HOWARD THE DUCK (1986)
Director: Willard Huyck
Writers: Steve Gerber, Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz
Starring: Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins, Ed Gale, Chip Zien (As Voice Of Duck)
Throughout the history of Marvel books, there’s nothing out there quite like Howard The Duck. Unlike many first-generation Marvel films (Captain America, The Punisher and Unreleased Fantastic Four to name a few) which came off much cheesier than any approaches utilized these days, I feel that Howard The Duck became something special – a sort of odd love story between an alien duck and a human woman fraught with difficulties regarding a mad scientist (Jeffrey Jones) and alien overlords as well as a third-rate hack looking to get the Nobel prize for Howard’s discovery. The whole thing took me from inside Howard’s living room and through the cosmos, only to be thrown into the middle of an alley where a sort of mix between pop rock and punk was playing. Lea Thompson was able to rock the role of a disgruntled punk musician by the name of Beverly Switzler, who was frazzled over her sleazy band manager and served a proper love interest for the duck. It even got a little erotic at times, which surprised me seeing as it featured George Lucas as executive producer (post Star Wars) and received a firm PG rating. Long story short, Beverly introduces Howard to a hack scientist by the name of Phil Blumburtt (Tim Robbins) and then later to an absolute nutball by the name of Dr. Jennings (Jeffrey Jones) who later loses his mind. Jones shines in this role, especially when the dimensional transporting device (which brought Howard here and the three are attempting to use to send him back home) malfunctions and forces him to become possessed by a dark overlord from the Nexus Of Sominus. This changes the entire feel of the film, as Jennings voice changes to something rather inhuman, like if Ghaal were to choke on a gopher. The restaurant scene (Cajun Sushi, because don’t ask) is by far one of my favorite in eighties film as we not only see Howard almost made into roasted duck, but we also see a single man wield almost incredible power along with some rather flashy special effects. You really do start to believe that Jennings is from the Nexus of Sominus, as tentacles even start to come out of his mouth during certain scenes. Unlike many other films of this type, Howard The Duck actually shows what the dark overlords from the Nexus Of Sominus look like and our pint-size hero must even do battle with one of these sixty foot tall insectoid monsters. I thought the visual was rather striking there, quite like something that you might see from the brood or even the alien queen herself. Eventually, he is able to defeat the beast and save the love of his life as we’d all expect; where the film ends with Howard performing one heck of an on-stage guitar solo. As silly as this all sounds, Howard The Duck is still part of the Marvel universe and he was even placed into a bonus scene just before the credits in the first Guardians Of The Galaxy film. Perhaps Marvel wants to wash their hands clean of the character, but James Gunn doesn’t feel the same way. Fans apparently don’t like the film, but it was filled with a piping hot amount of eighties cheese that I enjoyed. I recommend the film if you’re hungry for that, but please don’t expect it to be comic accurate. If nothing else, definitely watch the restaurant scene as that is where the film most shines.
(PG, 110 Minutes)