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/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): August 1, 1986

MPAA Rating: PG

howard the duck sex scene beverly lea thompson

Things are about to get hot!!! (or not)

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…and could forever be trapped in a world he never made.

Directed by Willard Huyck (who penned the script with Gloria Katz), Howard the Duck was a superhero Marvel Comics action-comedy produced by George Lucas.  The movie was critically panned and performed poorly at the box office.  It won Razzies for Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay, Worst New Star, and Worst Special Effects with nominations for Worst Supporting Actor (Tim Robbins), Worst Director, and Worst Original Song (“Howard the Duck”).  The film has gained a cult status since its release

howard the duck airplane scene tim robbins

Let’s take a one line joke (Howard can’t fly) and turn it into a long, dull chase scene

The appearance of Howard was kept secret until the release building suspense (ah…the days of pre-internet and lack of spoilers).  I can remember eagerly going to see Howard the Duck simply because at the time it was so rare to have a comic book movie, and the odd choice to make a movie about Howard the Duck should have been compelling enough for people to attend (it wasn’t).

The problem (other than focusing the story around a rather obscure character) is that the movie did little to capture the character of Howard the Duck.  The comic was ironic, philosophical, and played with superhero tropes.  That didn’t fly in a time when only characters like Superman had films…plus, the ditsy Beverly was modified to be more of a foil and voice of reason to Howard (which obviously was more progressive but lacked the point of the character).  Instead, you get an action blend with hints of the comic like the diner scene or the scene at the unemployment agency which almost work.  The tone of the movie and the story is all over the place.

howard the duck dark overlord

Ok…a guy in a duck suit is fighting a clay monster!

It is too bad because I really like Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins (who both were signed to sequels which proves that the movie makers thought they were making a hit).  Jeffrey Jones’s Jennings character sometimes has the comic tone, but other times feels more like a traditional supervillain for an ’80s movie.

Howard’s appearance also poses a big problem.  Everyone mistakes him for a guy in a duck costume because he looks like a guy in a duck costume.  They don’t think he’s a talking duck in a world of humans (another funny aspect of the original comics).  The movie has some great ’80s looks (including Beverly’s big hair and outfits), but it also suffers from dull action sequences like the plane chase which goes on forever…once again shifting the tone of the movie.  The final Dark Overlord enemy also is just over-the-top and weak stop-motion animated creature.  I wish that the idea that Howard should have been animated (in a way that Who Framed Roger Rabbit later did), and then the story could have had more focus (I also never need to see naked duck breasts or condoms).

howard the duck concert ending

I wonder what the extras in the audience were thinking at this point…

Howard the Duck ruined the chance of superhero movies at the time.  It was the wrong movie at the wrong time with the wrong tone.  It “proved” superheroes weren’t necessarily profitable and taking a chance on a character that wasn’t a headliner was a foolish movie.  A lot of films that are worse have succeeded (I can watch the movie and enjoy it for the sheer weirdness), but Howard the Duck’s performance was pretty sorry.  The recent appearance of Howard the Duck in the new MCU (starting with Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014) has given hope that Howard might quack again…something I’d be all for (especially if it was adult oriented).  Howard the Duck was set to return in an animated series for Hulu which ended up falling through…The world needs the Duck…bring back Howard the Duck!

Related Links:

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Avengers:  Endgame (2019)

Howard the Duck 0:  What the Duck

Howard the Duck 1:  Duck Hunt

Howard the Duck 2:  Good Night, and Good Duck

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @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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