Earth to Echo
Earth to Echo
Director: Dave Green
Writers: Henry Gayden, Andrew Panay
Cast: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt, Jason Gray-Stanford, Alga Smith, Cassius Willis, Sonya Leslie, Kerry O'Malley, Virginia Louise Smith, Peter Mackenzie, Valerie Wildman, Roger Hewlett, Mary Pat Gleason, Marilyn Giacomazzi
Synopsis: After receiving a bizarre series of encrypted messages, a group of kids embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some action and peril, and mild language
2 / 10
- Great cinematography for a movie that uses the "found footage" concept
- Visual effects are great
- Well paced
- Acting was fairly decent
- There's some shaky cam moments and slanted angle shots throughout this feature that might bother some viewers.
- Weak story
- Poorly developed characters
- Main protagonist was uninteresting, as Alex should've been the focus instead.
- Movie falls into every damn cliche imaginable.
- Alleged romance/awkward like like friendship between Alex and Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) feels rushed because there's little screen time devoted to it. Just another reason why Alex should've been the focus.
- Tuck needed more of a personality and better backstory if he was intended to be the focus. As is, he's nothing more than the stereotypical token black friend among a group of white kids, as he tries to act cool. A character similar to what you would find in various other TV shows and movies.
Wow, I wonder if Hollywood will give us a found footage film of an alien invasion, or alien abduction story next.
Whoever would've guessed that after "Paranormal Activity" made the whole "found footage" concept popular in horror flicks that it would eventually spawn over into various other genres of movies. First, it started with it spreading into a teen comedy like "Project X", and now it's making it's way into science fiction territory here. Wow. Before any of us know it, we might even see a found footage fantasy epic before it's all said and done. The possibilities are just endless.
"Earth to Echo" is essentially a found footage film that features three young protagonists named Alex (Teo Halm), Tuck (Astro), and Munch (Reese Hartwig). Alex is an orphan that was adopted by his family, whom is having a baby fairly soon. Munch is the stereotypical nerdy obsessive compulsive neat freak. Meanwhile, Tuck is nothing more than the token black kid of the group, but he happens to be the main protagonist. Not to mention, he's the one filming most of the story because he uses various digital cameras. One of them being the traditional handheld kind, and another being the hidden spycam on a pair black nerd glasses.
The three of them have been best friends for years, as they grew up in a small neighborhood together. However, the government plans on turning their neighborhood into a highway, so everyone is forced to move away. In one last attempt to spend time together on their final night in the neighborhood, Tuck decides to document everything with his digital camera. Uploading them onto his computer, so they can always have something to remember their final days together.
However, like all movies that involve kid(s) meeting alien schtick, they somehow come across an extraterrestrial who's not of this world. They immediately bond with it, and try to help it go back home. Meanwhile, the government sees it as a threat, as they go to great lengths to cover it up. If you've seen various films like "Mac and Me", "E.T.", "The Iron Giant" and etc, then chances are you know exactly how this movie shapes up before you see it because it pretty much hits every cliche in the book.
Granted, some people call "Iron Giant" something of a rip off of "E.T", in some ways; even though it's based on a book that predates Spielberg's movie. However, that still hasn't stopped some people from mentioning it. But even if you are on that side of the fence, the reason why you can still say "the Iron Giant" is a good film is the fact that you can still connect with the characters on a personal level.
You know who Hogarth is as a character, and he's fleshed out to have an interesting back story. He's essentially a social outcast among his own peers, and he has no real friends his age to speak of, which is why he's able to relate to his gigantic alien friend so easily because they have that bond of being outcasts. Sadly, there is no connection between Tuck and the alien in "Earth to Echo." Sure, he does try to help Echo get home, and he says they're friends.
Yet throughout the entire film, it seems like Echo has more of a bond with his friend, Alex, who's not only an orphan, but he's been in multiple foster homes most of his life. He even has a brief moment where he mentions how he hates being abandoned, so he feels like that's why him and Echo connect so well. At the end of the film, Alex is the only one out of the three that has the personal heartfelt goodbye with Echo. And with the token girl in this movie, it's heavily implied that she might have a thing for Alex, but it's never fleshed out enough for the audience to tell because Alex isn't the main character; hence he gets less screen time than Tuck. This begs me to ask...why the hell wasn't Alex the focus? He's obviously the more interesting character of the group, and he has a connection with Echo.
