Earth to Echo

Posted July 2, 2014 by in


Total Score

.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: family, science-fiction
Director: Dave Green
MPAA Rating: PG
Actors: Teo Halm, Astro, Reese Hartwig
Length: 89 minutes
Release Date: 7/2/2014
Studio: Panay Films, Walt Disney Studios
What We Thought

Comes closer to Mac and Me than it does E.T.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
My air conditioner *beeps* when I turn it on.  I don’t know why it does this, but it does. That doesn’t mean I care about my AC unit.  If it breaks down, I’d replace it.  End of story.
     The little alien robot in Earth to Echo also *beeps*.  That’s pretty much all it does.  Once for yes, twice for no.  That doesn’t mean I care about it, either.
     Three preteens discover the little robot one night after it sends out a coded distress beacon to their cell phones.  Alex is the likeable wise-guy of the trio.  He’s adopted, so he brings the abandonment issues borrowed from E.T.  Munch is the group’s geek, and gets more laughs than the wise-guy by virtue of his numerable neuroses.  And then there’s Tuck.
     Tuck is played by a young actor calling himself “Astro”.  Astro creates the outer shell for the character, the persona, but doesn’t go deeper than that in his performance.  It’s all hip gestures and lingo; it’s artifice when a movie like this needs a naturalistic performance.  It may be that beneath Tuck’s surface, there is simply nothing there, like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho.  I’m kidding of course, but part of what made E.T. a classic was its endearing child performances by Henry Thomas and a young Drew Barrymore.  They went deeper, into the hearts of their characters, what they thought and felt.  Astro should not have made it past the audition phase—and it’s his character who narrates the movie.
     Alex, Munch and Tuck trek across town on their bikes, searching for Echo’s scattered parts.  One of his pieces inexplicably ends up in their classmate Emma’s (Ella Wahlestedt) jewelry box.  Sensing Echo’s presence, the part flies wildly around the room trying to find and attach itself to Echo’s body.  This same scene is repeated in an arcade and elsewhere.  Once you’ve seen one scene, you’ve seen them all.  It’s a dreadfully monotonous movie, and as far as Echo’s pieces go, how the heck did they get where they are?
     Tuck captures all of this on his cameras.  Some might mistakenly call this a found footage film, but it doesn’t follow that subgenre’s conventions and editing logic (i.e., the crew of a mock-documentary die, and then we watch the footage that’s been found, hence found footage).  Earth to Echo  actually comes closer to the film style of Chronicle or the lesser-known Devil’s Due (or even the abysmal Project X), in that the cameras exist in the world of the film; the trio of preteens document their adventure with Tuck’s GoPros and hidden camera glasses. The rawness of the style does bring realism to an unreal story.  However, the film adds a score, soundtrack, and Tuck’s narration over the visuals in post production.  Where is the music supposed to be coming from?  Either everything has to be diegetic, or none of it can be.  In trying to have it both ways, the authenticity is lost, and the rawness comes off as sloppiness.
     J.J. Abram’s Super 8 captured the awe and wonder of E.T. without resorting to a fad film style to draw a crowd.  On the other hand, by using cheap special effects, and by serving as a 90 minute advertisement for mobile devices with its rampant product placements of such, Earth to Echo comes closer to Mac and Me than it does Spielberg’s classic.
     What a film E.T.  was.  A key difference between it and its pale imitation is that E.T. could talk.  Perhaps only a word or a phrase, like a toddler, but it only takes a word or phrase to convey emotion.  E.T. had feelings.  Confusion, fear, enthusiasm, excitement, and most importantly, love.  Feelings which resonate in the tone of his voice and the choices of his words.  Echo, on the other hand, *beeps*.  The film fails to forge a convincing, deep emotional connection between the robot and his young human friends.
     The filmmakers of this bleeping movie are obviously talking to post-Millennials, who grew up with a cell phone in their hands—a tiny, hand-held, electronic device, without personality or feelings.  Just like Echo.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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