September 23, 2020

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Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous (Netflix)

First Impressions with JURASSIC WORLD: CAMP CRETACEOUS

Neil takes a look at upcoming JURASSIC WORLD animated series CAMP CRETACEOUS from the team at Netflix.

Synopsis

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous follows a group of six teenagers chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime experience at a new adventure camp on the opposite side of Isla Nublar. But when dinosaurs wreak havoc across the island, the campers are stranded. Unable to reach the outside world, they’ll need to go from strangers to friends to family if they’re going to survive. 

Review

The idea of crafting an animated series in the world of the Jurassic Park franchise feels intrinsic to its origins. If we look back to 1993’s Jurassic Park, that film was absolutely aimed as the classic Spielberg audience. So when Netflix announced that it was bringing Jurassic World to the small screen with Camp Cretaceous I was intrigued to see how the franchise would adapt.

First off: this show is absolutely accessible to a younger audience without compromising the integrity of what came before. It features moments of darkness which, at first, surprised me. But the subject matter is handled in a way which pitches it perfectly towards its intended audience.

I was immediately struck by the serialised nature of the show. Having grown up in an era where cartoons would rarely feature on going storylines Camp Cretaceous feels revelatory. There were times I felt like I needed to binge-watch the season in order to keep up with what was going on!

Given the eight episode run, the storyline escalates quickly with some great pacing. After introductions in episode one we quickly get down to action. Quiet moments are sporadic but there is still time to take in the wonder of Islam Nublar before it falls apart.

Hats off to Nick Jones Jr. for crafting a story which is linked so heavily to 2015’s Jurassic World. The series perfectly attaches itself to the story of that film without having to rely on the bringing over the series leads for a cameo. I won’t spoil who does turn up but rest assured it feels perfectly in tune with Camp Cretaceous’ storyline.

Whilst the franchise has always featured child and teen characters, we have always experience their stories through the eyes of adult leads. Whether it was Sam Neill in the original film or Chris Pratt in the Jurassic World Series, there’s always been grown ups there to anchor them.

Camp Cretaceous essentially does away with the trope of the franchise. Instead it operates purely from the viewpoint of the teen characters and we’re able to see how they step up during the inevitable dino outbreak. It’s reaffirming for this audience in a way which subtly portrays resilience in face of danger.

Being a contemporary series, the idea of inclusion feels very important here. Camp Cretaceous does an admirable job of representing a number of different genders and ethnicities in a tactful and respectful manner. It does so both in-front of and behind the camera. The diverse voice cast all feel well suited to their roles with no distinct standouts.

The cast are all able to handle the emotional aspects of the storyline well. Paul-Mikél Williams as Darius is our de-facto lead for the show. Darius is an anchor point for each of the characters and is able to shoulder most of the series’ narrative. His character is the most fleshed out at the beginning of the season and Williams is able to bring some complex emotions to his portrayal.

The rest of the teen ensemble cast all compliment each other’s performances and elevate the show above some of their contemporaries. The adults feel a little caricature at times but it’s not out with other shows of its kind.

The series also doesn’t shy away from making its characters complex. It certainly feels like a step forwards in the storytelling for this type of show. There are conflicted characters, characters with difficult family situations etc. It all adds to up a layered performance from the actors which will resonate with fans across the board.

The story of Camp Cretaceous features some typically bombastic Jurassic Park action. I lost count of the number of different species of dino we see across the eight episodes. This season being linked to the Jurassic World film should give fans a clue to one specific, genetically modified, dino who makes an appearance.

What I particularly enjoyed was how Camp Cretaceous didn’t sugarcoat the kids experience of that world. The terror of being caught up in the park imploding feels the same as it would in any of the movies. The level of jeopardy exists exactly as it does in the film. We’re just seeing it through the eyes of a bunch of teenagers this time around.

It’s great to see a series aimed at this type of audience not shy away from feelings of loss and betrayal. There are important life lessons wrapped up in to some very genuine Jurassic Park action. As it all comes to a head in the final two episodes Camp Cretaceous certainly seems to have captured most of the magic of its big screen counterpart.

The animation itself is on par for other CGI animated shows. Fine detail is sometimes lacking giving characters on the show a sometimes rubbery aesthetic. But background are rich and varied and dinosaur designs feel true to their cinematic cousins. All-in-all it adds up to a satisfying viewing experience for audiences of all ages.

Verdict

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is a wild ride, seeing the franchise through the eyes of a brand new group of characters adds a new perspective which is interesting and exciting.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous features the talented voices of Paul-Mikel Williams as Darius, Jenna Ortega as Brooklyn, Ryan Potter as Kenji, Raini Rodriguez as Sammy, Sean Giambrone as Ben, Kausar Mohammed as Yaz, Jameela Jamil as Rozie and Glen Powell as Dave.


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