I’m really dreading one day having kids because of all of the children’s movies that we’ll have to go to. I’m sure that all of the other joys of parenting are very rewarding, but I doubt that many people have said that they really enjoyed their children dragging them into the cinema to see Cars 2 or The Lorax. There is also a plethora of excellent family films, some of which have been released this summer, but the kids never check the reviews before going into the theater. And the worst part is that, no matter what, you’re going to have to pretend that you liked the movie. You don’t want to look your kid in the eye and tell them about the bad acting and immature humor that you pray they won’t appreciate for much longer. At best, they won’t understand your complaints, and at worst, you’ll break their heart. I’m sure that many parents are fearing that they might experience this frustration this weekend as they are being pulled into Earth to Echo.
Earth to Echo is a PG-rated found footage film that starts off with three young boys, Tuck, Alex, and Munch, making a documentary of their lives as Alex and his family prepare to move away from the neighborhood. On the day before he leaves, the boys’ phones begin to act strange and reveal a map of sorts leading to a location in the desert. When the boys go to the location, they find a small metal capsule that they soon discover contains a mechanical being from another planet that they name Echo. The boys learn that Echo wants to reassemble his spacecraft so that he can return to his home planet, a task that he and the young filmmakers must accomplish before the government forcibly takes in Echo for their own purposes.
In general, I hate the feel of found footage films because of the overuse of shaky cam and the laziness of the direction used in most of these movies. In Earth to Echo, some smart choices were made to alleviate these problems. Each of the boys have cameras on at all times, so there were some scenes in the movie where the film’s editors were able to switch between the different cameras to get several different angles of the scene. Also, since this movie didn’t have much action until the final act, there wasn’t very much shaky cam throughout the entire film, and the ending, which involved the trio and their friend Emma running from the G-Men, took place in the daytime, making the moments where the friends were running a bit easier to take in. In this sense, Earth to Echo is visually a much easier movie to watch than films such as Cloverfield or Chronicle, and I hope that the creators of future found footage movies take the decisions made by director Dave Green into consideration.
Many who saw the trailer for this movie feared that it would be a ripoff of E.T., and I’m afraid that these fears were correct. I hate saying that about movies as I am a huge fan of films such as James Cameron’s Avatar and The Hunger Games, both of which have been accused of ripping off Dances with Wolves and Battle Royale, respectively. The difference between those movies and Earth to Echo, however, is that Avatar and The Hunger Games only borrowed plot elements from the films that came before while creating entirely new settings, characters, and conflicts, giving the movies an entirely different feel altogether. In Earth to Echo, however, the biggest thing that differentiates it from E.T. is the fact that the alien here is robotic instead of organic. Besides that, I really felt like I was watching a modern reboot of Spielberg’s masterpiece. The filmmakers didn’t even attempt to make the film feel different from the sci-fi classic. At least 2011’s Super 8 was a much darker take on this sort of story, and seemed more like a tribute to E.T. than a ripoff. Earth to Echo has nothing new to offer in its story, which almost makes it an archetype of the direction that Hollywood is going in.
As for the three boys, I found two of them to be likable. Tuck and Alex seem to be mature for their age, even if they still fall into some boyhood follies such as lying about kissing girls and getting into fistfights. Munch, however, was very annoying until the film’s final act. He seems like the kind of kid who I would definitely love spending time with if he was my nephew, but not the kind of kid that I like seeing on the big screen. Emma, the girl who joins them, really just feels like she is in the film to place a female character in the group. She shows up halfway through the movie, and doesn’t have much of a personality except for the fact that she doesn’t get along with her parents. It didn’t help these two characters that the script of this movie is very unoriginal, and contains both the clichés and simple humor that only younger audiences can appreciate.
On that note, however, I have to admit that the children in the viewing that I attended really enjoyed the movie. I can’t blame them; I’m sure that at that age, I appreciated similarity simple movies without question. I remember seeing the first Power Rangers movie in theaters with my poor mother who had to sit through it with me and thinking that it was the greatest work of art ever made. I should really send her an apology letter for all of the terrible films that I made her sit through. Also, I have to admit that there were plenty of moments in Earth to Echo that had a sense of fun to them. Altogether, I’d say that if you’re a fully grown adult who has seen both E.T. and Super 8, there’s no reason for you to see Earth to Echo, but if you want something fun to do with your kids this weekend, this definitely isn’t your worst option. It’ll be much better for their imaginations than Transformers: Age of Extinction.