OUT OF THE TOILET: Howard the Duck
There are some films that folks love to pick on.
Once the fist rock is thrown, everyone rushes to get their jab in. Deep down, I just suspect that everyone likes to bully something. Once it’s culturally correct or deemed feeble in the eyes of mass society, there’s a race to see who can take the largest dump all over it.
It’s not fair.
A lot of excellent performers, songs, films, and even beverages are ridiculed because it’s cool to do so.
It’s time someone started standing against the slings and arrows of the masses and defending the weak and downtrodden of pop culture.
Someone to look right in the face of the bloated fat pizza-covered geekhole that is the Internet and say NO MORE.
THAT’S WHERE I COME IN.
I, Douglas MacKrell, noted host of Internet After Dark, celebrity, and Man’s Man — shall now take up this valiant quest. I shall begin celebrating some of my favorite films, music, or pop culture whatnots that for some reason have become the collective toilet of society.
WELCOME TO MY NEW SEGMENT:
Howard the Duck
Debuting in 1986, George Lucas’ Howard the Duck flopped into theaters. It was confusingly received, critically panned, and reviled by much of the movie going populace who heard “George Lucas” and came running to see the next Star Wars. What they got was a quirky 80′s by-the-numbers comedy that tried to mix the absurdest adult tones of the satirical source material, the zaniness of a campy exploitation screwball comedy, and just enough pop culture and family friendliness that would allow them to sell all sorts of Howard crap
Like a video game
The gag is, the film was never meant to be much more than a show-off piece for Industrial Light and Magic.
Much like Ghostbusters 2, the effect shots were planned out WELL in advance to give the artists the time to work on those. The script came afterward, and as such, you have large disjointed action/effect sequences inserted into a quirky comedy.
Which in hindsight, worked – no one really ever complains about the quality of the 80′s-style special effects.
They had problems with the everything else
Much of the blame is heaped squarely on the shoulders of the Director, Willard Huyck, and Producer Gloria Katz. That’s not necessarily fair, because much like the latter Batman films (pre-Nolan) there was so much studio interference they couldn’t tell whether they were coming or going. They became glorified yes-men, and just accepted every curve thrown their way.
The film was originally conceptualized as an animated Noir-style comedy. Very low budget and for a very specific audience. The studio suddenly needed a big summer release, and a Lucas backed one at that, and upon Lucas’ boast of ILM’s savvy – the animated movie was morphed into a wider audience friendly live action special effect spectacular.
So the ball was rolling.
The cast was set, and the pieces were in place. The only problem was that the special effect was the star of the show.
The problems with Howard were multiple. They started filming without a workable suit or puppet, so most of those scenes had to be reshot. The actor (one of five) in the Howard suit would have to walk backwards between takes and work blind and mute. Hell, they actually had Tim Robbins fly a rigged plane from the back seat so that it could look like Howard was flying it.
So what should and could have been a very easy production, was crippled by big ideas and shallow perspective.
But does that mean the movie is bad?
IT’S ANYTHING BUT!
The Director was a pushover, and everyone has a blast on set. Plus this film has the right level of camp that allows it to GO ANYWHERE. Nothing is too big for this movie. Where else do you get to see stuff like this?
The world building is so absurdest – you CAN’T QUESTION ANYTHING! Duckworld, the physiology of Howard, the Howard/Bev relationship (or how I refer to them, “Boward”), How Cherry Bomb can suddenly explode in popularity and start headlining huge arenas. It all works on this 80′s logic of “All characters are always awesome ALWAYS.”
Nowadays people are so bogged down with logic and science and mired in grit and realism and so afraid of having fun or being absurdest – I doubt any big budget film will ever take such a risk again.
I still appreciate this film. I appreciate the hard work from the actors and the special effects artists.
I appreciate the 80′s-tastic music by John Berry and Thomas Dolby. The film is still as captivating today as it was when I saw it as a child.
If you get the chance, check it out (for the first time or the 108th time) on Netflix streaming.
You’ll be glad you did.
On a scale of one to ten sexy ladies, I rate it INFINITE FIST PUMPS!