Howard the Duck (1986)

howard the duck poster 1986 movie
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 4/10

Early comic book movie, so-bad-it-is-good feel

Action plot should have been a satire, bad costume design

 
Movie Info

Movie Name: Howard the Duck

Studio: Lucasfilm

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Comic Book/B-Movie

Release Date(s): August 1, 1986

MPAA Rating: PG

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Howard getting some Beverly action!

Pulled from Duckworld, Howard the Duck finds himself stranded in Cleveland.  This duck’s mission to get home cannot be stopped and with the help of Beverly Switzler (Lea Thompson) and Phil Blumburtt (Tim Robbins), Howard might end up just saving the Earth itself.

Howard the Duck was written by Willard Huyck (who also directed) and Gloria Katz and produced by George Lucas.  It was a monumental bomb.  The movie was pretty expensive, highly touted, and the appearance of Howard was kept secret until the release building suspense (ah the days of pre-internet and lack of spoilers).  When it was released it was blasted by critics and audiences, but now twenty-five years later is kind of seen as a cult classic.

howard-the-duck-concert

I’m just imagining that the concert going extras in this scene were wondering what the hell is going on

In a time when very few comic book movies made it to the screen and when they did, they had a small budget, the announcement of Marvel Comics’ Howard the Duck coming to theaters at the hands of George Lucas was a big deal.  Add to that, that the writers of the classic American Graffiti were writing the plot and a blockbuster was in motion.  Despite being a minor character, people had high hopes.

The problem with Howard the Duck mostly was with the story and the technology.  The Howard the Duck comic book was a satire.  It made fun of other comic books, society, and the juxtaposition of a duck walking around in a human world (and virtually not being really questioned about it).  The fact that it was set in Cleveland instead of New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago says it all.  Howard is second class and the average Joe…duck.

howard-the-duck-plane-tim-robbins

For the love of God! Could this scene go on any longer?

Lea Thompson as Beverly was nice, but to be a bit more PC they made her intelligent.  The Beverly of the comic book was a bimbo and guided by Howard…not the other way around.  Rocker Beverly could take care of herself while bimbo Beverly was more of a way to keep Howard’s temper in check.

howard-the-duck-dark-overlord

Please I hope this gun ends it all…literarly

The humor of the comic book never quite made it to the screen though there were a few moments where it almost reached it.  The diner scene was as close to the comic book as any other scene in the movie.  The interaction between Howard, Beverly, Jennings (Jeffrey Jones), and the waitress was pretty close to the tone of the comic.  There were other moments sprinkled in the movie that did come close (another good contender was the unemployement office scene), but the diner scene almost reached it (and I thought it was also one of the better scenes in the movie).

howard-the-duck-howard-and-beverly

I think we’ve made a big mistake!

With the comic to movie translation problems, the movie also had difficulty finding what type of audience for which it was going.  The hokey action story derailed any chance of a smart satire for adults (and man, did that ultralight plane scene go on forever) and the creepy romance scene, duck breasts, and condoms didn’t really lend itself to children watching it.  I have a feeling that if it were made today, it would have almost gone the lines of Fritz the Cat with some extremely foul (or fowl…can’t be helped) language.

howard-the-duck-bath

No George Lucas! No! And never show me a duck condom again!

This also was a debate for the producers of the movie.  There was some question if Howard should just be animated.  If Who Framed Roger Rabbit had come out before Howard the Duck, I bet it would have been an animated movie, but they seemed to think that people wanted a real-life duck.  The duck suit doesn’t work.  It just seems like a little guy in a suit.  The mouth does a good job articulating words (usually) and the eyes are expressive, but the body just isn’t what was needed.  The Dark Overlord’s stop motion also is pretty weak, but I will say the design is pretty impressive.

Howard the Duck ruined any chance of the Howard the Duck comic from ever gaining traction again (though there have been many attempts).  That is also a sad side note to this story.  The movie itself maybe didn’t deserve to bomb as badly as it did (especially when you look at some of the blockbusters that succeed).  I’ve often argued that a Howard the Duck 2 could be a really amusing concept if it went back to the original source material, mocked the original movie, for adults, and used a computer animated Howard, but I also think movies like Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear are pretty bad looking, so I guess they better leave good enough alone.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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