Howard the Duck (1986)

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Howard the Duck (1986)

Post  BoG on Sat Sep 21, 2013 8:27 pm


A much-maligned movie about a mirthful mallard... based on the Marvel Comics character created by Steve Gerber in the early seventies, this concerns a character who hails from an alternate Earth dimension where ducks are the dominant lifeform, not humans, from a planet called, natch, Duckworld. At the start of the film, it looks like long shots of NYC on our Earth, except that we see two moons; Howard has only been back from work to his apartment for a few minutes when some cosmic force grabs him and transports him through dimensional space to 'our' Earth. He quickly hooks up with Beverly (Lea Thompson), a down-on-her-luck rocker girl. She takes him to a whacky acquaintance (Tim Robbins) who has many goofy theories but is not a scientist, simply a lab assistant. However, he has contacts - real scientists (led by Jeffrey Jones) who have been conducting experiments with matter transportation using a huge laser. It turns out that they are the ones responsible for Howard's unplanned trip. They make plans to reverse the process but then things go wrong with the laser and something else is materialized inside the head scientist. It's a Dark Overlord and, as one can tell by the name, he's got dark nasty plans...
The original series by Gerber was a social satire which stressed the absurd aspects of life. The film version touches on such themes very briefly in the early going, when Howard first finds himself trapped on a world of hairless apes, but most of the film becomes an exercise in FX action and juvenile humor. Much of the humor stems from the either horrified or puzzled reactions of various people who encounter Howard. Along with Howard's own caustic remarks, some early scenes do recall the tone of the comic book, though in a muted fashion. Robbins is genuinely funny as the goofball, hoping to gain something from his 'discovery' of the alien duck. Lea Thompson is very cute; she's not quite the Beverly of the books, but the story does briefly poke fun at the concept of having a relationship with an alternate lifeform. The 2nd half of the film is dominated by ILM's SFX and make-up - the Lucas influence - and becomes a sci-fi extravaganza of alien invasion. It goes on a bit too long, as if to show off what they were capable of, and one Ultralight (a small plane) action sequence was probably unnecessary.
I don't find this to be one of the worst films ever made (as suggested by its win of a Golden Raspberry award that year), just flawed in some ways, including some slow scenes. Most who deride the film have a big problem with the visual depiction of Howard himself - it's just not the same as in the comic book and they further opine that this should have been an animated film. The film version of Howard does take some getting used to - though there are extensive FX, Howard himself seems to be a low rent effort. I never could get used to the raspy voice that Jones uses when he is taken over by the alien. After a few minutes, it's like nails on chalkboard. There's also an over-emphasis on his powers, such as dragging out a scene with flashy FX just so we can see some condiments explode. BoG's Score: 6 out of 10
Trivia of the Duck: at one point early in the film, hours after arriving on Earth, Howard says he knows "Quack Fu" while fighting some punks; this is an acknowledgement of issue #3 of the comic book series, in which Howard learned this fighting discipline; however, in the comic books, Howard learned this form of fighting only months after arriving on Earth, while in the film it's apparent that he learned it (or says he did) while on Duckworld. Howard the Duck, looking slightly different, would show up in cameo in the end credits of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
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