Dr. Ian Malcolm.

For all you out there who spend the entirety of Jurassic Park ogling at T-Rex and Velociraptors going "wow" and "neat," you probably can't remember a single line he said. And granted, I saw it about 150 times before I did either... but eventually I dug deeper.

And if you dig deeper, if you actually listen to what is going on, you will find the deepest proddings of the world's psyche ever to hit the big screen. And what is the purpose behind that deepest prodding? It is to massage out the potential results of unconsidered biological tinkering, just like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I am not lying. Let us dig deeper together:

First of all, everyone's memory needs to be jogged with an image of Ian Malcolm, the man himself, the muse that brings the philosophies to light:

That aught to do the trick. So...

Who is Ian Malcolm?
Physically, as you can see, he is tall, lean, and about 35 years old. He is a mathematician that specializes in chaos theory, and he is also the namesake of the fictional Malcolm Effect(which describes the catastrophic rapid failing of a solar system).

Anyways, Malcolm predicts from the very beginning of Jurassic Park that the park will fail. His reasoning behind this prediction is that complex systems cannot be controlled. One example he uses is weather forecasting which is performed by computer programs.

Believe it or not, his theory is proved correct. The dinosaur population of Jurassic Park was designed to be controlled by having all the dinosaurs be genetically engineered to be female. Thus, no breeding possible. And no breeding is good breeding, because otherwise all hell would break loose. However, during the film, Dr. Alan Grant discovers the nest of a Velociraptor filled with hatched eggs. As said by Malcolm, life finds a way. Don't try to control it. His theory is proven further in the eventual escape of every dinosaur in the park.

Now that you've got a general idea of who he is, we'll get to the funnest part. Exploring his wonderful character through the things he says:

"All the money spent on long-range forecasting - about half a billion dollars in the last few decades - is money wasted. It's a fool's errand. It's as pointless as trying to turn lead into gold."
Dr. Ian Malcolm: "God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs, God creates man, Man destroys God, Man creates dinosaurs."
Dr. Ellie Satler: "Dinosaurs eat man, Woman inherits the Earth"
God: Lol. They got it right except the last part.
"What is so great about discovery? It is a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world."
"The lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here uh... staggers me."
Dr. Alan Grant: "You married?"
Dr. Ian Malcolm: "Occasionally. I'm always on the lookout for the future ex-Mrs. Malcolm."
God: Malcolm lives his life like is work: erratically. Maybe that's what we are all designed to do, and any constancy we experience is just a conscious effort to resist the chaos that rules us.
Henry Wu: "You're implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will... breed?"
Dr. Ian Malcolm: "No, I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way."
"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."
God: Science is such a new power that sometimes we achieve all we can before thinking about the repercussions.

"I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here: it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you even knew what you had you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you're selling it, you want to sell it!"
God: This is reality before us.
"God help us, we're in the hands of engineers."
"Boy, do I hate being right all the time!"
God: He says this upon realizing the park is out of control.
"There's, another example. See, here I'm now sitting by myself, uh, er, talking to myself. That's, that's chaos."
"Don't you see the danger, John, inherent in what you're doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet's ever witnessed, yet you wield it like a kid that's found his dad's gun."
God: Hey, you folks in the labs out there. Don't take the power you have for less than it really is.
"If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, expands to new territory, and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously."
God: That is the beautiful power of the world: there is no permanent containment.

God: Bow to the awesome power.

More than anything, Ian Malcolm challenges us to think. He challenges us to resist the initial lust of discovery in favor of the more cautious approach. Why be cautious? Because anything can and will happen, when given the ingredients.

Just like when you get a bowl, put in some Jeff Goldblum, a pinch of chaos, and a dollop of butter, only to mix it all up. Then you wind up with this on your bathroom wall:


  1. you will enjoy the book i am writing, and as a side note, my honor's thesis which is a part of my book was originally called "order and chaos"== now i call it the spectrum of language... i very much believe in the things said by goldblum but i do not imitate, they are my beliefs and my alone although i speak them as if are the universal sense

  2. Gotta say, I was one of the few who spent most of the first two movies ogling Dr. Malcolm. Been a bit of a life-long attachment. ;)