17th Apr2009

dijoo hate PHANTOM MENACE!?

by jerad.formby

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New Star Trek movie on the way still. I’m incredibly excited, I won’t lie. I have pretty much reached that same peak-level Star Wars fans had before Episode 1 came out. I’m making the same face they did.

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I’m certain that we’ll get a better day in court than they did, because I know what the problem with their prequels was. Star Wars simply became “safe” and when you look at Lucasfilm’s history, it’s not hard to see how that happened. “Safe” Star Trek was one of the problems that has necessitated this new movie. The idea of “safe Star Wars” was alien to its fans –but they should have seen it coming.

They had an eleven year warning.

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In honor of our up-coming cross-promotion with DVDGEEKS.TV, I thought I would revisit a childhood favorite of mine that has been finally, just released to DVD. I found a review of the DVD at their site. I listened to John and Rory’s podcast –which you can find here.

The movie’s called Howard the Duck. I posted some comments beneath the dvdgeeks.tv podcast as ‘Howard’s Revenge.’

Executive Producer George Lucas brought us this movie back in 1986 and I believe he has been apologizing for it ever since. Here’s what has me believing that: first off, my out of the box DVD isn’t remastered into THX like so many other properties he produces or others produce. Howard is his unwanted child, but I think it’s time he totally embraced it.

Fat chance.

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Howard the Duck is a movie based on a comic book from the 1970s. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive comic book movie ever made. That’s a lot of belief in a single movie about a duck from outer space.

The movie came out and didn’t even come close to making back its 36 million dollar investment. In fact, Lucas had to sell company assets to recoup some of its costs –including the sell of a little company called PIXAR.

Howard really fried his egg, I guess. So the duck’s punished almost as aggressively as the Star Wars Holiday Special.

But it isn’t Howard’s fault. I’m here to champion this film and I’m not going to cite its “cult status” and I’m not going to cite it’s “very eighties” love. I am going to cite story telling, performances, and adaptation.

Mr. Lucas, you read the comic book in the 1970’s. You loved it. You thought it was funny. You knew it wasn’t for kids.

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Mr. Lucas? You did it. You made the movie that captures the essence of that comic book. The only fault is in the audience. Nobody in the 1980’s was ready to embrace the concept. If from the word ‘go’ nobody wants to see your movie because of the ‘premise’ is it truly the movie’s fault?

You got the screenwriters from INDIANA JONES and the TEMPLE OF FRICKIN DOOM to write it.

They got it. They even got it better than Howard’s creator, Steve Gerber, gave them credit for. I don’t know what movie Steve Gerber had in mind, but almost everything he put into his comic book cropped up in the movie (with the notable exception of Howard contemplating suicide).

Gerber’s concept was a Duck from “another world” cosmic –inter-dimensional or whatever finds himself on our planet against his will (movie’s got that).

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The duck scares the hell out of some people (movie’s got that). The duck is ignored by others (movie’s got that). The duck chooses to fall back on his razor-sharp tongue when afraid or fronting his masculinity (movie’s got that).

The duck on more than one occasion will find himself thrust into the center of events that could destroy Cleveland or the World (movie’s got that).

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Howard month to month worked that way and the Howard movie’s got it covered.

Howard is a DUCK FROM OUTER SPACE and he owns it. His knee-jerk sarcasm sometimes sounds like its ripped right out of the comic book. Beverly’s banter with him reminds me of any number of scenes in the comic books. Their friendship rocks for days.

The comedy plays a lot like some of the comic books best moments. What did Gerber want? He got his sandwich. What did you want, Mr. Lucas? The sandwich is there!

I’m only guessing that Gerber, like Lucas, just saw the public reception and politely distanced their selves from the film. I know this because the Creator of Star Wars, the Developer of a lot of Movie Tech, and specifically Home Theater tech has just sold me the cheapest DVD in my collection –and by that I mean production.

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The only people in the special features who seem to embrace the film are the screenwriters, Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, and the gentleman who wore the Howard suit. Everybody else wants to pretend the movie never happened.

Brothers and Sisters, I want to take this moment to inform all of you that Howard the Duck was, is, and will continue to be the last thing with Lucas’ name on it that has any guts.

That’s a heartbreaking sentiment when you come to realize that Lucas’ career began on guts. THX-1138, AMERICAN GRAFFITI, and something called STAR WARS. These were movies that announced his perspective and his interest in shaking up American Cinema. He did it. The phenomenon of Star Wars quakes to this day, I don’t have to tell you.

He started his INDIANA JONES movies with Steven Spielberg and the two of them pretty much invented PG-13 with the second installment. That movie was viewed as an aggressive departure from the first installment. Gutsy. It was a real challenge for the audience to accept human sacrifice, burning human hearts, and children as slaves.

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The movie is still a breathtaking thrill ride and is still a financial success.

This set Lucas up to take his biggest risk. HOWARD THE DUCK. With the production, the limitations of movie tech that plagued him all through the original STAR WARS were still there. He wasn’t happy with the duck suit, but he made do, just like he did with Star Wars.

