In 2017, when you say ‘Marvel movie’, you think of Avengers, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men or Deadpool. There was a time, however, when Marvel made what many believe to be a very bad movie. I am talking about the first ever live-action, feature length theatrical release of Howard the Duck in 1986.
Technically speaking, Marvel Studios did not exist back in 1986 as it was only formed in 1993. It also wasn’t until the 2000’s before Marvel Studios began making their own movies. The rights to some of the characters in Marvel comics were sold to studios so they could make movies in their own way. Universal Pictures and Lucasfilm paired together to bring an obscure character to life on the big screen, Howard the Duck.
I am not going to sit here and say that Howard The Duck was a great film, but I do remember enjoying it when I saw it in my teens. Since I am writing this week’s Screen Savers article, I thought that it was about time to revisit this film and see if it is as bad as many people believe it to be.
What’s It About?
This movie is about an anthropomorphic duck named Howard T. Duck. He lives in another dimension on the planet known as Duck World. Through some experiment on Earth, he is pulled through a vortex that lands him in Cleveland, Ohio. The first part of the film is kind of your typical stranger in a strange land kind of deal. Howard meets Beverly who at first is kind of freaked out, but all too quickly decides to bring Howard home with her.
Beverly introduces Howard to her friend Phil, whom she thought was a scientist, but turns out to be just a lab assistant. Phil wants to be the man who introduces Howard to the world and capture all the glory. Howard doesn’t really like Phil’s idea and decides he doesn’t want any one’s help, not even Beverly’s.
Howard tries to go it alone for a short time, but is soon forced to make up with Beverly and accept her help. Unbeknownst to Howard, Phil has plucked a feather from Howard that he brings to scientists where he works. It turns out that Howard was brought to Earth by a mistake at a lab. Dr. Jennings says there may be a way to send him back to his own planet and so the plan is in motion to send him back.
Before Howard, Beverly and Phil arrive at the lab, Dr. Jennings tries to get things ready when another accident with this space laser happens. This time it brings an alien creature that grows inside Dr. Jennings and calls himself the Dark Overlord. So now Howard, Beverly and Phil must find a way to stop Dr. Jennings/The Dark Overlord from bringing more of his race to Earth to destroy it.
Who’s In It?
The movie stars Lea Thompson, who is best known for her work in the Back to the Future franchise, as Beverly. Playing the role of Howard The Duck is a combination of people. The voice of Howard is provided by Chip Zien, while the man in the suit was Ed Gale. There were also a team of animatronic puppeteers for certain scenes as well.
Playing the role of Phil, the lab assistant, is talented actor Tim Robbins. While Dr. Jennings is portrayed by Jeffrey Jones of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fame. The remainder of the cast includes Paul Guilfoyle as Lt. Welker, Holly Robinson Peete as K.C., David Paymer as Larry and Richard Edson as Ritchie.
Is It Really Bad?
The short answer is no, but I can definitely see where it gets the bad reputation that it has. Let’s be honest here, the movie was made in 1986 and therefore the technology and CGI was not as great as it is today. There were some visuals that could have been much better with better technology. There were also some really interesting story decisions made here that I can totally see as being less than ideal.
The script was written by Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Willard also directed the film while Gloria teamed with George Lucas to produce the film. There were aspects of the comic book character used, but for the most part they ran their own story. If you were looking for a great adaptation, you didn’t get it. On the other hand, if you wanted to just watch a silly, more adult than kid, movie about a duck from outer space… well then maybe Howard the Duck is for you. One of my favourite moments from the film comes at the end when they sing the Howard the Duck song. It truly is a song written in and for the 80’s, but it is catchy.
I want to say, I was originally going to do Ghost Rider as this week’s article, but it had already been done at the end of 2015. So then I chose to go back to watch Howard the Duck and to be honest, I am glad I did. The movie is by no means perfect, but it is entertaining, and isn’t that what we want for our movies? I definitely would do things differently today, perhaps follow the comics more closely. In the newer comics, Howard is a private investigator which I think could make for a wonderful film. We did get a post credit scene in Guardians of the Galaxy where James Gunn gave us a cameo appearance by Howard T. Duck himself.
Have you seen Howard the Duck? What are your thoughts on the film? Would you like to see it rebooted? Let us know in the comments below.