Continuing the trend of revisiting monumental 80’s movie failures lately(which started with Altman’s Popeye) i gave Howard The Duck another look on dvd. what can be said about this that hasn’t already been said? Yeah, it’s a pretty lousy movie, perhaps not as bad as its reputation suggests, but it’s certainly no overlooked classic. Fans of the comic often point to the fact that it’s not ‘ironic’, ‘existential’ or ‘meta’ like its source material, and that Lucas was more interested in making another big budget creature feature than celebrating Howard’s uniqueness, and while i’m not in a position to comment either way, with the exception of the Dark overlord finale, it’s difficult to see exactly where all the money went. Howard just looks like a midget in a duck suit. To say that it requires a considerable amount of suspension of disbelief to actually buy into the premise that humans confuse Howard for a real duck and get kind of frightened by him is a total understatement.
The ‘jokes’ are lame, full of corny duck and animal related puns and references, and the general narrative, while less arbitrarily strung together than Popeye, only hangs together by a thread. For a kid’s movie, this is pretty damn weird, even dark, as was the style of the 80’s, and there is an incredibly odd scene between Lea Thompson(at the height of her attractiveness) and Howard involving romantic-sexual flirtation that is borderline disturbing, not to mention cruel, and perhaps even criminal. Like Popeye, this movie is too strange for kids, but entirely too silly for adults, so it’s no wonder it failed at the time of release. But unlike Popeye, it’s not subject to a flagrant misuse of auteur theory; fans enjoy Howard because it is a P.O.S, not in spite of it.
On the whole, it’s far from being the worst blockbuster ever made—Pluto Nash and Catwoman are definitely worse—but given the highly idiosyncratic nature of the comic, it’s difficult to see it as anything other than a wasted opportunity. .