Meanwhile, you're main character, Tuck, has almost little to no personality outside of being the stereotypical cool token black kid of the bunch. Seriously, there's almost nothing about his character that's remotely interesting. You know hardly anything about the guy other than he's a black kid that likes to act like he's cool, but there's hardly anything else interesting about him. Hell, the token girl of the group doesn't even fall for him either, as it's heavily implied that she may like Alex instead; even though we're given little screen time with those two. Which is a real crying shame because it makes the final scene where she does the whole, "I'm his girlfriend....well actually I'm his friend that happens to be a girl..." schtick a bit more awkward because very little screen time was devoted to developing their relationship. Or here's a better idea, why didn't you just give Alex's backstory to Tuck if he's the main protagonist that's telling the story? This way. The main character will have a deep connection with the alien itself.
Granted, i can see what they were trying to do here, as it was fairly obvious they were trying to tell the story from a third party perspective, but it doesn't work here. All it leads to is poor characterizations, and a mediocre story chalked full of "kids befriend aliens" cliches; which makes "Earth to Echo" not only come off as a generic knock off of great movies like "E.T.", but it makes it seem a bit uninspired as well. Hell, one can even argue the whole mechanical tiny alien aspect is a bit of a rip off of "Batteries not Included" if you want to get even more technical.
Sadly though, this film would've been great had Alex been the one telling the story, and was the one filming everything. He was one that Echo first opened up to first, and he was the one that had the backstory that allowed him to have an emotional connection with Echo. Hence, it only begs the question about why he wasn't the main character. Take in mind, this has nothing to do with race, as I'm a minority myself. However, from a narrative point of view, Tuck wasn't an interesting character. In fact, the stereotypical neat freak nerd, Munch, was a more interesting character than he was. Whereas Tuck, he's just the token black kid acting cool, and guess what? That's hardly an original personality either, as you can easily find that same kind of token black character in various other mediums these days.
As for the special effects, I have to say they're probably some of the best that I've ever seen for a "found footage" film before. Although it's obvious that most of it was done with CGI, but it's still fairly impressive. The film moves at a decent pace, and the cinematography isn't half bad either.
In fact, this film probably has some of the best cinematography work that you'll ever find in a "found footage" movie. Granted, you'll still have those occasional shaky cam and/or slanted angle shot moments, but that's to be expected in movies that implement the "found footage" concept.
Like "Devil's Due", this one also implemented the use of switching cameras during it's film to tell a story. However, it surprisingly works here though. For those of you who're confused by that, I'll give you the skinny. "Devil's Due" was a "found footage" horror flick that had a premise eerily similar to "Rosemary's Baby." However, unlike most "found footage" stories, it implemented the use of multiple cameras. Often switching between shots during various scenes. Like it'll show a demon picking up person B, and then throwing them against the wall. But right before he/she hits said wall, the shot moves to a different camera; hence taking you out of the movie to where it became a distraction.
Adding in the fact that it's explained later that all the footage that the guy took during "Devil's Due" was erased, after most of the people were dead by that point. Plus, the whole found footage of the random a** people wandering through the woods, during that same movie, didn't exactly help either; which kind of ruined the illusion of the "found footage" concept, as the whole point of shooting a film that way is to trick the viewer into believing what they're seeing is actual found footage of real life recorded events on the big screen.
Granted, you're never fully convinced what you might see in "Earth to Echo" is remotely realistic, but it's presented in a much more plausible way because the whole story is being told in past tense. Tuck is narrating the entire story throughout the film, so you know that everything already happened. Therefore, it kind of makes sense that the scene can have multiple cameras without ruining the "found footage' concept because then you can chalk it up to Tuck merely editing the footage later. Whereas "Devil's Due", it doesn't make any sense, and it becomes a huge distraction from the movie itself.
Technical aspects aside, this movie isn't worth checking out on the big screen. Sure, the visuals are nice, and it has some of the best camera work that you'll ever find that uses the "found footage" concept. However, the story is poorly written, and the characters aren't fully developed. Heck, the main character himself is arguably the least interesting one of the bunch; which isn't a good sign to say the least. And to make matters worse, this film adds a brief after credit scene to imply that there could be a sequel to it. A sequel to what? More half hazard mediocrity that only "Earth to Echo" can dish out? No thanks.
If you want my advice, then stick to the classics like "E.T." and "Iron Giant" if you want to get your kid befriends alien fix because "Earth to Echo" is nothing more than a poor man's version of those masterpieces.
© 2014 Steven Escareno
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