Aliens at the Movies: Earth to Echo

Given its metallic exterior, blue-lit interior, and magnetic powers, whether Echo is an alien or a robot is debatable.  For the purpose of this blog, I am going to treat it as an alien.

Visual ***

Since this is a children’s movie, it comes as no surprise that the alien is cute.  Echo looks like a tiny owl with big eyes.  It’s designed appeal to the human protective instinct, and I think the design is successful.  The characters want to protect and help it, and the audience wants them to succeed.

My only quibble is that I didn’t like Echo’s limp black legs; they didn’t seem to match the rest of it.

Features *

Like Iron Giant, Echo is able to use magnetism to collect its parts.

Motivation **

Echo wants to retrieve its spaceship and, like ET, go home.  Why its spaceship was here in the first place is a mystery.

Communication **

Echo takes over the local cell phones to generate a map that leads the characters first to itself and then to its scattered parts.

Echo can understand and respond to natural human speech.  However, its responses are limited to “yes” and “no”.

How Echo learned human language and how to hack the cell phones is not clear.  Since the challenge of learning to communication with an alien species is a theme that interests me, I would have liked to have seen more about how Echo learned to communicate, but I didn’t really expect to in a children’s film.

In the end, I found Echo’s communication unsatisfying.  If it can hear human speech, understand human speech, and control the sound output of a cell phone, why can’t it use the cell phone to speak?  Technically, it did not seem consistent.  And story-wise, I think “ET phone home” is much more emotionally powerful than “one beep for yes, two for no.”  So I think the writers missed an opportunity to have Echo communicate much more powerfully than it does.

Overall **

Echo is a children’s movie alien that seems to be a cross between ET and Iron Giant.  It’s cute and successful in making humans want to care for it, but not as successful as I think it could have been if its creators had let it speak.

Please share your thoughts about this movie alien in the comments below.

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