Is Simon Masrani a Hero or a Corporate Villain?
At the heart of every Jurassic Park movie, there’s a businessman with big plans and deep pockets. In the original 1993 film, audiences were introduced to John Hammond, the venture capitalist who kickstarted the whole franchise with a prehistoric mosquito. In The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Hammond was replaced by his nephew, Peter Ludlow, and in Jurassic Park III (2001), the character was subverted when we discovered Paul Kirby was only pretending to be a millionaire.
Fast forward to 2015, and the big man on campus is Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), a CEO with more moxie than common sense. According to Masrani Global, a viral site launched by Universal Pictures, the Indian earned his fortune in oil and telecommunications before purchasing InGen in 1998 and opening Jurassic World in 2005. But while his back story was carefully laid out online, his actual character made absolutely no sense onscreen.
Throughout the film, Masrani alternates from hero to corporate villain without any real explanation as to why. When we first meet the eccentric entrepreneur, Masrani is portrayed as a wide-eyed dreamer who only cares about spreading happiness. As actor Irrfan Khan explained, Masrani “has a unique sense of morality….He nurtured John Hammond’s dream and truly wants to educate the common man through entertainment.”
In addition to his love for humanity, Masrani genuinely cares about the dinosaurs’ wellbeing. While hovering above the park in his helicopter, Simon asks Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) if the animals are happy. “You can see it [happiness] in their eyes,” he says, clearly indicating a compassionate nature. Well, that is until the screenwriters decided to transform Masrani into your stereotypical big business baddie.
When the Indominus rex, the horrifying hybrid created by Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong), breaks out of its enclosure, Masrani chucks all his idealistic principles right out the window. Instead of sending rangers to kill the I. rex (like any responsible zoo CEO would do), Masrani decides to capture it alive. Of course, it’s important to note Masrani isn’t concerned for the animal’s wellbeing. He just doesn’t want all the money he put into this genetic monstrosity to go to waste.
Perhaps even more perplexing, Masrani refuses to evacuate the park. Instead, he tries to keep the breakout quiet, fearing the incident might cause Jurassic World to shut down forever. How does all this mesh with the man we met earlier in the film? The guy who seemed genuinely concerned about humans and animals alike? Maybe these are Masrani’s true colors. Perhaps the whole “kind and caring” bit was just an act, and he’s really your run-of-the-mill white collar cutthroat.
That would make sense…if Masrani didn’t inexplicably become a good guy again. As ScreenCrush writer Matt Singer points out, the Jurassic World CEO pressured Henry Wu into creating something big and cool, and when things go wrong, he suddenly starts to “scold the scientist who engineered it [Indominus rex] for doing exactly what he was paid to do.”
Even worse, Masrani suddenly morphs into Rambo and tries to kill the I. rex himself. Ignoring all of his own orders, the CEO loads a mini-gun into his private helicopter and flies into the jungle, hoping to take out the monster. Amazingly, over the course of the film, Masrani has gone from hero to villain back to hero again, without any explanations as to why. Is he worried about protecting human life? Or is this all some sort of PR move? We don’t know because the screenwriters present us with a kindhearted Jekyll and a nasty Hyde and never bother to explain which one is the true Masrani.
To further drive the point home, let’s look at the first two Jurassic Park films. (We’re ignoring Jurassic Park III since Kirby was a bait-and-switch character). In the first movie, John Hammond is clearly the romantic visionary who wants to bring joy to the world. While his decisions are questionable, at least we know his heart is in the right place. But over the course of the film, we slowly see John Hammond change. As his friends and employees are killed off, we see him reject his own creation—like a Scottish Dr. Frankenstein—and accept that he’s made a terrible mistake.
In The Lost World, Paul Ludlow is the unscrupulous villain who has more in common with Gordon Gekko than his dear old uncle, Hammond. Even though the first Jurassic Park was a disastrous failure, he still wants to open a second attraction in California, potentially putting thousands of lives at risk. Right off the bat, we know this a man who cares about one thing and one thing only: raking in the dough. While he’s something of a cardboard cutout as far as characterization goes, at least we understand what’s driving the man. When he decides to bring a T. rex to San Diego., we aren’t at all surprised.
Masrani, on the other hand, is a bizarre mash-up between Hammond and Ludlow. He’s a dreamer and a schemer, a guy who comes off as a slimy cynic one moment and a conscientious conservationist the next. We never see the character grow or understand why he makes such schizophrenic decisions. Basically, Masrani is like the Indominus rex, a hodgepodge of crazy character traits that conveniently come and go whenever the screenwriters need to move the story forward.