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Watching the screening of Earth to Echo, it became apparent that this was the millennial version of Steven Spielberg’s ET. While this may have seemed like a good idea at one time, the decision to make the film in the same “guerilla” style as Cloverfield detracted quite a lot from the enjoyment factor of the movie.
It seems that this jerky, style of filming was intended to show that the camera work was done by the preteen stars of the film. This was a mistake by the filmmakers that was almost glaringly obvious to the viewer.
The burgeoning filmmaker in the movie, Tuck played by Astro, has a YouTube channel and he uploads regularly. This fact alone would have made the idea of this “herky jerky” style of cinematography nonsensical. A certain amount of “reality” was created by the use of the popular Sony RED camera to shoot the film. This should have been enough, without the idea that these clever youngster’s would be poor camera operators.
The storyline for Earth to Echo, with its millennial focus on a modern YouTube version of ET is surprisingly simple and a tad old fashioned. A trio of friends are mourning the fact that a new highway will level their homes and destroy their friendship. The main players in this science fiction adventure movie include wannabe director Tuck, nerd and techno geek Munch and foster child Alex. A fourth member ends up joining the three friends in their attempts to help the little alien creature they have found. This final addition is Emma, played by Ella Wahlestedt.
This small group band together to help Echo to “go home” but without all the cute imagery of the original alien story as told by Spielberg and co. It is a modern take, set in a world where YouTube, iPhones, tablets, and smart cell phones are a fact of life.
The audience viewing the film reacted quite well to the action onscreen. Smaller children did fidget, however, and director Dave Green, with his feature film debut, seemingly could not decide what age group his target demographic should be. The special effects were impressive, but the movie’s biggest FX spectacles are shown in the trailers.
Older members of the audience may also feel that they have seen “Echo” before. For some odd reason, the filmmakers appear to have fashioned the little fellow after the “owl” in the 1981 film Clash of the Titans. Although they did change its color to blue and it was not, obviously, mechanical in the same way that the fantasy film’s bird was.
Earth to Echo‘s screenplay, adapted by the coauthor of the story, Henry Gayden had what could be considered holes in the plot. However, this may be down to the fact that the film is directed towards younger members of the audience. Too much explanation would slow the film down and as pointed out before, the younger viewers were fidgeting already.
After the film ended, despite the spattering of applause from the audience, the crowd could not get out of the theatre quick enough. A little tip to future viewers of this film, watch the credits. Still the rapid departure at the film’s end is not too surprising. Hollywood seems determined to either continue with either a “found footage” type of delivery or the once unique guerilla style of cinematography.
The movie, apart from causing eye strain and a headache from the attempt to make the film seem like it really was made by a twelve year-old, looked pretty stunning. That comes as no surprise being shot on the RED Sony high definition camera. This preferred piece of equipment for a lot of indie filmmakers, manages a crisp and detailed look for a fraction of the cost of traditional filming methods.
Sadly, this HD look conflicted with the film’s determination to ignore the fact that the young characters are meant to be millennials who are comfortable with all this “new” technology. Earth to Echo, with its “re-imaging” of ET, is entertaining in its own way. Sadly this film does not have the capability to become as iconic as the Spielberg classic. Final verdict? Keep the really young children at home.
By Michael Smith
Regal Green Valley Ranch Stadium 10 Theatre