Howard The Duck (1986) #Rediscovered
When he popped up in the end of credits stinger on “Guardians Of The Galaxy” (I’m not posting a spoiler warning for that because any right-thinking person has already seen that movie at least twice by now, and if you haven’t, stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now) , I knew it was time. Time to introduce The Mertmas to another of my favourite childhood films. Time to #Rediscover… “Howard The Duck”!
So much has been written about how terrible this film was, how it pushed George Lucas perilously close to bankruptcy (inadvertently starting the genesis of what would become Pixar), how its failure led to boardroom fistfights at Universal and crippled the careers of everyone involved for years but here’s the thing: when I first saw it at the age of 12, I thought it was great!
Back then, I didn’t care about box office receipts, critical reception or production difficulties, I just enjoyed this funny, weird movie about a duck from outer space who crash lands on Earth and has an adventure with a cool looking monster in it. I had no awareness of the comic book source (still don’t, really) but the mix of nonsense, adventure and sci-fi ticked all my boxes and I’m pretty sure I saw it in the cinema more than once. It’s possible I’m personally responsible for most of its UK gross.
The story begins on Duckworld, when Howard is pulled from his apartment by a mysterious energy vortex which dumps him in a seedy neighbourhood of Cleveland, he quickly encounters the colourful and safely non-threatening gang culture which only seemed to exist in comedies in the 1980s. You know the kind, they’re leather and denim clad punks who’ll push you around and brandish flick-knives but the most they’ll do is shove you to the ground near a comfy pile of soft garbage bags. So much more civilised than the gangs nowadays. Having had enough, he rescues Beverly (Lea Thompson) from a would-be mugging and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. Eventually, through Beverly’s friend Phil (Tim Robbins), they discover how Howard arrived on Earth and together with Dr Jennings (Jeffrey Jones) plot to send him back. But before they can, something else uses the experimental laser spectroscope to travel to Earth – a ‘Dark Overlord’ from the Nexus Of Sominus, bent on world domination.
I concede that my personal fondness for this film polishes out a lot of its rough edges, and perhaps it’s more of a guilty pleasure [Hmm…that gives me an idea!] than a misunderstood and underrated great movie but I enjoyed it then and I still enjoy it now. For me “Howard The Duck” is easily just as good as “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” which has a similarly screwball mixture of surreal sci-fi, comedy and rock’n’roll and yet seems to be universally beloved. The Mertmas has already watched “Howard The Duck” again and I suspect it’ll find a place in his regular rotation.
Perhaps “Guardians Of The Galaxy” will lead to more people seeking this film out and giving it a post-modern, ironic chance. Maybe it’ll even achieve the masterpiece status that George Lucas believed it would eventually be seen as. After all, consider this: “Howard The Duck” was the first – the very first – Marvel feature film in history. And on that ‘Cherry Bomb’shell, I’ll leave you with the score:
#Rediscovered will return!