The movie opened and failed. But it did more to Lucas than crack his wallet. It cracked his melon.

It put him into the position to make what just might be the one truly awful 80’s movie. The transformation of Lucas from raw bravado to pandering and trying to anticipate his audience happened with WILLOW.

Which, by the way, has an uber-THXified fully animated menu DVD because I guess it’s a… yikes, favorite?

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This foray into fantasy brought nothing new to that particular genre and introduced a number of modern Lucasfilm staples that are truly awful. The problems that plague your prequels are there because you didn’t like Howard the Duck. Once Lucas decided to go for money over content, WILLOW became his first ever safely-packaged-good-for-you-fat-tastes-so-much-better-movie.

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Not all of the jokes work in Howard the Duck, I’ll admit –but Howard’s D material is what the Brownies in Willow bring to their A game. Yet that film enjoys a success that Howard gets only from extreme weirdos like me.

Howard the Duck throws Beverly out of his life –the one person who cares about him. He is then forced to return to her hat in hand and she forgives him. That’s pretty good drama for a space comedy (a fairly new genre).

Most dramatic thing in Willow happens when Willow’s wife Kyla gives him a piece of her hair (which he ignores having until the movie almost ends). The hair bit is one of three moments I actually really like in Willow. That and my others are here:

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Which are my favorites in Howard the Duck?

Well, let me think.

Dammit.

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If you think I’m jumping all over Willow’s little butt for no good reason, I invite you to take my first ever Hey Star Trek! challenge. If you can contact me with an answer to this contest, I will likely concede to you and arrange some kind of prize. I don’t have a lot of stuff lying around my apartment to give away, so I hope you can feel my confidence.

Here’s the challenge:

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If that means you have to run out and buy your own HTD DVD then good. Maybe we can sell the sucker out so that Lucas will pimp out the Blue Ray version that’ll be released in 2018.

Willow wants to be a magician and tries really hard to get it right throughout the film. He gets it right at the very end (by freeing a more powerful person to take the movie over for him). I guess that’s the whole story? Can he pull off magic? Is that why we watch?

Let’s take a look at both films’ climaxes for a second.

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Story wise, Howard the Duck beats Willow’s backside all day long. Sadly it’s just harder to swallow a little Duck Alien than it is to swallow an adorable dwarf caring for a human child.

Everyone spoke with their wallets and they preferred the story where the protagonist pleads for help from Val Kilmer all the time instead of the little Duck who hates relying on anybody for anything.

Everyone hated Howard the Risk Taker and embraced Willow the Watered Down Crap. From that day forward, no Lucasfilm would ever dare bare its fangs or even try and rattle the cage.

I’m sad that Howard didn’t pay out because, to be honest, between the comics and film –Howard is one of my very favorite characters ever. He’s the ultimate outcast. If he had succeeded like George Lucas was betting he would, Lucas just might have kept that maverick spirit that made all of our childhood favorites.

Am I excited about Star Trek? Yeah. J.J. Abrams hasn’t made Willow yet.

But then again, he hasn’t made Howard the Duck either.



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  • jerad.formby

    Nobody says anything? *waaughh* 🙂

  • zancho

    i would say something but i’m too busy cracking up over The Hey star trek challenge! brilliant! i think you should give the winner that fooz ball game that never gets any love. they pay for shipping of course….
    we still have to have a HTD screening!

  • VegasAndorian

    Oh Jerad … (shaking head as I think of the end of Old Yeller; with me as the kid and Jerad as Old Yeller).

  • http://twitter.com/super_spock jerad.formby

    Hey VegasAndorian!

    That’s a terrible thing to say!

    If Willow gave me rabies than I guess you’re doing the right thing. And if you feel I’m wrong in any of these arguments, I’ll bite you with something better:

    SPACE RABIES!

    Which only a handful of us know was one of of Howard’s colossal bluffs in the LAST LUCASFILM TO BE MADE BECAUSE GEORGE LUCAS STILL LIKED MOVIES!

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  • VegasAndorian

    Well, I’ve give you this, your comparison of Howard and Willow hit it. ‘Course, Willow suffers any comparison to LucasFilms- just in his name alone: Luke Skywalker/Willow, Indiana Jones/Willow, THX 1138/Willow. I mean really, a hero named Willow? Could it get any worse? Like – Anni?

    Oh. My. God.

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  • http://www.remanufacturedink.info Tyler Young

    Val Kilmer is quite an old man today but he is still a great actor and handsome guy..-‘

  • http://www.marinepaint.org Jackson Hill

    Val Kilmer is quite older now but he still got that great acting talent.;~

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    The Saint is one of Val Kilmer’s best film ever, i love his role on that movie-‘-

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    Val Kilmer’s movie are almost always a box office hit. He is one of the best action actors i know-‘;

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    I can surely tell that you simply know what you are talking about! I wish a lot more people wrote as well as you and had as much in depth knowledge on their subject matter.