Last month I struggled to rein myself in after watching a forgotten Tom Hanks movie from 1986 called Nothing In Common. I consoled myself by reciting other, better movies that were released that year. Reasons why the year didn’t suck completely. Some of you contributed: Labyrinth, from Widdershins, was a particularly good one; it’s a darkly wonderful movie that I loved before I even knew who David Bowie was. Imagine growing up knowing Bowie as that guy from the weird Muppets movie. And realizing years later that that’s a young Jennifer Connelly starring alongside him. I still know all the words by heart. Not just the songs: ALL the words. But one of you has a delightful cruel streak that I can’t help but admire. One of you, not naming any names, suggested that Sean and I watch Howard The Duck. Howard The Duck! Also from the garbage year 1986, it’s a movie I’d never seen and never wanted to – not when he made a brief appearance at the end of a Guardians movie, and not even when Sean’s buddy contributed to his comic book revival.
Anyway, somewhere in this or another galaxy (not too sure about the geography – another dimension, maybe?), Duckworld is a planet where intelligent life evolved from waterfowl. Duckword is a lot like Earth; the ducks are humanoid, they walk on two feet and speak English and they’ve made movies like Splashdance and Breeders of the Lost Stork.
Anyway, one day Howard gets home and sits back in his lazy-boy with a beer and a cigar when a hole rips through the galaxy and swallows him up, depositing him on Earth where he meets a surprisingly amenable punk rocker named Beverly (Lea Thompson). I mean, her look is early Madonna but her name is Beverly, which implies Mom jeans and shapeless sweaters, and her sound is more 80s power ballad, and she’s played by Lea Thompson, and it’s hard to sit here in 2019 and see how exactly she was ever considered an It Girl. Beautiful? Hot? She’s mousy and thin-lipped and mostly whiny. But anyway, let’s pretend she’s a hot as shit punk rock girl who somehow befriends a duck – and finds him sexually attractive.
Howard’s main concern is getting back home but the few scientists who could help him generally don’t. In fact, when they come close to opening that hole in the universe back up, Dr. Jenning (played by the creepy principal from Ferris Bueller, Jeffrey Jones, who turns out to be an actual sex offender and child pornographer in real life) accidentally infects himself with Evil Overlord. Which, you know, is not good. And quite sweaty. Not quite as repugnant as his real-life situation, but close.
In short, the movie’s a real shit show. If Howard The Ducks is fun at all in the comics, he’s a chore in the movies – it’s easier to imagine Lea Thompson being a sexpot than Howard T. Duck being at all interesting or fun to read about. Howard is a little person in a 2 million dollar duck suit walking around in an otherwise very CGI-heavy movie and none of it looks good, not now in 2019 and I bet not in 1986 either. At some point, near the end of the movie, I turned to Sean and said “Doesn’t this guy remind you a bit of Tim Robbins?” Apparently it was Tim Robbins, and had been the whole time. Apparently I am not familiar with 1986 Tim Robbins. He’s doughier and pastier than I would have guessed. I’m surprised he was able to defibrillate his career after this.
George Lucas has just finished building Skywalker Ranch to the tune of 50 MILLION DOLLARS and counted on this film to get him solvent again. Needless to say: it didn’t. Poor guy had to start selling off assets in order to not go belly up. Apple CEO Steve Jobs bought LucasFilm’s CGI animation division for a hefty sum, and so I guess two good things came out of Howard The Duck: what would eventually become Pixar, and also that every other Marvel movie from 1987 until time immemorial would positively glow in comparison.