Decades worth of movies and television shows have tackled the topic of growing up, helping the young and the young at heart deal with the idea of change to varying degrees. To an extent, that topic has always been an undercurrent of Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, Netflix's animated spinoff of Universal's Jurassic World films. In its first two seasons, the series subtly dealt with the evolution and change of both its human cast of characters and its island full of dinosaurs, all while providing a sense of swashbuckling blockbuster energy that was lacking from a lot of media amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In the series' third season, which arrives on Netflix this weekend, the notion of change becomes much more of a focus — and it strengthens the proceedings in virtually every single way. The third season of Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous is heartfelt, nuanced, and unpredictable in all the right ways, all while weaving in a surprising story about hope, compassion, and being a teenager.
Season 3 of Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous picks up right where Season 2 left off, with the kids potentially having an avenue to escape Isla Nublar and return home via boat. As their tenure being accidentally stranded on the island rages on, Darius (Paul-Mikel Williams), Brooklyn (Jenna Ortega), Yaz (Kausar Mohammed), Sammy (Raini Rodriguez), Kenji (Ryan Potter), and Ben (Sean Giambrone) stumble upon new threats — both dinosaur and manmade — and discover more about themselves and their found family along the way.
From the second you press "play" on Season 3, Camp Cretaceous' aspect of found family shines brightly, in a way that feels like a necessary, but natural evolution to where the series' ensemble was in previous seasons. At the start of the series, it could have been argued that its appeal was watching another window into the Jurassic universe, all while getting whatever character development came along with that. In Season 3, an argument can be made for the exact opposite — the character arcs and relationships are so meaningful that the immediate threat of Jurassic World falls to the wayside. Part of this might be thanks to the season having two more episodes than previous installments, a decision that subtly prevents Camp Cretaceous from falling into a cycle of pacing and storytelling. Along the way (especially in the first half of Season 3) there are some entertaining detours where the kids just get to be... kids, and the end result profoundly strengthens some powerful moments in the back half of the season.
At the same time, Camp Cretaceous still delivers on its larger plot and significance within the Jurassic universe, but in a way that rarely feels shoehorned in or stale. The series' placement between the events of Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom would theoretically lead to some narrative challenges, but the season thrives within that specific parameter. Die-hard fans of the franchise's lore will pick up on a number of connections to Fallen Kingdom, but those are introduced in ways that still make sense for the series' story. If anything, this season proves just how much storytelling potential the Jurassic franchise has at its fingertips, all while still exploring a relatively short swath of time.
In between the ominous dinosaur battles and surprising heart-to-hearts, the ensemble cast of Camp Cretaceous really gets a chance to flourish, to the point where there really isn't a weak link in the main crop of voice actors. Each performer has become an almost irreplaceable part of the puzzle of the series, to the point where fans will want to watch them interact with each other for many more seasons. On a family-friendly, but narratively driven animated show, that feels like a real accomplishment, and it creates a sense of connection and compassion that's only going to strengthen if the series does continue in some capacity.
On a technical and aesthetic level, Season 3 of Camp Cretaceous doesn't necessarily reinvent the wheel — nor does it need to. The series' computer-animated style still veers dangerously close into uncanny valley at certain points, but if you've stuck with the series thus far, you'll probably be able to immerse yourself back relatively quickly. That being said, the animation does lend itself to some genuinely great moments, both with regards to conveying the emotion behind major character beats, and also creating new sources of spectacle on the island itself.
From its inception, it felt like Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous would be a major tentpole of DreamWorks Animation's Netflix slate of programming, and in Season 3, it defends that title with impressive ease. For those who have already been following the series, Season 3 is an excellent mix of character evolution and heart-racing action — and for those who have been hesitant to dive into the series, Season 3 is the clearest indication yet that they should. Once the credits roll on Season 3 of Camp Cretaceous, it's clear that the series has become a meaningful part of the larger Jurassic canon — one that fans of all ages can find comfort in. Regardless of wherever the story of Camp Cretaceous goes next, getting to watch its characters grow up through even the direst of circumstances has been an absolute joy.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Season 3 of Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous will debut on Friday, May 21st, exclusively on Netflix.