I have a few movies I like to watch even if they are not very good in some ways and have bombed at the box office when first released. Howard the Duck is one of those movies. Here in Stockholm I remember it opened in cinemas and was gone again maybe within a month or so. At least it was gone very quickly due to few viewers and even poorer reviews in the papers.
I went to watch it one rainy day a few weeks after the opening and was almost alone there. Having read reviews which claimed the duck-movie was a turkey that no one could save, I had low expectations but had decided to give the Duck a chance. After all the idea to transfer the comic book hero Howard the Duck to the screen wasn’t all bad. It was just in many ways poorly executed and hard to do in a convincing way back in the 1980s before CGI and other digital technology was available for moviemaking. As soon as I saw Howard on-screen I saw he was obviously an actor in a duck suit, but that didn’t stop me from being sucked into the story more and more. From my point of view I had much in common with Howard the Duck at that time in my life.
Not much of a social magnet I was mostly living life by myself and had only a few friends. My interests were movies and music and books and I often did feel as if life was going on around me but I wasn’t a part of it. Often I didn’t even understand it, and thought of myself as stranded in an alien world I couldn’t make sense of. Much like Howard in the movie.
However Howard is saved by friendship, by meeting one human – Beverly – who does not run away screaming or try to kill Howard but instead wants to help and protect him as well as try to understand him. Typically Beverly is also a misfit , the leader of a all-girl rock band still looking for a break and living on dreams while performing small time gigs for uninterested crowds and being cheated on by managers. Howard and Beverly are joined in their struggle by Beverly’s friend Phil, who wants to be a great scientist but is still more of a janitor at the local museum. Suddenly though things happen that call upon the three misfits to become more heroic.
What makes the movie work even if it is rather silly and the effects are not up to a convincing standard, is the characters, the relationships and the humour. It is impossible to take the film seriously, and it would be a mistake to demand it to be realistic. After all it is a movie based on a comic book. It should be judged by what it is not by what it isn’t and what it isn’t trying to be.