I’ll be honest; asking me to review a new Jurassic Park venture is rather akin to asking Donald Trump to wax lyrical about the benefits of fake tan and money. Since the first film hit cinemas twenty-seven years ago, I have taken great delight in every subsequent release. And yes, even Fallen Kingdom has its moment (singular).
As such, when the rather mysterious teaser trailer for the Netflix exclusive, Camp Cretaceous, dropped last year, I was duly intrigued. How on earth could a Jurassic television series work? Would it be some kind of anthology series, taking inspiration from the awesome little short film, Battle at Big Rock? Would it be some kind of prequel to Jurassic World, perhaps based on the Clare Dearing book that is allegedly cannon? Or would it be something new entirely?
And something new it is indeed.
Camp Cretaceous is an animated series following a group of teenagers who are the first guests of the park’s new summer camp. Of course, history dictates that any dino-based fun times are going to end in disaster, and teens at summer camp have been killer-fodder since Kevin Bacon first went to Crystal Lake.
Taking place in the weeks leading up to the disaster at Jurassic World, the show follows Darius, a young lad who has dreamed of going to Jurassic World since he was a kid. Unfortunately, after his father’s passing, Darius’ dream seems to have been scuppered, with trips to the park seemingly still out of most families’ budgets (interesting that Hammond’s dream of the park being affordable to all never seemed to come true). When an online competition offers an exclusive holiday to the park’s brand spanking new facility, however, Darius finally gets the chance to live out his father’s ambition. On arriving at the eponymous Camp Cretaceous, he meets his delightful troupe of bunkmates; social media butterfly Yaz, spoilt rich kid Kenji, farm girl Sammy, and hypochondriac agoraphobe Ben. Each of the kids is well fleshed-out with flaws and back-stories, allowing us to really get attached to them, indeed much moreso than Dinosaur Man and Money Lady from the Jurrasic World films.
But what else would we expect from Dreamworks animations? This is, after all, the team that brought us the How to Train Your Dragon movies, and Camp Cretaceous certainly has that same emotional depth, leading to some highly moving moments in the final few episodes. The animation is stunning, following the same semi-anime style of HTTYD, and the tension when our heroes are in dino-peril is palpable, whilst still being appropriate for the obviously younger target audience.
The best part about Camp Cretaceous, however? It fills in that missing half-hour from the beginning of Jurassic World, allowing us, finally, to explore the park itself. We have the rides, we have the lab tour (with mandatory cameo from B.D. Wong), and, most importantly, we have the dinosaurs! Because actually, Bryce Dallas Howard, no-one was bored of dinosaurs.
Camp Cretaceous is the Jurassic series at its best, and, dare I say it, it may just be the best thing to come out of the franchise since 1993. It’s fun, it’s scary, and, most importantly, it’s absolutely heartfelt.
Netflix has found a way.
Created by: Zack Stentz and Nick Jones Jr.
Music: Leo Birenberg
Number of Episodes: 8
Episode Run time: 22mins
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is now on Netflix