Supporters of the “found footage” format say it’s more of a filmmaking tool than a tired shtick, but while that’s an arguable claim even they would have to agree that too many filmmakers simply don’t know how to use this particular tool. Instead it’s usually little more than a budgetary bonus that also nets a film an extra marketable factor. More mature film fans, those of us past drinking age, have been sitting through found footage movies for years now and are used to the paucity of good to great examples.
The gimmick isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s about damn time that the young ones were exposed to the joys of the format. It’s actually a smart play too as kids are far less likely to notice the numerous issues inherent in most of the films employing it.
Earth to Echo‘s initial teaser dropped back in December, but it revealed only the basics that four kids find something alien, and because all the cool kids are doing it, they also film themselves every minute of the day. The full trailer below expands on that premise and actually gives us a look at the alien creation that befriends our pre-teen heroes. Imagine if Wall-E knocked up Clash of the Titans‘ Bubo and four months later this preemie was born. Anyway. The kids name him Echo and they all have adventures and shit.
Check out the full trailer for Earth to Echo below.
The obvious influences here are legion with everything from E.T. to Explorers to The Goonies to Chronicle playing a role, but it’s that first film that feels most relevant. Kids helping a crash-landed alien, possibly even protecting it from government authorities, is the clearest similarity, but the film also looks to be trying for an Amblin-like feel. That’s a fantastic goal to aim for, and my hope is the film manages to pull it off because 12-13 year olds too often fall between the cracks of movies meant for kids and those made for teenagers. The Amblin films of old were frequently crafted perfectly for that niche.
Most of the expected ingredients are here, from the collection of “dorks” to the introduction of the fantastical, and one wonders why the filmmakers felt the need to use found footage. It’s unlikely the format plays into the narrative somehow and instead my guess is the project was pitched with that as the final note — “and it’s found footage so it will be cheap to produce!” Director Dave Green and screenwriter Henry Gayden are both making their feature debuts here, and for first-timers that low budget was most assuredly a selling point.
As I said above, I hope the move gets as close as possible to rekindling that old Amblin sense of wonder and joy. But if it doesn’t, if it somehow goes the other direction, then I hope it borrows a page from Jason Eisener’s segment in V/H/S/2 and just drops those little bastards from the sky.
The film’s full synopsis is here.
In Relativity’s PG summer family adventure movie, Tuck, Munch and Alex are a trio of inseparable friends whose lives are about to change. Their neighborhood is being destroyed by a highway construction project that is forcing their families to move away. But just two days before they must part ways, the boys begin receiving a strange series of signals on their phones. Convinced something bigger is going on, they team up with another school friend, Emma, and set out to look for the source of their phone signals. What they discover is something beyond their wildest imaginations: a small alien who has become stranded on Earth. In need of their help, the four friends come together to protect the alien and help him find his way home. This journey, full of wonder and adventure, is their story, and their secret.“
Earth to Echo lands in theaters on July 2, 2014.