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From Under A Rock: Howard the Duck

September 9, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Howard the Duck, Kevin Smith
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From Under A Rock: Howard the Duck  


This column has a history of Michael torturing Aaron with some really terrible movies. Today, Aaron gets a modicum of revenge with one of the weirdest goose eggs in movie history.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael chose Drunken Master. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock to show him Howard the Duck.

Howard the Duck
Released: August 1st, 1986
Directed by: Willard Huyck
Written by: Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz
Chip Zien as Howard T. Duck
Lea Thompson as Beverly Switzler
Tim Robbins as Phil Blumburtt
Jeffrey Jones as Dr. Walter Jenning

Aaron Hubbard: My Dad likes to insist that Howard the Duck is a misunderstood classic. Others believe it’s one of the worst movies ever made. So today we are going to find out what is truth, and what is balderdash.

Michael Ornelas: Why…:? Why did you do this to me?
Absurd in All the Wrong Ways
Aaron: So, some background here. Comic book fans or Guardians of the Galaxy viewers (#RehireJamesGunn), probably know that Howard the Duck is technically owned by Marvel Comics, the the original creator has battled for ownership of him more than once. He was created by Mike Gerber, whose books are often absurdist parodies of genre, social commentary, and existential crisis, while being quite entertaining. Think Rick and Morty, but less science and more talking animal. He was quite popular in the 1970s, even getting thousands of write-in nominations in the Presidential Election of 1976. Among those legions of fans was George Lucas, who shared the comics with William Huyck and Gloria Katz. Obligated to make one more live-action movie for Universal, Lucas started funding this movie, directed by Huyck and co-written by Huyck and Katz. In translating Gerber’s comics to the screen, something, and possibly everything, went horribly wrong.

Michael: I haven’t read the comics, so it’s hard for me to speak to how well or how poorly it executed its quirky social commentary, but there was none of that here. Whoever is responsible for this finished product should feel bad. It put me in a grumpy mood because I desperately wanted something to sink my teeth into, and I wasn’t given that. “Absurd in the wrong ways” is a great way to put it. This movie had duck tits. DUCK TITS! DEFEND YOURSELF, AARON!

Aaron: Objectively speaking, playing a character who tries to seduce her time-displaced son should be the pinnacle of bizarre for any actress. But poor Lea Thompson here has to flirt with the duck in a scene that very nearly goes for full bestiality, and it’s as unfunny and uncomfortable as you would imagine, complete with a sight gag that will unfortunately never leave my memory. An occasional joke works, like the evolution chart with the ducks or Howard’s utter terror at being served eggs, but they are few, far between, and not nearly enough to save a movie that just does not work on any level.
Michael: The worst offense a movie can make is to be boring. I personally love The Room because it’s so entertaining in its incompetence. But Howard the Duck, despite its commitment to costume and big plot points…it manages to be boring, and I simply could not understand it. It upset me so much while watching it that I just didn’t care about what was happening. There’s a demon-lord emerging from Rooney from Ferris Bueller in a diner, there’s a wacky plane ride, there are dimensional rifts and portals, and all these things that should be exciting just by the mere mentioning of them…and yet I was bored. DEFEND YOURSELF, AARON!

Aaron: I don’t feel like I owe an explanation to any monster who exposed me to Battlefield Earth. Anyway, I have to concur to you that this movie’s worst sin is the sheer mind-numbing dullness. I actually was fine for the first half-hour or so, where the sheer absurdity of “It’s a pervert, but it’s also a duck!” was at least bizarre enough to hold my attention. But as the movie crawls toward a mildly passable climax, I lost all interest. Howard was almost murdered and eaten in a diner (definitely not a threat you see everyday) and I was almost hoping they’d cook the damn duck just so the movie would end. The absurdly long plane chase that is devoid of excitement or urgency sealed this movie’s fate from “pretty bad” to “really bad” for me.

Michael: I was looking at my phone so much during this movie, hoping for anything to distract me. But then I was like “Dammit, I have to watch it intently to review it” and got a little bit mad at you. Also, just to be clear, I wanted to like this movie in the so bad it’s good way. I love movies like that. I’ve started watching Lifetime Movies for a podcast because I like movies that check those boxes…and I was just so bummed that this one fell way short of that.
Is a Reboot Plausible?
Aaron: We’re a few years removed from when the post-credits scene of Guardians of the Galaxy (#RehireJamesGunn, and no I’m not going to stop) established that Howard the Duck is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, aka the most popular and seemingly invincible brand in Hollywood today (until this summer). But I remember there were more than a few think pieces pondering if this was just a victory lap of sorts for the Marvel Brand, or if they were actually considering making another Howard the Duck movie. Now, I’d argue that the joke is more or less pointless considering Rocket Raccoon shares more than a little in common with Howard, but it does make me think. Would a reboot be possible, and could it be successfully financially or artistically? What would you do if you had to work with that material?

Michael: I’m a big believer that there are no bad ideas, just good or bad execution. I wouldn’t be excited about it, but if anyone could make a halfway decent reboot, it would be Marvel. They know their brand, they know what they’re doing…so I think they could pull off a good movie. The question is whether that movie would make money. Solo proved that Disney has missteps even with their tentpole brands. While being a good movie, it didn’t perform at the box office and I feel like the same fate would await a reboot of Howard the Duck. I don’t want the reboot, and I hope it doesn’t happen, but I’d keep an open mind about it, begrudgingly.

Aaron: I feel like there’s definitely a way to make a good eighty minute Howard the Duck project. CGI makes it a much easier prospect to start with, and if you get a writer who embraces what makes him work in the comics we could get a really funny movie. The world is certainly ripe for the kind of satire Howard used to provide, and I’m sure Seth Green would be happy to cash that paycheck. I doubt Marvel will ever attempt such a prospect, but if they do, don’t be surprised if it works better than it has any right to.

Michael: It’s one problem to be bad, but another problem to be boring. It doesn’t quite get a 0, but it definitely fails.


Aaron: I didn’t hate this quite as much as Michael, as I’ve seen worse. And I probably knew what to expect going in. But yeah, this is a major dud and one of the most boring movies we’ve ever covered. I have no desire to ever watch this again.


Michael: I can safely say that I will never willingly watch this movie again.

Aaron: And to think this has cult classic status for some…

Is this the worst movie with George Lucas’ fingerprints on it?

Next week:

Michael: We’ve got a new entry in the Predator movie franchise coming out next week, and we’ve already reviewed the first one for this column. Let’s add another movie from the series to our portfolio!
Aaron: I’m beyond excited for Shane Black’s new movie, and I’m totally down for some Predator action.

Michael: I liked this one when I first saw it, so hopefully it holds up!

Do you prefer this movie or Predator II?

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The final score: review Very Bad
The 411
Don't watch this movie, folks. You're better for having not seen it, and you're worse off for knowing it exists. This isn't quite as bad as Battlefield Earth but it's thuddingly dull and there's so many better things you can do with ninety minutes of your life. I do suddenly feel a powerful urge to play Duck Hunt, though...