A weekly look at all the Marvel movies, right from the very beginning…
Howard the Duck (1986)
Based on characters created by Steve Gerber
Written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz | Directed by Willard Huyck
Starring: Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins, Jeffery Jones, David Paymer, Holly Robinson and Chip Zien as the voice of Howard.
HOWARD: It’s not nice to fool with the Dark Overlords!
I know I shouldn’t like it. It’s Howard the Duck, for God’s sake! The story of an English-speaking fowl from across the galaxy who foils the invasion of Earth by the universe’s Dark Overlords. It bombed on opening, is still reviled most everywhere for its general silliness, and it could very well have derailed the entire concept of Marvel Comics-based movies for good.
But I can’t help it. I just adore Howard.
He’s cute! He’s smart! He has biting wit, extraordinary eloquence, snappy dress-sense… and he’s a duck! Cinema just doesn’t get any better.
Our tale commences as the eponymous Howard, home after a hard day’s work, settles down in front of an alien TV for some quality channel surfing (thus proving that game shows, General Hospital and craaazy appliance salesmen are universal constants) when, BAM! He’s suddenly traveling millions of light years across the galaxy through the vacuum of space (how he survives this is never satisfactorily explained), only to land in one of those generic dank and darkened alleyways with which America seems to abound.
And then the fun begins.
Through a series of co-incidence, happenstance, fate, destiny – oh, let’s be honest, plot devicing in its lowest form – Howard meets up with rocker-babe Beverly (Lea Thompson) who, after a token protest (“You’re not really a… a duck?”), accepts his existence with a gullible equanimity that would set a cult leader to salivating. Full of good intentions, Bev enlists the help of alleged scientist, Tim Robbins, to get her ducky home. Howard, however, pissed off with humanity in general, decides to strike out on his own. In one of the movie’s less plausible scenes – and, boy, is that saying Something – Howard gets himself a job in a massage parlour.
Let’s not dwell.
Moving on, it later transpires that Howie was brought down to Earth by the cosmic interference of some wild-haired science types. And when they attempt to reverse the process, and send our hero home, something else – less cute and cuddly, we are given to understand – arrives instead.
Much wackiness follows, but basically Howard, even while making with the jokes and the puns, manages to also make the world safe once again for democracy (in a scene that is the anti of climactic), by defeating an alien that you could swear was Gumby on steroids in a bad mood.
But now poor, brave, martyred Howard can’t get home. No, he is forced to stay on Earth… and become the manager of Lea’s soft-rock girl band!
And, in the final scene, when Howard announces, “Not bad for a duck from outer space,” I actually have to agree. For some unfathomable, probably terrifyingly pathological reason, I just adore this movie.
Does that make me a bad person?
NEXT TIME: The Punisher, with Dolph Lundgren!