The Eerie Similarities Between Jurassic World and Die Hard

By  · Published on June 18th, 2015

Universal Pictures/20th Century Fox

Why is Jurassic World set at Christmastime, anyway? It’s a question I was asking myself through the entire movie. After introducing a baby Indominus Rex, the movie abruptly bites down on a chunk of Christmas cheer- snow on the ground. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” piping in from the car stereo. And then the movie never references anything Christmasy, ever again.

As far as I can tell, there are only two possible reasons. One, it’s an easy excuse to send two young boys away on a Christmas vacation to a dinosaur theme park. Although what family plans a kids-only vacation during Christmastime, really? Even if Mom and Dad are getting a divorce, I assume they’d still want to spend the holidays with their kids.

So we’re left with one other option: the Christmas thing is but a small facet in Jurassic World’s complex, overarching homage to Die Hard.

I’ll admit, it sounds a little suspect. So here’s what we’ll do. I’ll lay out all my evidence of how Jurassic World borrows liberally from John McTiernan’s action movie masterpiece, and you be the judge. Although I’m pretty sure they’re basically the same thing.

The Entire First Act

Starting with the Christmas thing, both movies follow the same general narrative for a good half-hour. Our heroes (John McClane, or Zach/Gray) take a plane trip to spend their Christmas in a much sunnier clime, and they’re met in the airport by a chauffeur holding one of those placards with your name on it. But when they catch up with the lady they’re here to see (ex-wife Holly, aunt Claire), she wants nothing to do with them.

So our heroes just kinda wander off. And because they’re not where they’re supposed to be, they get a unique vantage point for when shit goes down- away from the chaos, but in a uniquely intimate position with the ringleader. Be he a German mastermind or a 40 ft man-eating lizard.

Also, Holly and Claire are both fairly high-ranking employees at an enormous foreign-owned company. That’ll be important later.

A Schlubby Sidekick Who Loves Junk Food

Die Hard has Sgt. Al Powell, and Jurassic World has Lowery Cruthers. Even if Lowery pales in comparison as a character, and also as a name (I get that he’s supposed to be a hipster, but ‘Lowery?’). Both guys are sidelined for the entire movie, but that’s probably in our best interest- everyone else on the sidelines is at best, incompetent (and at worst, a dangerous asshole). Except for Al and Lowery. They’re actually supportive, and willing to stick it out alongside the protagonists.

And as far as looks go, they’re the polar opposite of somebody like Chris Pratt or Bruce Willis. One doofy mustache per man, along with a hankering for junk food. Twinkies for Al, Jurassic World soda for Lowery.

“No More Taaaable!”

This one’s pretty blatant. McClane’s being chased by a nondescript terrorist (Marco, I think). He dives under a table, crawling backwards on his back as Marco stomps after him up top, firing into the table and missing by inches each time.

Once the raptors switch teams in Jurassic World, we get the exact same action beat, with Omar Sy’s Barry as McClane, a Velociraptor as Marco and a log for a table. The staging’s the same, with raptor claw-holes instead of bullet holes (and thin beams of light pouring through every time). Barry even strikes the exact same pose as McClane- on his back, gun hugged against his chest, pointing upward.

Although Barry gets a reprieve that McClane doesn’t, and avoids having to shoot a Velociraptor in the gonads 16 times.

The Cops Send In a SWAT Team… And Then a Helicopter

When shit starts to get real, the local authorities are called in to sort things out. In Die Hard, it’s a quartet of SWAT guys (“not a creature was stirring… except the four assholes coming in the rear in standard 2×2 cover formation”). In Jurassic World, it’s a couple golf carts’ worth of the park’s finest security.

Both teams are doomed from the start, because the villains know they’re coming. The bad guys take cover (behind counters, or just turning on some dino-camo and standing behind a tree), then casually massacre the entire group without breaking a sweat. McClane and Owen are given a vantage point but no way to intervene, so all they can do is watch people die and yell things in frustration.

The good guys try beefing up the stakes with a helicopter assault, but the villains blow ’em out of the sky, just as before.

Here Come The Feds

When the local cops/security fail, they’re forced to cede control to a larger, more well-equipped and generally more dickish security force. In Die Hard’s case, the FBI, and InGen for Jurassic World. Of course, the new outfit fares just as crappily as the old one. And it’s at this point that our man on the ground- Al, or Lowery- goes from being an active participant to a fox in the henhouse, only able to help out on the sly.

