What to Watch Verdict
A solid collaboration between Universal and Dreamworks brings all the dinosaur stakes you expect while still being appropriate viewing for a younger crowd.
🦕 A sweet and entertaining story that still maintains the stakes of a Jurassic adventure.
🦕 Relatable characters.
🦕 Dinosaurs and landscapes are both animated gorgeously.
🦕 Human characters look as if they were cut and pasted out of a different show.
🦕 The end is much more of a fizzle than a bang.
The trailers for Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous promised sprawling park landscapes and stunningly animated dinosaurs. While it delivered those two things in spades, it also came to the table with an interesting and relatable cast of characters stuck in a precarious situation. If you had concerns that a Dreamworks' addition to the Jurassic franchise would have no stakes, you can put those to rest.
The story follows Darius (Paul-Mikél Williams), Brooklyn (Jenna Ortega), Kenji (Ryan Potter), Sammy (Raini Rodriguez), Ben (Sean Giambrone) and Yazmina (Kausar Mohammed) as the venture into Jurassic World’s newest attraction: Camp Cretaceous. Each kid is at the park for varying reasons: Brooklyn’s the influencer, Kenji’s the rich kid, Ben’s mom thought it would be good to get him out of his shell, Yaz is a pro athlete sponsored by the park, Sammy’s family provides all the beef to the island, and Darius beat an unwinnable video game for his chance to be there.
As you can imagine from the descriptions of the series’ key players, these kids don’t spend a whole lot of time getting along in the very beginning. Though things are rarely outright contentious in the series, there’s a very Breakfast Club-like vibe going on here. The kids’ different backgrounds result in some clashing personalities, but in a way that plays to Camp Cretaceous’ favor. The teens are all very one-note in their character dimensions, but they’re in a young adult series – this was the right move for the show.
Though most of these kids aren’t necessarily “complex,” that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of growth. Gradually, each one accomplishes their respective personal hurdles. Young Darius is given the most attention as the "main character," of the ensemble. His story with his family and his progression are both handled thoughtfully, and in ways that justify his eventual leadership of the group. As is expected, most of the personal challenges faced by the teens are broad in a way that will resonate with all ages. It’s noticeable, but not something that works against the series by any means.
Dreamworks’ masterful animation team gives Jurassic fans the opportunity to explore the park in a way that we’ve never really seen before. The creative team took care to ensure that the behind-the-scenes glimpses we’re given of the park are different from the ones we’ve seen in the past. Dr. Henru Wu (BD Wong) occupies a brand-new state of the art lab. It’s in that very lab that we meet the series MVP, an a-symmetrical newborn ankylosaurus who Ben names “Bumpy,” before Brooklyn gets everyone booted from the premises.
Counselors Roxie (Jameela Jamil) and Dave (Glen Powell) are in charge of the bulk of the kids’ camp experience. It’s through them that we get to return to the gyrospheres for more herbivore action and follow the kids as they zip line over (and through) a migrating herd. The team really did outdo themselves when it comes to the animation of both the park and the dinosaurs. Strangely, that care was not extended to the human characters. From a personal perspective, I’m glad that they focused on what they did. It’s just odd that the people appear to be animated in a completely different art style.
By the time we reach the end of the season (it’s a quick watch – eight episodes around thirty minutes each), the kids have learned to co-exist and mostly don’t want to murder each other. This shift comes less from the normal camp bonding experiences they were forced to endure in the beginning of the season and more because the dinosaurs are out and are trying to eat them, but they got there all the same! There are plenty of climactic moments as the series chugs along towards the finish line, including a stressful run-in with the Raptor Squad (RIP Delta, Echo and Charlie), a very ticked off carnotaurus the kids dub “Toro,” and some regrettable run-ins with the indominous rex.
The dinosaur-filled adventures have all the stakes we’ve come to expect from anything in the Jurassic Park franchise, but the season finale doesn’t share the same achievement. After everything the group has gone through, it feels as if things fizzle out rather than hold some sort of triumphant end. Part of a season finale’s job is to set up the next chapter of the story, but that set-up means little if you don’t close things out in a meaningful way.
While the ending was a bit of a disappointment, Camp Cretaceous is still quite the show. It presents the indominous as more menacing than Jurassic World was able to (she says as a staunch Jurassic World supporter) and treats the park with all the reverence of a fan and all the mockery of a generation who has watched InGen and Masrani Corp mess things up for their whole lives. It’s funny, it’s sweet, and it’s absolutely worth the three hours it takes to finish the series.
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous will be available on Netflix September 18th.
Amelia is an entertainment Streaming Editor at IGN, which means she spends a lot of time analyzing and editing stories on things like Loki, Peacemaker, and The Witcher. In addition to her features and editorial work, she’s also a member of both the Television Critics Association and Critics Choice. A deep love of film and television has kept her happily in the entertainment industry for 7 years.