I was born several years after E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial came out, but that didn’t mean I hadn’t seen it. Growing up, there were very few friendly aliens shown in films. If they weren’t trying to steal our resources or using us as cattle, they were hunting us for sport or using us as alien incubators. E.T. was the anomaly, showing us that hey, maybe not every alien wants us dead. Earth to Echo reintroduces that idea in a very nostalgic style that is a bit too reminiscent of its predecessor.
Alex (Teo Halm), Tuck (Astro) and Munch (Reese C. Hartwig) have been friends for a while. They are nearly inseparable, but that is going to change very soon since a highway construction project is forcing everyone in their community out of their homes. To make the most of their limited time together, the gang goes on one more adventure to find the source of a weird transmission that seems to be hijacking everyone’s phones. Somehow figuring out what a group of adults couldn’t, they decipher the map sent by the signal, follow it to its source, and recover some kind of alien technology. This technology is in fact a wounded alien trying to find all the necessary components to heal itself.
This quickly escalates from harmless scavenger hunt to government manhunt (technically boy-hunt). They make 2 unlikely friends along the way. The first is school mate Emma (Ella Linnea Wahlestedt), who is more than willing to help out their second new friend, Echo, the wounded alien. The people who aren’t willing to help Echo are the people trying to capture it in order to dissect it and experiment on it. They have to race against the clock (and the government goons chasing them) in order to help their new friend find its way home just hours before they all have to leave theirs. Bonds will be made, friendships will be tested, and lives will be put in danger, all while you’re wondering just where all of their parents are.
The writer, director and even the actors are all newcomers to a major motion picture, but each does there job when it comes to bringing back those feelings that watching E.T. gave use as children. It’s almost impossible to no compare the two because Earth to Echo has been pretty blatant in paying “homage” to the film in both its story and its advertising. Echo doesn’t come anywhere near to replacing E.T., but it serves as a nostalgic reminder of childhood for most of the adults who probably have children of their own at this point. Like E.T., this film is made for an older type of kid, like a preteen or an older generation that is still a kid at heart.
This story has a modernized twist where it makes the entire film the product of various hand cams to give it a found footage effect. Naturally it is very shaky at times, enough to kid the younger audience’s attention, but not too much to wear we are stuck experiencing motion sickness. The visual effects are subtle up until the explosive finally, but that only helps to sell its believability.
The downside to banking on the memory of a previous film is that if you don’t surpass it in quality, you will always be below it. Earth to Echo can best be described as an amalgam of sci-fi and kids film cliches that struggles to find an identity of its own because of this. It reminds us of our childhood (and other films), but at the same time it introduces the story to a younger audience who might have missed out on the experience. That way, when a similar film is inevitably made in the next 20 years, they too can feel what we feel… old.
RATING: ★★★★★★(5/10 stars)
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