Ducks on a plane, part deux: Defending Howard

It’s been two weeks since my last blog post. That’s because next week, the official post-production process begins, and with the film being the big priority and all, I really have to get my ducks in a row–no pun intended. Aside from sporadic production periods, the past few months were spent organizing 350+ hours of footage into neat folders and sub-folders color-coded by theme. Our research team is constantly coming up with new discoveries, gems and George Lucas rarities, which are always exciting to find, but oftentimes challenge the still fragile structure of our narrative. It’s an organic process, of course; and when you’ve worked on a project like this one for two solid years, you certainly can’t expect it to remain exactly the way you originally envisioned it would be. THE PEOPLE vs. GEORGE LUCAS has become far more complex and profound than I ever dreamed it would be–so much so, in fact, that I realize what a challenge it will be to release anything short of an epic 180-minute documentary(!) It’s quite possible that we’ll have a longer festival version and a shorter general release version, which will likely clock in at 90-120 minutes. And I’m definitely not ruling out the possibility of a subsequent mini-series and/or mega DVD/Blu-Ray box set, as there are so many topics that deserve to be explored in depth. When you consider, for instance, that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg testified before Congress against colorization in the 1980s, it’s easy to see how a topic as seemingly straightforward as the Special Editions could get out of hand and strive to become its own feature.

Next week, scenes will actually start taking shape. It’s my favorite part of the process, but I realize that we will likely collect an additional 100+ hours of footage at Comic Con, World Con and in Los Angeles next month (I’ll explain everything in detail next week)–not to mention the steady stream of fan submissions (which will likely reach a frenzied crescendo before our September deadline), and possible last-minute trips to Toronto, Europe and/or Japan. In other words: we’re not out of the woods yet! But if everything goes according to plan, we should have a cut of the film hopefully as early as December or January.

Howard the (not so lame) Duck

Howard the (not so lame) Duck

On a completely unrelated note, I did finish watching HOWARD THE DUCK on my way back from Baltimore, and I truly, sincerely became a fan of the film. Watching it again with the preconceived idea that it was likely going to suck, I found myself growing surprisingly fond of the earnest goofiness and risk-taking 80s camp of what amounts to a simple, well-told story that most certainly deserves a second look. From Jeffrey Jones’s antics as the Dark Overlord to Howard and Lea Thompson’s sweet and actually tasteful bedroom scene (although I couldn’t help being reminded about TEAM AMERICA), HOWARD THE DUCK belongs in the pantheon of pulp; and for the life of me, I don’t understand why it still struggles to gain the affection that, say, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD or WEIRD SCIENCE most certainly get from their fans. Are we talking about a film that has become so universally deemed “terrible” that even Universal feels compelled to apologize for it on the DVD’s outer sleeve (explore the public’s initial reaction to the film and its transformation into a cultural phenomenon, they claim)? Watching the featurettes (notable for George’s absence), you’ll be hard-pressed to find Willard Huyck or Gloria Katz say anything positive about the film. As if someone told them okay, remember what John De Bello did when ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES was trashed by the critics?–that’s what we’re going to do. What I’m referring to, of course, is the director’s brilliant strategy of plastering the words “hopelessly inane” (from an actual review) on his movie poster. The Troma approach, if you will.

Well, as far as I’m concerned, HOWARD THE DUCK doesn’t have anything to apologize for. It embodies everything that’s fun and outrageous about eighties camp, and I wonder if, perhaps, the film hasn’t suffered from chronic and persistent George Lucas fan backlash? It’s a theory that, I’m sure, could easily be challenged. Hey, if you think the flick blows, you’re entitled to your opinion. But my point is this: if you haven’t watched the film in over a decade, I urge you to take another look at it. If you’re a film buff with the ability to turn your dial down, way down below your Bergman or Antonioni threshold, you may well find yourself chuckling with Howard, and not at him. And you’ll wonder if, perhaps, you’ll feel the same way ten, twenty years from now when an old friend tells you you really ought to give THE PHANTOM MENACE a second chance–or a fifteenth one, as the case may be.