ScreenRant: Camp Cretaceous Is What Jurassic World Should’ve Been From The Start
Camp Cretaceous is a kid-centered survival story that understands the themes of Jurassic Park better than most of the Jurassic World movies do.
BY KJ MINZNER SEP 29, 2020
The Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous animated series presents the Jurassic World story in a way that truly understands the point of the franchise, unlike the 2015 movie. Jurassic Park is an iconic series because of the excellent filmmaking techniques pioneered by the movies, including a combination of practical and visual effects that still hold up almost 30 years later. However, the story has always been a key part of the franchise’s staying power.
Michael Chrichton’s original Jurassic Park book had important things to say about institutional failure of corporations, not just the natural danger of dinosaurs. The original Jurassic Park story is a strong condemnation of ignorance and hubris in the face of natural danger, as Jeff Goldblum’s character Ian Malcolm points out. The failures of the Jurassic Park theme park, and later the Jurassic World park, are not just individual: they are systematic.
Camp Cretaceous explores these systematic failures much better than the Jurassic World movie it is based on. The show follows six teenagers, Darius, Ben, Yasmina, Kenji, Sammy, and Brooklynn, who have been selected as the first campers for Jurassic World’s summer camp program. Taking place during the events of Jurassic World, the series quickly transforms into a gripping survival story as the kids struggle to escape the dangerous island. What makes this story different from other Jurassic Park movies is the type of danger these kids are facing. The campers are put in danger not because of the personal failings of their camp counselors, parents, or even the park owners, but because of the faulty structure that created Jurassic World in the first place. The more of Camp Cretaceous audiences watch, the more it becomes clear what the first Jurassic World movie did was wrong.
Jurassic World Wasted Its Theme Park Being Active
Jurassic World is certainly exciting once the Indominus Rex escapes from its enclosure, but before this disaster, the film doesn’t give many examples of how the park fails as a park. Despite Jurassic World‘s creative additions to the park’s infrastructure, the script doesn’t take full advantage of the park being in operation. Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, on the other hand, clearly shows all of its structural problems. Contrary to some fans’ assertions, these are not plot holes, but rather choices the writers made to show how poorly run Jurassic World really is.
This series is better able to show these issues thanks to its core conceit of a behind-the-scenes summer camp. Because the children at the camp are given exclusive access to the Jurassic World facilities, the audience gets to see failings that the regular park visitors are not even aware of. Within just the first two episodes, it’s shown that the Compsognathi are always escaping from their enclosures; gates and tunnels into dino habitats are unlocked and unguarded; and that the genetics engineer lab has been experiencing unusual flaws in their dinosaurs. Most importantly, as Head Counselor Roxie points out, the camp itself is ridiculously understaffed. The problems that happen in Camp Cretaceous are not because of someone like Nedry stealing embryos or Dr. Wu engineering a weapon of mass destruction; the evil in this show is just a combination of poor management, capitalism, and human ignorance, which is perhaps more scary than the alternative.
Jurassic World Copied The Jurassic Park Story
The stories of children have always been essential to the Jurassic Park franchise, with John Hammond’s grandkids serving as the emotional centerpiece of the first film. Showing that children are in danger as a result of the adults’ actions is a good way for the film to communicate just how serious the situation is, and gives the adult main characters a reason to regret their actions. However, Jurassic World failed to evolve this theme in any meaningful way, instead introducing Claire Dearing’s nephews to serve the exact same role as Hammond’s grandkids (around the same ages, too). Furthermore, the story of both movies is about the adults finding and saving the kids, while also avoiding the big dinosaur.
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous treats its children differently. The kids in this show aren’t here to motivate the main characters; they are the main characters, and they are entirely alone with no adults around to rescue them. Much like a great teen horror film, Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is about kids learning that the adults in their life cannot protect them. As one of the campers aptly points out, “I don’t think finding an adult is going to help.”
And it’s true: the adults in Camp Cretaceous do not help. In some cases, this is because the adults don’t have enough resources at their disposal to help, as is the case with the camp counselors. In other cases, it’s because they don’t want to help, as is the case with park assistant Eddie, who abandons the kids in an attempt to save himself. In still other cases, the adults are simply absent. This is the case for Claire Dearing, who ignores the counselors’ calls for help when disaster hits. Whatever the situation may be, the kids eventually have to learn that the grown-ups in their lives are just as scared as they are, and it’s up to the kids to fend for themselves.
Camp Cretaceous Is The Jurassic World Story The Movie Should’ve Had
Jurassic World was perhaps more action-packed than its television spinoff, but the movie doesn’t hit the same emotional highs and lows that Camp Cretaceous does. Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is not a show that pulls punches; though it avoids blood and gore, audiences do see six teenagers witnessing the full destruction of Jurassic World. Death is still a reality in this series, and more than a few adults get munched by a hungry Carnotaurus. The writers are even willing to put the children themselves in danger, even going so far as to show one of the teens falling to his apparent death after a Pteranodon attack. And of course, there’s Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous‘ ending, which ends with the remaining children reaching the docks to discover the last evacuation ferry has left without them. In Jurassic World, children stay safe. In Camp Cretaceous, they do not.
But even with this tragic ending for season 1, Camp Cretaceous manages to hold onto a positive outlook. Early in the season, Darius, one of the campers, introduces the main theme of the series: “Life is messy and sometimes things fall apart. But that’s okay because when that happens, we pick up the pieces and keep going. And we never give up.” In a way, this has been the theme of the Jurassic Park franchise from the very beginning: things in the park fall apart, but the main characters keep moving forward. Camp Cretaceous delivers on this theme more than any other Jurassic Park story before it, showing what this franchise has been about all along. Moreover, Camp Cretaceous‘ most interesting aspects is everything new it adds to the franchise – not to mention the fact that it’s told from the perspective of a parkgoer. So while Clarie’s nephews had their own adventure, Camp Cretaceous‘ story is very much about this story happening to anyone.
Of course, Camp Cretaceous isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite Jurassic story. There’s plenty to critique in the series, from clunky dialogue to unusual pacing to loose plot threads. But the strength of the story makes up for all of that. The allegories of corporate greed explored by this series are more relevant now than ever, and the show brings back the idea of an evil, villainous company in a much better way than the movie did; a company trying to get ahead technologically makes more sense than weaponizing velociraptors. Netflix’s Camp Cretaceous is well worth a watch, because it shows how important Jurassic World could have been this whole time.