Paul-Mikél Williams … Darius Bowman
Created by Nick Jones Jr.
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Review
The Jurassic Park franchise gets the animated treatment in DreamWorks’ Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, a beautifully animated and entertaining — though familiar — romp set during the events of 2015’s Jurassic World that is sure to enthrall dinosaur lovers and fans of the long-running film series. Though, it may be a tad too intense — and predictable — for some. (For the record, my two daughters, ages 5 and 12, loved it!)
By now, you know the Jurassic drill: a group of people head to the tropical shores of Isla Nublar in the hopes of enjoying a relaxing weekend watching T-Rexes and Raptors devour goats and cows and end up running for the hills when the dinos eventually escape and run amok in violent fashion. Except, this time the group consists (mostly) of teenagers led by plucky dinosaur expert Darius Bowman, who wins a ticket to the park via a video game; Brooklynn, a social media star; Kenji Kon, a preppy rich kid; Yaz Fadoula, an athletic girl with trust issues; Sammy Gutierrez, an enthusiastic camper; and Ben Pincus, a quiet, sensitive youth.
Each of these diverse characters brings with them their own distinctive teen problems such as dead parents, bullies, and corporate espionage — you know, the usual coming-of-age stuff — and must learn to work together in order to escape the horrifying beasts chasing them all over an island that should have been nuked years ago.
That’s the gist of it.
The new chapter to the Jurassic Park franchise stays true to its origins and offers plenty of PG-13-style violence and genuine scares without ever going too over-the-top — read: people die in Camp Cretaceous, just not on camera. And while it never feels like our young heroes are ever in too much danger, the show teeters pretty damned close to the edge in terms of kids-in-peril action.
There’s a lot to admire here from the colorful animation and beautifully rendered dinosaurs to the plucky characters and terrific action beats. High points include a splendid sequence featuring those ridiculous gyrospheres introduced in Jurassic World, as well as a tense set piece inside the Mosasaurus exhibit and a wild, violent, even fiery finale involving the show’s resident villain, the Carnotaurus. Plus, it was cool to witness the events of Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World from a different perspective and gain a little more insight into the mind of Dr. Frankenstein wannabe Dr. Henry Wu, a minor character in the original film who has somehow evolved into the series’ main antagonist.
The only downside to Camp Cretaceous is that we’ve seen this song and dance nearly a half-dozen times by now dating back to Spielberg’s original classic film and the numerous rip-offs that followed. I’m reminded of Roger Ebert’s review for Jurassic Park in which the late critic praised Spielberg for bringing dinosaurs back to life and simultaneously criticized the man for turning these majestic creatures into little more than violent monsters designed to scare audiences. The same could be said of every Jurassic entry — namely 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park, 2001’s Jurassic Park III, the aforementioned Jurassic World, and its sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom — and will just as likely apply to Trevorrow’s upcoming threequel, Jurassic World: Dominion.
The point being, isn’t there anything else these dinos can do besides, you know, chase people and smash into things? Like the Alien franchise, the Jurassic series can’t muster the courage to escape its own formulaic design. And while Camp Cretaceous does eventually chart a path to what will hopefully be more interesting future adventures, the series gets stuck following the same tried-and-true techniques witnessed far too many times before. Camp Cretaceous supplies thrills for younger audiences yearning for CGI dinosaur carnage and even serves as a bit of a nostalgic throwback for fans of the original feature film. But, echoing Ebert’s statements, where’s the wonder? Surely, there’s more to a dinosaur than its rows of razor-sharp teeth; or its proclivity for stalking and hunting its prey? These creatures are endlessly fascinating and Hollywood continues to treat them like slobbering beasts possessing one single motivation: to eat everything in sight.
No matter. As stated, kids will go wild for what is sure to be a long-running Netflix series. This is B-movie, family-friendly popcorn entertainment packed with visual splendor, fun characters, and well-executed stylized action that serves as a nice bit of filler during the long wait for Jurassic World: Dominion.
Consensus: Life still hasn’t found a way to make these dinosaurs truly pop the way they did in 1993, but Camp Cretaceous has more than enough dino-stomping action to warrant another trip back to Jurassic Park.
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous hits Netflix on September 18.