Howard the Duck (1986) – Willard Huyck

 

A long time before Marvel Entertainment got their act together to bring us one superhero extravaganza after another, George Lucas (the next stop on the journey through the Sci-Fi Chronicles book), served as executive producer on Willard Huyck’s terrible adaptation of Howard the Duck from the comic series.

There are a couple of upsides to the film, Lea Thompson, rocking out as Howard’s would-be human girlfriend Bev, and Jeffery Jones as Dr. Walter Jenning, the villain of the piece. Also of note is the appearance of Tim Robbins. And it needs to be said, that for the time, Howard does look pretty good, as well as the stop-motion creature at the end of the film, it has a Rick Baker/Men in Black feel to it.

Howard (performed by puppeteers, little actors, and voiced by Chip Zien – which sadly lacks personality) is yanked from his world, parallel to our reality, and dropped into ours. He just wants to find a way home, but an alien invader, having taken control of Jenning, has other plans, and Howard and Bev have to stop him.

To say this movie is terrible is being too kind, it’s hard to believe that Huyck, Lucas and Gloria Katz all came up with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom two years previous.

It doesn’t do anything to establish Howard as a real character, everything around him, in his world is a goofy fowl version of our own. They also don’t seem to have the balance of ego, arrogance and humour that seems so prevalent in the comics.

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Thompson seems to be trying hard, and looks great as an 80s rock star, but even her charm can’t breathe life into the dead duck. And I hate to say it because I tend to love John Barry’s work, but his score seems completely out of place here. The dialogue is terrible, the pacing is off, and you can never tell if it wants to be taken seriously or not. All of it is one giant misstep that is probably better best forgotten.

This was a tough two hours to get through. I remember seeing this when I was a kid, I even had the Marvel Movie Adaptation, but rewatching it for the blog shows you that you don’t always have the best taste as a child, though a lot of the films I watched back then I still love.  Some of them, however, are just terrible. And it’s not really a surprise that Huyck and Katz haven’t done a lot since then.

Lucas, came out of this one, more or less unscathed, but as we see when I take on the next title in the Sci-Fi Chronicles, the man is nowhere near perfect, no matter how strong his imagination, and technical achievements are.

Now, having seen this with the eyes of an adult, I can’t help but feel sorry for subjecting my parents to this one one weekend when I was growing up.

But hey, not all of my film choices at that age were bad…

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