When Michael Crichton first began writing the novel Jurassic Park, he probably knew it would be popular, but it’s hard to imagine even he would have predicted it becoming one of the most well-known and profitable media franchises in the world, rivaling even that of Star Wars and Marvel.
But alas, in the immortal words of Dr. Ian Malcom, life finds a way.
And the life of the Jurassic Park media empire has certainly found its way, all the way up to a continuation of the original films in the form of the massively successful Jurassic World movies, and now with its own animated Netflix series called Camp Cretaceous.
Anticipation for the new series has been through the roof since it was first announced. Not to mention the aggressive marketing campaign for the cartoon, which has seen the release of all-new toys and LEGO sets hitting store shelves months ahead of Camp Cretaceous’ debut.
Artwork of the series featuring the new characters and their designs has been meticulously analyzed by Jurassic Park fans, leading to all sorts of interesting predictions, insights, and fan theories into the direction Camp Cretaceous would take. And finally, the show is here. We can all quit speculating and just watch it for ourselves.
And I’m not gonna lie. Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous let me down more than I expected, but often in ways I didn’t expect. For example, I expected the show would take on a more kiddy appeal due to its cartoony nature and the demographic it’s trying to market itself towards, but I didn’t expect it to look and feel like a Barbie Direct-to-DVD special from the early 2000s (no offense to Barbie Direct-to-DVD specials from the early 2000s, they had their charm).
Despite the disappoint character designs on display in the underwhelming trailers, I always kept an open mind towards Camp Cretaceous. I was hoping it would subvert my expectations and deliver something so immersive with slick production values and modern storytelling that I would forget the less-than-stellar artwork.
Instead, it validated my initial concerns about its tone and took on the worst aspects of modern storytelling.
In a word, the show feels soulless. Primarily due to its shallow cast of characters, that feel like they themselves were created in a lab much like the dinosaurs in the park.
And this is not an issue specific to Camp Cretaceous necessarily. Ever since the third Jurassic Park film, the series has struggled to introduce compelling human characters. None of the new characters brought into the fold over years have held a candle to those found in Michael Crichton’s books.
However, despite their shortcomings, the dull new characters introduced in Jurassic Park III and onwards have been easily overlooked. Why? Because every film from Jurassic Park III onward has been a short two-hours-or-less romp through a dino-filled world where the focus has generally been on the dinosaurs themselves or on suspense-filled action scenes.
The newer films haven’t wasted that much time trying to get us to care about the human characters, instead choosing to use those characters as fodder for the previously mentioned action scenes bursting with dino goodness.
And that’s where Camp Cretaceous really fails. Because not only is its cast of characters blander than a bowl of regular oatmeal, but for some really misguided reason the writers thought it would be a good idea to actually spend most of the time focusing on these characters and trying to get us to care about their plastic-looking early 2000s CGI style faces. Which might have been possible had the writing been any good, but it’s not. This is is basic pre-school levels of writing here. And there is very little dinosaur action sprinkled throughout to make any of it worth sitting through.
Like most Netflix shows, Camp Cretaceous is episodic in nature, with each installment barreling into the next one through hacky cliffhangers. That means you’re expected to endure four hours of a shoddily animated Jurassic World series that is basically a compilation of human characters primarily interacting with each other in decidedly boring environments with nary a dinosaur in sight.
Maybe the producers thought less is more when it came to the Jurassic part of Jurassic World, or the Cretaceous part of Camp Cretaceous; regardless of their creative reasoning, it was a misfire and a giant missed opportunity to go buck wild in an animated world where anything should be possible.
I wasn’t expecting any of the main cast to get eaten alive or anything, but I thought the creative minds behind the show could at least give us some interesting situations filled with some modicum of tension.
But no. It went down the laziest route possible, rendering Camp Cretaceous no more entertaining than a Cocomelon video. Although that might be an insult to Cocomelon, since their animation is better and at least they throw in some catchy music.
To its credit, the few moments where the dinosaurs are allowed to shine in Camp Cretaceous are objectively good. The Carnotaurus is an excellent dinosaur to highlight, and the return of the Indominus Rex very appreciated. Not to mention, you couldn’t ask for a better sidekick than Bumpy the ankylosaurus, or a better villain than Henry Wu
Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between.
And for those who are curious, spoiler alert, there are off-screen deaths in Camp Cretaceous. But they’re devoid of any fun, and ironically feel even more soulless than the deaths of extras in other Jurassic Park properties. The reactions, or lack thereof, from other characters is so muted as to be almost comical, if not a little disturbing.
But let’s put this in context: does Camp Cretaceous at least succeed in doing what it seemingly sets out to do, which is to ostensibly entertain younger Jurassic World fans and dinosaur lovers? If I were eight or ten years old, would I feel differently about it?
The truth is, I can never fully know the answer to that as I can never fully put myself in the mind of my younger self. However, if I had to guess, I would assume my feelings for it would be similar to what they are now. That is, I think most kids will be disappointed with Camp Cretaceous and feel bored by the lack of cool dinosaur scenes.
On the plus side, if you are sensitive about what your kids watch, Camp Cretaceous is definitely a safe show to allow any kid over the age of 5 to watch.
That said, a safe version of Jurassic World was doomed from the start. Kid show or not, Jurassic World should not feel as safe as it does in Camp Cretaceous.
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous – Score: 4 / 10
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