Monday, January 11, 2010

Howard The Duck - Should He Live Again?

Howard the Duck was a 1986 movie made by Lucasfilms. It starred a duck named Howard (of course) who lived in a universe where duck lives as man (insert dramatic thunderclap), but is brought to our universe by some sort of science fiction macguffin. It was based on the character of the same name from Marvel Comics who actually dates back to 1973. While the comic character still turns up from time to time, the movie was considered a horrendous, career poisoning flop.

One major issue with the movie (beyond the story, script, and all that jazz), is simply the duck suit effects. Not only is Howard not convincing or particularly emotive, he's unpleasant to look at. He is also incapable of letting loose with his quack-fu, a manner of martial arts that should easily take down the likes of even Chuck Norris. In this movie, there's no way he can unleash a proper fury.

But what about today?

Ignoring for a moment the obvious option of traditional animation (as pointed out by several critics at the time), we now have fairly convincing CGI and motion capture technology. If you'll recall Yoda in the Star Wars prequels, the technology does exist to make someone like Howard into a convincing fighting bad-ass. It also would allow him to be more expressive and natural in general.

Now, I'm not suggesting you could take the same script, toss in CGI Howard and call it a day. Hell no. I'm suggesting that the lack of limitations imposed on Howard by virtue of him not being some guy in a suit would give greater flexibility to what's done with him, and give the writer's more to work with. There could be cool action sequences, the comedic timing would be better... actually, they could use a similar script and it would be better. It wouldn't be good, but the basic addition of range to Howard would improve on the original.

It could still suck even with a new script and CGI, but this is ultimately my point: I believe there are movies out there that were crippled by the technological limitations of their time. The limitations affected both where they could go with the script and how scenes could be executed. Are there flops out there that, given modern technology, should possibly be given another chance? If so, is Howard among them?


  1. Honestly, it's not like the CGI has made better movies, in fact I think that in some places people tend to rely so much in the CGI that it actually harms the storytelling.

    When you say "crippled by the technological limitations of their time" you also have to bear in mind that there are also monetary limitations and creative limitations and sometimes it isn't that the right technology wasn't available but that the technology they chose (or could afford) was not ideal or they did not come up with a way to make it work.

    As for giving Howard the Duck another chance. The character, yes, but the creative team responsible for the first film? No.

  2. Yeah, bring it on and make it a big success.

    I own all those comics and it'd be nice if they're worth something.

    Talk about a personal point of view!


    Behold the awesomeness that is *drumroll please* Nostalgia Critic! (which you have probably already heard of... but too good not to mention here ;)

  4. Will Tim Robbins and Ferris Bueller's Principal return?

  5. I think Ash is on to something... Soemtimes, limitations are a great way to produce something truly remarkable, and improved technology becomes a crutch that ironically cripples more important elements. Examples include the new Star Wars and the sequels to The Matrix.

    However, it's not the case that imposing a limitation will make something better...

    In this vein, your point that the Howard the Duck movie was hampered by its limitations rings true. The original movie did not work around their limitations, instead running headlong into them, and that would account for some of the movie's cruddy quality. So, since their design was very much impacted by their limitations, then improved technology would help them out.

  6. @ Savannah:

    In any case, some of the worst movies ever could probably get a decent do-over in the modern age. "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is about to be remade as a serious zombie flick, simply titled "Plan 9". Also, I've been pitching a script for a serious sequel to "Manos: The Hands of Fate", focusing on Torgo and his backstory. :3

  7. Having seen the review Savannah cited above, I will agree with the critic that they should get rid of the duck puns and make it a strict "duck out of the pond" story.

  8. I say 'no' to the GCI bit. Sorry, but I guess I am among the very few that adored the original film BECAUSE it was so weird, so silly...and I thought the duck suit looked kindda cool, to be honest (the face was capable of some very convincing emotions, IMO!)...Besides, Howard is not supposed to be a flat out 'duck', his race evolved from he is more meant to be a sort of 'human/duck hybrid', and I thought the film carried this off just fine. Oh, if you also happen to be a fan of the notorious flop film from 1986, check out my HTD website, the largest online...even features a 'trailer' for a sequel I made....;)


  9. I have to say Howard was a wonderfully horrible film to watch on a day home sick from school. but I would like to see what it could be w/ better budget and writing.