After binge—watching the season in a single evening, I leave you with a little review (beware, it contain spoilers). First of all, I precise that I had no expectations for the series as the combo Jurassic World + kid show didn’t attracted me at all, and the trailers have done nothing but confirm my fears.
Let’s start by the positive:
- Amidst the cringefest that the first episodes were, the scenes with Darius back home stand out from the rest by their quality as they are centred more on drama and character development and not on clumsy comedy like the scenes on Nublar. The idea of getting an access to Jurassic World and Camp Cretaceous as a reward for beating that virtual reality game reminded me the recruitment of Eli Wallace by the SGC at the very beginning of Stargate Universe.
- Starting from the beginning of the season’s second half, the series gets better and a little more mature in its unfolding and writing, up to the point where it doesn’t seem targeted for young children but rather young teens. Some dumb scenes remain however (like the one of the geneticist Eddie, abandoned in the lab with the sole company of his birthday cake).
- There is a few action and suspenseful scenes that aren’t bad in the second half with, among other things, a hide-and-seek game with the Indominus amidst the containers, a part in the tunnels that can remind some people of Telltale’s game, a monorail attack by the pteranodons which should have deserved a live-action treatment, and a climax in a storage area where the protagonists have to use their wits in order to defeat the carnotaur and escape from the underground network. On the matter of the carnotaur, one can note a nice paleontological reference with its difficulty to turn when it is chasing prey.
- Of all of the characters, Roxie is the most realistic, responsible and reasonable one (and the only tolerable one in the first episodes).
And let’s bring now the negative aspects:
- On the matter of the original soundtrack, I don’t remember any of the original themes sadly. As I had the same problem when I viewed The Witcher though (I didn’t liked its first season but I rather well appreciated its soundtrack following a separated listening), I will wait for the release of the soundtrack before criticizing it further.
- The first episodes are a total farce with a succession of all kinds of nonsenses with the bunch of stereotypical buffoons that the kids are that are involved in stupid acts by the night of their first day, acts that fall under Reversed Darwinism (the survival of the most idiotic like Grant would say in Jurassic Park 3) and that gave me the desire to give some slaps and send those Kennys to a firing squad (for the crimes of property destruction and, above all, endangering dinosaurs and employees); the infringements during the activities of hygiene and security rules that are applied in many theme parks and laboratories around the world (with the kids wandering around in the lab and touching to everything in a total dissidence; running down a zipline and brushing past brachiosaurs...); the counsellor Dave which talks to Wu like if he was an old pal of his while Wu is one of the highest corporate executive around and someone famous and respected in-universe; Wu being depicted with the subtlety of a fat beer-drunk sea lion (with his mannerisms and attitude worthy of a James Bond villain, we know right away that he is bad); cartoony action scenes (I mean bloody hell. Look at that Parasaurolophus that jumps off the jeep’s roof like he was a f**kin’ kangaroo while the jeep itself wasn’t miraculously crushed under the hadrosaur’s weight); the employees and the park’s security being shitty (one enter so easily in the underground network that Biosyn could organise rave parties there right under InGen’s nose; Darius and Kenji being left with no supervision in the middle of the jungle while they are supposed to shovel shit as a punishment); the dinosaurs that passes too as incompetent for failing to kill the kids while such situations in real-life or in the first films would have unforgiving or barely forgiving but only at a certain cost.
- Despite the ordeals they are going through, the kids seems to be never traumatised or at least shaken like the Murphys, Kelly Malcolm or Maisie were respectively in JP, TLW and FK since here, they seems to be in shock for a moment or two before starting again to squabble or quipping once they are away from danger.- At the end of the monorail attack scene, I thought that the writers had the balls to kill off Ben and I would have tipped my hat to this narrative decision and give more credit to this kid show if we didn’t had the reveal at the end that he was still alive. At the end, we just got another Billy Brennan situation.
- Bumby is useless in this season, aside from encouraging toy sales and being the show’s cute caution and still, it’s relative as her closeups along with Brooklynn’s creepy face in episode 2 have scared me more than the predators’ attacks in the season’s second half. And her growth rate is so f***ed up as she hatch in episode 2 before reappearing in episode 5 I think which is supposed to be set two days later, where she is already the size of a bulldog. And the scene where she cries while the kids are being kicked off the lab (for understandable reasons) is so ridiculous...
- Aside from in the action and suspenseful scenes mentioned above in the positive aspects, the use and depicting of dinosaurs is either anecdotal, either WTF with the Sinoceratops being almost as gentle as a lamb (try to do with a hippo or a rhino what the Kennys did with the sino, I wouldn’t mind some funny antics...). I’m not a fan of the bioluminescent Parasaurolophus and their scene either. It seems like they wanted to copy the Na’vi River Journey’s attraction from Animal Kingdom in Orlando, with semi-aquatic parasaurs worthy of some outdated depictions from the last century.
- Visually speaking, the universe and the artistic direction are poor. The jungle has the same look everywhere on the island (with trees of average height being relatively spaced from one another while the ground is covered with grass) and its scenery never seem foreboding or ominous while Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna were, in some way, entire characters in the films that sometimes aroused an eerie sense of mystery and danger, at east in the original trilogy and Fallen Kingdom. The park itself is quite empty too, even before the evacuation. There is only scene with a large amount of people and the latter seems to all share the same model and the same animation in addition of being blurred (probably as a camouflage for the lack of budget) and we don’t believe in this world as nothing grand comes out of the visited locations (aside from maybe the eponymous Camp Cretaceous) and that everything seems so bland, with even the employees being of the same corpulence, age group and behaviour except for a few exceptions.
- Finally, let’s discuss about the coherence with the Jurassic World film, of which this show is supposed be a canon interquel. Even though if there is several nods to some of the latter’s events (Masrani’s helicopter is seen a couple of times; the Kennys take the ACU’s van; they walk past Zach and Gray’s destroyed gyrosphere and the killed ankylosaur’s body...) as well as other materials of the franchise, including JP3 and Masrani Global website, like if the show wanted to tell us “Hey look! I did my homework!” in order to please the fans. It’s one thing to make references to the rest of the saga and it’s easy actually, but it’s another to use them for something else than just fan-service. Despite all this, Camp Cretaceous has its share of inconsistencies with Jurassic World. I won’t list them all since it wouldn’t be that interesting but among other things, we have the mention of fences falling apart across the entire island while nothing like this happened in JW (it seems they mixed up the JP and JW incidents) or at least not on this scale; the kids visit a lab somewhere north of the park whose existence seems a bit off as the Innovation Center’s lab can do everything that lab does, in addition of housing Wu’s secret lab; the surroundings of the mosasaur lagoon which seems empty by the end of the afternoon while chronologically speaking, the scene is supposed to happen just after the pterosaurs attack (and thus the area should be crawling with employees that are looking for eventual late visitors, or the still running security cameras could have spotted the kids) and why did those foolish Kennys didn’t thought of going to the nearby hotels right after the ordeal with the mosasaur instead of hanging around in the bleachers up until sunset, hotels where a large number of visitors are supposed to be found up until quite late in the night according to the Jurassic World film?
Anyway, Camp Cretaceous might have got a kick up the backside halfway through and the quality of the episodes did increased little by little but the whole season stays nevertheless mediocre and the viewing of the series is honestly quite dispensable, especially if you were disappointed by the Jurassic World films. Some will probably tell me that I’m being too hard with a kids show but actually, the fact that it is targeted for kids is no excuse for some flaws like a lack of ambition in the artistic direction, the shitty humour or the wtf scenes. Whether a work is for adults, for all audiences, or for kids, the creative investment and the work quality should stay the same.