Marvel's Howard the Duck is streaming on Tubi and Amazon Prime.
If you’re looking to enjoy a Marvel deep-cut, and perhaps one of George Lucas‘ worst films, then you’re going to want to take a look at 1986’s Howard the Duck. Though this film is charming in many ways, it’s considered by many to be an embarrassment of such epic proportions that it makes sense that we can’t stream it on Disney+, but rather Amazon Prime and Tubi. That must mean something, considering that Disney+ is the home of over 25 MCU films, and several MCU original series.
But if you truly want to get your feathers ruffled by what can only be described as an animatronic fever-dream, you’ve absolutely got to check it out.
To say that this Marvel movie was not well-received would be an understatement. Howard the Duck not only barely broke even at the box office, but it was also nominated for a whopping seven Golden Raspberry Awards. It’s one thing for a film to be nominated for a Razzie (let alone seven Razzies), but Howard the Duck won four of them: Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay, Worst New Star, and Worst Visual Effects.
Howard the Duck was the first theatrical Marvel release since 1944’s Captain America serial. George Lucas was enthusiastic about adapting the Steve Gerber comic book of the same name, praising it for its film noir characteristics as well as its inherent absurdity. But a series of poor decisions, like shooting a live-action film in favor of an animated one due to contractual obligations and a time crunch, caused Howard the Duck to fall flat in many ways.
The movie briefly takes place on Duckworld, a planet that closely resembles Earth, but has two moons, and is inhabited by anthropomorphic ducks. But it doesn’t take long before our titular character gets launched into space and lands in Cleveland, Ohio, where he befriends Beverly Switzler after saving her from being mugged by using the martial art of Quack-Fu.
The Marvel film escalates quickly when Beverly invites Howard back to her place to spend the night, implying that a romance will come to fruition at some point in the film. After a fight breaks out at one of Beverly’s shows, Howard once again saves the day, and is eventually asked to become the band’s manager, to which he obliges. This course of events eventually leads to an extremely uncomfortable scene full of sexual tension between Howard and Beverly that can only be described as “casual bestiality.”
This is one of the big problems with this Marvel adaptation, or any PG-rated movie that tries to shoe-horn adult humor into the plot. On one hand, a PG rating allows for a broader audience, which is normally a good thing for overall box office numbers. But on the other hand, people took their kids to see this movie, and probably had a lot of explaining to do on the drive home.
In other words, Howard the Duck was too childish for adults to appreciate, and too adult for children to not be traumatized.
While all of the above is happening, there is a B-plot that involves Howard and Beverly seeking the help of Phil Blumburtt (Tim Robbins) to get Howard back to his home planet. Phil is a lab assistant who thinks that the laser spectroscope that accidentally brought Howard to Earth could also send him back to Duckworld if they can reverse-engineer the device. But in doing so, they accidentally bring another life form back to earth, and it possesses Dr. Walter Jenning before introducing himself as the “Dark Overlord of the Universe.”
Though the Marvel films of today that we know and love mostly do an excellent job in building out several concurrent storylines, Howard the Duck completely missed the mark, and leaves us with an unsatisfying resolution.
But all that said, if you look at Howard the Duck as a proof of concept, rather than just a horrible Marvel film, it does have a lot going for it. Though the actual duck costume’s final iteration on the big screen left a lot to be desired, the special effects throughout the film that were done by Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic are actually quite good in some instances.
So if you’re in the mood for one of the best bad movies that Marvel ever had a hand in, then you might want to give Howard the Duck a look. But don’t say we didn’t warn you!