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‘Earth to Echo’ has charm and potential

‘Earth to Echo’ has charm and potential

Earth to Echo poster

Earth to Echo
Written by Henry Gayden
Directed by Dave Green
USA, 2014

When a fresh-faced director takes the helm of his first full length film, there’s always a degree of anticipation, and maybe even hope, surrounding the project. Will he (or she) steer us into familiar waters, or spin the wheel with wild abandon, taking us boldly into new, exciting territory? Dave Green, whose debut feature Earth to Echo just hit screens, has unfortunately done the former, but that isn’t a reason not to keep an eye on him. While Earth to Echo is ultimately not much more than a decent family adventure flick, there are enough glimmers of creativity to make it stand out, and to indicate there’s hope for Green yet.

Earth to Echo is a coming of age teen/children’s adventure with a sci-fi twist, quite deliberately evoking classics like Stand by Me, The Goonies, Explorers, Star Kid (people remember Star Kid, right?) and a host of others. After receiving a mysterious signal on their cell phones, friends Alex, Tuck and Munch set out on their last night together before Alex moves to find the source of the signal. The three find Echo, an alien robot who crashed on Earth, and decide to help him rebuild his ship and return home, on the way dodging dastardly government agents who want to poke Echo with sharp things (for science) and learning the usual lessons about friendship and standing up for your friends.

Earth to Echo header

Although the advertising has been seemingly eager to downplay this, Earth to Echo is a found footage movie, being mostly shot from the perspective of Go-Pros, cell-phones and spy cams. However, the film also mixes in a fair bit of web-capture footage, which is where some of that aforementioned creativity comes in. In one fun scene, when the three decide to track down the signal during a Skype conversation, the audience can see Tuck open iTunes to play dramatic music over their decision. Transitions and establishing shots take place in Google Maps, and numerous other clever uses of the film’s technological conceit can be seen throughout the film. The film makers clearly sat down and actually though about what kind of new tricks can be pulled from the found footage/web bag, which one would think had run dry years ago.

A healthy amount of credit should also go to the film’s editors, Carsten Kupanek and Crispin Struthers, whose excellent sense of comedic timing more often than not led to scenes ending on a perfect comedic note.

Earth to Echo MunchThe only real problem Earth to Echo has working against the creativity on display is the slavish degree to which it which it mimics the 80s and 90s teen sci-fi movies it draws inspiration from. Despite all giving excellent and likeable performances, the three main performers are all given what amount to stock roles to perform. Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley is Tuck, the somewhat bland leader of the group, Teo Helm plays Alex, the emotional one, and Reese Hartwig is Munch, the nerdy one. Their characters really end there, and if the film had just added a party dude, they’d be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in everything but name, genus and proclivity towards 90s surfer lingo.

Ella Wahlestedt also joins the group midway through the film as ‘the girl’, less of a character as a source of romantic tension, whose only real contribution to the team is using the mystical power of crying and making a scene to get them out of one jam. One would think that the film makers would have the sense to at least update 80s teen adventure movies’ tendency to marginalize its female characters as love interests or devices to distract the bad buys with girly emotions, but alas not.

But the few faults Earth to Echo does present don’t bring the entire ship crashing into the rocks and sinking to the briny deep, just as its virtues don’t cause it to catch a good wind and sail majestically into the sunset. It was just enough creativity and charm to make for an enjoyable viewing experience, a good first start for Dave Green and the cast of young actors that will hopefully get overshadowed by any follow-up projects.

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