Welcome to Camp Cretaceous Period – the first animated series to make its way into the Jurassic Park franchise and the name of the new adventure camp on Isla Nublar that is included in it. There are wild dinosaurs, exciting places, and a few incompetent advisors constantly lose sight of the campers they want to protect. And while this colossal kids’ show is predictable, it has enough fun action and humor to grab the attention of the young audience it was meant for.
At the heart of the plot is Darius (Paul-Mikél Williams), a dinosaur-savvy teenager who makes his way to Camp Cretaceous by being the first to win a VR video game. There he meets five other teenagers who, for various reasons, experience the adventure camp before the rest of the world. There’s Kenji (Ryan Potter), a cocky, rich boy who tries to take control. Brooklynn (Jenna Ortega), a famous social media streamer hooked up to her phone; Sammy (Raini Rodriguez), an avid camper who is used to ranching life; Yaz (Kausar Mohammed), an elite athlete who stays to herself; and Ben (Sean Giambrone), a keen Scardey cat who is struggling to get used to the jungle.
The threatening terror of the series keeps them at their roots Jurassic Park Origin.
In the early episodes this is Breakfast clubThe group in style must overcome their differences and band together after ending up in dangerous situations that inevitably have some wild dinosaurs after them. However, they keep landing at the main hub to ponder what happened and wonder what other experiences they will soon encounter together. This all changes midway through the series when the group is separated from their two irresponsible camp counselors – Roxie (Jameela Jamil) and Dave (Glen Powell) – and the teenagers are forced to flee from the dinosaurs that roam free Move island. At this point, the episodes run more like a movie that is loaded with an ongoing plot and constant action.
The threatening terror of the series keeps them at their roots Jurassic Park Origin. People scream when they get eaten off-screen, the teens are constantly caught in tense situations, and each episode ends on a cliffhanger. The scary stuff is fun and fast-paced, and it has to be. There are only 8 episodes of 22 minutes each, so the writers had to put in a lot of story in a short amount of time. While successfully creating a gripping adventure that you would expect in the Jurassic Park Universe, the way they develop each character, is a little shakier.
Of course, when you have multiple teenagers and limited time, you’ll only get that deep into their backstories and growth. However, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing in the development of the leads because while the story was built to have them face their mistakes, it doesn’t ultimately lead to many concrete solutions.
Take Brooklynn, for example, the lifestyle streamer with millions of followers. (Minor spoilers!) When we meet her she is eager to document her trip but concerned about her dwindling number of followers. (This is relevant for today and creates a strong character that children can relate to). However, after someone steals her phone, she becomes even more stressed because her online popularity is literally out of her hands. When she tracks down the culprit, she is understandably angry. But after figuring out her motivation to take her cell phone and spend some time alone, she cools down, makes amends with the phone thief, and jokes about making a new video.
The arcs feel – even if they follow a more anticipated path – a little unfinished or too simple in the end.
Fixing Brooklynn’s mistakes in this way is unsatisfactory because she never faces its root – her need to be liked by people online – by instead focusing on her forgiveness for someone else and the plot of social media pushes aside. And this isn’t the only time the arcs – even if they follow a more expected path – end up feeling a little incomplete or overly simplistic. Kids probably won’t mind, but adults will find that many of the characters have basic identities that could have been more interesting if they had included an extra layer or two. Maybe in a second season Camp Cretaceous Period will make his characters feel more fully – but by the end of season one, their traits and conflicts remain patched rather than fully realized.
While I didn’t bond with the entire cast of characters as desired, Darius remains the most dependable and personable – which is to be welcomed because he’s the most prominent character in the group. Unlike the other children, he was not offered a place at Camp Cretaceous for reasons such as money or fame and he had to find his way there instead. This – in combination with his touching personal connection to the place that is slowly revealing itself – can be appreciated by viewers of all ages.
Other aspects of the show that I enjoyed were the lush scenery in bioluminescent caves and over the mountains at sunset; the creative “camera angles” from those in Darius’ VR game to those panning over the excitement; and the overarching snappy feeling of adventure.
This spirited romp through the jungle will surprise and delight the young audience for whom it was designed. While it probably isn’t worth the effort to watch alone, if you sit down to stream it with the rest of the family, chances are you’ll still enjoy the brisk adventure.
As seen: Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is now streamed on Netflix.