An interesting new sci-fi movie is going to be released this summer that seems insignificant enough, yet might surprise us at its fairly strong marketing budget. Called “Earth to Echo”, this film uses about every possible cliché and contrivance from past sci-fi films you can find, yet could shock everyone in finding an audience based on being a family film and having enough advertising budget to make a difference. This film started out as a secret Disney project that ultimately fell apart and was sold off to a different studio, Relativity. Regardless, the reasons why Disney green-lighted the project in the first place is a bit of a mystery.
Using the worn-out found-footage narrative style and being an almost retread of “E.T. the Extraterrestrial” with an alien/robotic twist, it’s a mix that Disney perhaps thought could work based on how much movie derivativeness is accepted in society now. Then again, it’s also a hint that many studios have perhaps given up on finding original projects and are starting to brazenly put out movies that are obvious retreads of past classics. This isn’t to say that perhaps Disney was on to something that might shock the industry.
Rather than just toss “Earth to Echo” aside, Relativity has somehow found enough money to give it enough advertising where it could make more money than expected. Even I saw an ad on TV in primetime recently for “Earth to Echo” that might have captured the eye of many families looking for something family-friendly in the summer when such movies are usually scant.
Releasing in July, what happens if the film happens to make more money than expected? While most people predict it won’t beat the new “Transformers” movie or anything else, having it within the top three or five box office during the Fourth of July time frame would be an amazing victory.
It also would send a message to Hollywood that making family-friendly twists on old formulas might become a new secret weapon in taking on the big studio behemoths during summer movie season.
Does the Public Really Mind Derivative Movies?
When you apply some of the details to “Earth to Echo”, there’s enough available where it can easily be disguised for some people in its obvious derivativeness. For kids, they may not have the assimilation of “E.T.” or even “Chronicle”, the two movies this film mostly borrows from. Only the adults will be able to realize just how much the film takes based on their generation making “E.T.” a seminal event in their movie lives as kids.
But Hollywood always underestimates how many families want good family films their kids can watch without being exposed to violence, sex, or intense profanity. “The Fault in Our Stars” is going to soon prove this, especially when emotion is involved and a true understanding of what it’s like to be a teen. “The Fault in Our Stars” also has a backbone of a million prior tropes, though provides enough different details to make it stand out from all that followed. Don’t be surprised to see it stay in the Top 10 box office clear through Fourth of July.
“Earth to Echo” may not be as popular as “The Fault in Our Stars”, yet any profit made there is going to bring plenty more like it in the future. While it doesn’t necessarily bode well for complete originality in the future, the movies have already proven they want to keep it safe. For the sake of creating good family entertainment everybody loves, it may not matter that much of it is derivative. Even if some of us believe we haven’t fully reached potential on finding original new movie ideas, the familiar might be the new calling card in the family film genre.
It could be that every summer from now on, a little family film seeming overly familiar will be thrown into the strategic summer movie release mix to throw things into a slight tailspin. All it takes is one slight alteration to take the tradition of bloated summer movies to a place where overly familiar family fare is a bit of a comfort zone.