I was also so sure that one of the feds thoughtlessly snatched a Twinkie out of Al’s hand (the way Hoskins drinks Lowery’s soda), but apparently that scene only exists in my mind.

“Hans, Bubbe… I’m Your White Knight”

That one smarmy asshole that keeps insisting he understands the murderers/dinosaurs on their level? He will attempt to prove that. And he will die horribly. Granted, Ellis’s death is drawn out for a few minutes longer than Hoskins’s (and Hoskins clearly realizes that if he can’t buddy up with Delta, she will eat him- Ellis is sweaty, yet mostly oblivious). But the idea’s the same. A wormy character with a massively inflated sense of self tries to ally himself with something far nastier, and takes a bullet- or a raptor- to the face.

The Hero’s Journey, Through a Grimy Undershirt

One of the neatest parts of Die Hard is how John McClane visually degrades throughout the movie. He starts out in real people clothes (a coat over a plaid shirt), but strips down to an undershirt early on. Every grievous bodily injury or trip through a dirty air duct stains the shirt a little darker, until McClane’s formerly white wife-beater is a healthy mud-brown. Eventually he just goes shirtless.

Claire can’t go shirtless for obvious reasons, but she goes through McClane’s visual journey just the same. Her ensemble begins as a crisp white, but Claire sheds her outer layers (and smears grime on the inner ones) until she’s reduced to a single, unclean undershirt. Visual proof of how much crap you have to wade through to come out the hero in an action movie.

The Villain Is Much Less Complicated Than You Think

Both films paint their villains with a kind of lofty intellectualism. Look at Hans Gruber’s wry German wit and his deep-seated radical politics! Look at Wu and his Indominus Rex, and how they comment on society’s constant desire for grander, flashier entertainment!

Until the moment when each film yanks back the curtain, revealing the villain’s motivation to be basic human greed. Hans is just a high-concept crook, and for all the intellectual galavanting about the Indominus Rex, Wu only engineered it so he could make a fortune selling the thing to some PMC. Kind of an Occam’s Razor deal. Out of all the complicated, intellectually stimulating reasons someone would take a building hostage or build a patchwork dinosaur, the real motivation is stupidly uncomplicated.

The Old-Fashioned American Triumphs Over Scary Foreign Technology

John McClane and Owen Grady serve the same purpose. They’re cowboys; Americans left over from a simpler, more gung-ho time, and they’re trapped in a techno-centric future they don’t trust or understand. Like how John McClane fumbles with the touchscreen in the Nakatomi Plaza lobby, or how he can’t stomach airplane travel (Jurassic Park pulled the same move- remember how Alan Grant couldn’t touch the fossil dig computer without sending it into static convulsions?). Owen’s mistrusts aren’t quite as subtle. He questions the ideas of dino-engineering or militarized dinosaurs, out loud and often

And when technology collapses, it’s the old-fashioned guy who’s uniquely equipped to save the day while modern authorities fumble around and make things worse.

Adding to that sense of “America, Fuck Yeah!,” the tech companies that control the future are always foreign-owned. Nakatomi Corporation is Japanese while Masrani Global is Indian (well, “Global,” probably. But Masrani himself is what counts here). America’s lost its grip on industry, and other countries have snapped it up.

Not that either film outright states that foreign influence is evil, per se. But both give their wise foreign CEOs an ironic dose of naiveté. Neither guy has the slightest sense of self-preservation- Masrani’s all chuckles just before his chopper goes down, and Takagi’s last words are a sarcastic “I’m telling you, you’re just going to have to kill me.” A flag-waving, eagle-saluting American wouldn’t be nearly so flippant.

An Ending Straight Out of a Cowboy Movie

Die Hard’s ending boils the conflict down to its simplest form. John McClane is the cowboy. Hans Gruber is the crook pointing a gun at his best gal. McClane draws quick, and Hans goes tumbling off the tower (there’s also that other guy. He gets shot too).

Jurassic World ends in the very same manner. Here’s Colin Trevorrow, to tell you more (via Empire): “We have this High Noon/ Western shot looking over the hip of the T-Rex down at the other gunslinger and when we take her down pretty fast and suddenly she’s on the ropes and you’re like, ‘Get up, Rocky. Get up.’ “

Ignore the Rocky reference, valid as it may be. The ending of Jurassic World is a wild west shootout. Just like Die Hard. And besides, if Jurassic World can openly ape Rocky (and Aliens, too- first person night vision footage of InGen troops being munched in total chaos), I have no problem believing that a dozen or so Die Hard homages also crept their way in there.