Howard, a swinging bachelor on a world where ducks have evolved into the dominant species, is transported across the stars to Cleveland, Ohio. He gets friendly with a rock ‘n’ roll chick and has to battle a scientist who is transforming into a Dark Overlord.
Before Blade, Spider-Man and the X-Men became blockbuster franchises, the highest-profile Marvel Comics movie was this George Lucas-backed commercial disaster –released in the UK as Howard … A New Breed of Hero in a vain attempt to de-emphasise (indeed conceal) the lead character’s duckiness.
Though Lucas has a reputation as a visionary when it comes to new special effects techniques, he badly misjudged here. If the film had taken the Roger Rabbit route of making its hero a toon interacting with a live-action world, Howard the Duck might have been the blockbuster he was hoping for. As it is, the film is stuck with, basically, a midget in a duck suit, snarkily voiced by Chip Zien.
Once you get past that, and an uncharacteristically boring performance from Tim Robbins in the Dean Jones whacky inventor role, the film isn’t as bad as its reputation.
Howard – originally a supporting character in the Man-Thing comic who spun off his own, distinctively 1970s humour series -- mellows somewhat in his transfer from panel to screen, though his relationship to Thompson gets perilously close to bestiality. Nevertheless, Howard the Duck manages to be two or three types of fun: as a crazy comedy, it has some good risque/sick jokes to go along with its messy slapstick and bland rock music; as a monster movie, it has an outstanding performance from Jeffrey Jones as a scientist-cum-monster and an astonishingly repulsive Dark Overlord of the Universe shows up for the exciting climax. You still won’t believe the duck …