At first glance, the new Jurassic Park franchise sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom might not seem to have a lot in common with Rampage, the April 2018 feature adaptation of the arcade and console game about monsters smashing buildings. Fallen Kingdom features protagonists trying to rescue the revived dinosaurs of Jurassic World, now trapped on the volcanic island that used to be a theme park. Rampage features mutated animals flattening buildings across the United States, on their way to a rendezvous in Chicago.
But the structure of the two movies feels remarkably similar. And the main reason for that is that they essentially have the same vaguely hand-waved morals about corporate overreach and the dangers of playing God with DNA. They’re both action movies that rely heavily on big, flashy sequences of CGI creatures wreaking havoc. And above all, they have the exact same cast of characters, going through only slightly different motions. Here’s a quick rundown.
- Rampage’s protagonist is Davis Okoye, played by Dwayne Johnson. Fallen Kingdom’s protagonist is Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt. Both characters are big, muscly men who lean heavily on boyish, disarming charisma. They’re both military veterans (Davis was in the US Army Special Forces, Owen in the Navy) who went into the sciences after their service — Davis as a primatologist, Owen as an animal behaviorist. Both men have a close personal connection to an animal they raised — Davis with the albino ape George, Owen with the velociraptor Blue. In both films, they’re drawn into action by a threat to that animal’s life, which quickly turns into a threat that the animal will kill other humans, and be killed in return.
- In both movies, the female lead is a former employee of a company responsible for creating the movie’s primary threat. Fallen Kingdom’s Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) used to run Jurassic World, the park engineering the dinosaurs from recovered DNA at the behest of InGen. Rampage’s Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) was a genetic engineer at Energyne, the company responsible for working on the weaponized CRISPR gas that mutates George and other animals into giant raging monsters. Both women have repented their past work and have dedicated their lives to fixing the problems they helped cause when they were working for inimical, overreaching corporations. Both are also smart, decisive, bossy, and prone to spouting useful information in a crisis. And both are nominal love interests, though neither film is heavily invested in romance.
- Both movies turn their animal companions into threats without losing sight of them as characters. Blue and George are both extremely dangerous and unpredictable, but they also both recognize the men who raised them, and they both save the protagonist at various points by aggressively attacking other creatures who threaten him. They’re both curious, intelligent, and designed to raise the audience’s sympathies. George has a more off-color sense of humor, and Blue is a little more skittish, but they both serve the same story functions.
These are all big, familiar action-movie archetypes, and they crop up in other films as well. But the parallels go much deeper.
- Both films feature a pair of colluding corporate schemers who want to weaponize DNA by selling designer monsters to the highest bidder. The villains are a little different in style. Rampage’s Energyne is owned by a pair of billionaire siblings: a gleeful mustache-twirling mastermind (Malin Åkerman), and a cringing, whiny lackey (Jake Lacy). Fallen Kingdom, on the other hand, has two equally ruthless partners (Rafe Spall and Toby Jones), who don’t own InGen, they’re just suborning its projects. This does give the two films slightly different feels when the villains are on screen: Rampage gets a lot of campy humor out of Åkerman’s strutting and villain-monologuing, while Spall plays his nice-guy false front as long as he can, and Jones just glowers dramatically. But the characters’ schemes are essentially the same. They’re all driven so completely by profits that it hasn’t even occurred to them that it might not be great to live in a world where every warring faction in the world has bought a handful of giant, nearly indestructible killer monsters.
- Both films feature a Blackwater-esque mercenary hired to manage a military-style commando team meant to bring in the mutated animals so the evil corporation can profit from their harvested DNA. Ted Levine in Fallen Kingdom lasts longer than Joe Manganiello in Rampage, but inevitably, both tough, gruff mercs get eaten by the animals they’re after.
- This is where the similarities start to feel really micro. Both films have a pair of younger assistants who work with the protagonists: a plucky, smart, capable young woman, and a dippy, flailing, whiny young man. Zia (Daniella Pineda) and Franklin (Justice Smith) in Fallen Kingdom get more screen time than Rampage’s Amy (Breanne Hill) and Connor (Jack Quaid), and Franklin gets more of a chance to redeem himself after spending half the film doing what Connor does in his opening scene: shrieking with terror and making a fool out of himself. Zia and Franklin have more professional roles in Fallen Kingdom, and are more important to the plot than Amy and Connor, who are just students working under Davis. But it’s impossible to miss the similar dynamics between the two pairings, and how the male half of the couple is played for disdainful comic relief, while the female half is calm and collected under pressure.
So are Fallen Kingdom and Rampage basically the same movies? Each movie does have minor characters with no significant parallels in the other film, like The Walking Dead’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a swaggering government official in Rampage, or Isabella Sermon as a suffering child in Fallen Kingdom. And the tones are fairly different. Rampage plays like a big, sloppy comedy, a B-movie creature-feature where the filmmakers know everyone’s just there for the action segments, and character development doesn’t much matter. Fallen Kingdom is more ambitious, even if the ambitions don’t always play out. (Sermon’s character, for example, gets all of six seconds for her big end-movie reveal, which is promptly forgotten by everyone but her.) That might be because Rampage can potentially stand on its own, while Fallen Kingdom is meant as a chapter in a clearly ongoing story.
But for all that, the two movies certainly play out similarly, with the quest to rescue the CGI sidekick animal periodically interrupted by the villains’ schemes and betrayals, and the shifting dynamic as the out-of-control monsters end up facing off against the hero monsters. Neither movie does much with its “science will be abused for military purposes and we’re going to be living in a world of lab-grown monstrosities” theme. Fallen Kingdom does push further toward a world where the stereotyped human characters may not matter as much, and the CGI ones may eventually just take over. And the filmmakers certainly took their story much more seriously. That just makes it even funnier that Fallen Kingdom shares so much DNA with a recent movie that was much lighter and sillier. Call it parallel evolution, call it Hollywood’s love of familiar tropes, even call it the kind of corporate piggybacking that leads to waves of similar films hitting theaters on top of each other, as studios try to take advantage of each others’ marketing. No matter how it came about, Rampage and Fallen Kingdom look like they were grown in the same test tube.