Earth to Echo Review
A STIR OF ECHOES
Within the silver screen tapestry of filmmaking, the small genre of “Found Footage” films has been sparsely used in recent years. Presented as discovered footage or video recordings, the events on-screen are conveyed with a “Shaky” camera style of filming as if captured from an amateur video recorder with actors delivering a more genuine or natural performance rather than a theatrical one. Such notable films of this small genre include The Blair Witch Project (1999), Paranormal Activity (2007) and its subsequent sequels, Cloverfield (2008), and Chronicle (2012). Relatively Media takes a family jaunt with this style of moviemaking with the film Earth to Echo. Is this sci-fi adventure for kids worth a glance or does it ring a sense of familiarity of greater and recognizable movies?
Three misfit friends, Tuck (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley), Alex (Teo Halm), and Munch (Reese Hartwig) face a childhood hardship. There neighborhood, a Nevada suburb, is being demolished, clearing the way for a new highway system. This is sad day for the three friends with each of their families going their separate ways and thus disrupting their close friendship. However, before the trio breaks up, their cell phones begin to act up, showing curious signs and map points. Set the night before they all leave the neighborhood, they set out to investigate the strange signs, following its beacon into the desert and eventually come across a small alien. Able to communicate with chirps and beeps, the kids name their new friend Echo and eventually (through a series of “Yes” and “No” questions) found out that their otherworldly companion is searching for parts to repair his damaged ship. With the assistance of fellow classmate Emma (Ella Wahlestedt), the race is on as Tuck, Munch, and Alex spend the long tonight visiting locations around town in their endeavor to help Echo, while uncovering the mystery behind their suburban eviction.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Every generation deserves a reboot or remake of a cinema classic from the previous one. Whether it’s good or not may vary, depending on the criteria of the film it is derived from, how much it pulls from that source material, and if the next generation will accept the newly presented film. The most obvious movie that Earth to Echo emulates is Spielberg’s classic film E.T. However, while that particular film was relatively new (for its time) and memorable with famous catchphrases and iconic imagery, Earth to Echo is to a lesser degree that doesn’t quite measure up to E.T’s illustrious caliber.
It plays with the premise of E.T., but interjects a sort of treasure hunt scenario as kids run here and there, assembling a key that their alien friend needs to activate his spaceship. In truth, along with E.T., the movie also seems to incorporate other elements of famous 80’s films such as The Goonies and Stand by Me. Whether you take this move as nostalgia or a knock-off, is truly up a viewer’s own opinion (Personally, I view it as a little mix of both).
The film opens up with powerful and heartfelt message as Tuck, explaining his urge to record and document everything and putting it up on YouTube, informs viewers of the close knit bond that he and his friends share and the impending break up of each of them moving away to start a new life. It’s a basic and primal emotion, feeling upset in that particular situation of letting go of childhood friendships with the fear of moving to a new place and being helpless to change it from happening.
From the get go, director Dave Green makes this notion well-known, clearly defining the characterization and camaraderie of the three friends with pockets of sadness of what the future holds for the trio scattered throughout the film. To its effect, it works sublimely. That being said, the three actors chosen for the three friends (And eventually Emma who joins the trio halfway through the film), are the strongest attribute that Earth to Echo has going for it. Each one has their moment to shine in one scene or another, but it is Reese Hartwig, who plays Munch, has a lasting impression with a genuine quirkiness to his character. Jason Gray-Stanford is designated as the bad guy of the film, playing the mysterious Dr. Madsen, a “Constructive Worker” who’s after the kids and their little alien friend. Speaking of Echo, the alien himself has the least impact on film. Yes, he’s adorable looking, an appearance similar to one found in Pixar’s Wall-E, but has little personality to express. Even E.T. himself was animated with a quizzical curiosity demeanor. Echo’s participation in this film is more of a plot engineered device, undervalued than what could’ve been achieved.
The “Found Footage” works well for what it’s trying to achieve, keeping with the frenetic editing with an interesting intention of using this style of filming to discover rather than terrify. Earth to Echo is, after all, is the first endeavor for this genre with kid friendly approach, which is to be at least commended. I did, however, find it to be a little distracting at points with the movie imitating cell phone connection lag times and other “Shaky Cam” movements. It’s not pleasant to eye with the camera moving this way and that and projected in odd ways, but most, if not majority, of these “Found Footage” films never truly are. The visual effects for the movie are minimal with short bursts of flair appearing at certain points. Earth to Echo is, of course, a low budget film (there’s nothing wrong with that), but just don’t expect something out of a summer blockbuster to be in this particular movie.
Earth to Echo aims to speak to two generations with the thematic nostalgia of 80’s films, while using technology of today to speak to modern audiences. It’s an admirable attempt, but one that doesn’t hit its intended target. Meant for all ages, it’s a kid friendly film that’s entertaining to watch and carries a great sense of emotional heart and empowerment, but the movie can’t escape that ever presence sense of familiarity that permeates majority of the film. Personally, it’s what I expected it to be. It neither heightened my amazement nor begrudged my disappointment. As the famous quote states “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and, whether you take it as a cheap rip off or homage to Spielberg’s E.T., Earth to Echo is at least smart enough to imitate a great film.