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Lea Thompson (#110 of 2)

Summer of ’90: The Long and Winding Road - Back to the Future III

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Summer of ’90: The Long and Winding Road - Back to the Future III
Summer of ’90: The Long and Winding Road - Back to the Future III

There was a comfort in realizing that Back to the Future III would be set in the Old West after Back to the Future II had just spun everything audiences knew about the series on its head. It was straightforward and familiar, with the focus back on the characters rather than the murky complexities of time travel. More than just the promise of one more ride in the DeLorean with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), the trailer that followed “To Be Concluded” at the end of Back to the Future II felt like the sly wink from a parent having to close a storybook on a dark cliffhanger, promising that everything was going to be okay. The heroes would win, everything would go back to normal, life would be sunshine and daisies. It felt like sweet relief in the theater, with the terrible uncertainty that Doc was even alive instantly smoothed over. It still feels like the start of a new trajectory now, and the first glimmers of the overly earnest filmmaker Robert Zemeckis would become four years later with Forrest Gump.

Summer of ‘86: Tarred and Feathered: Howard the Duck

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Summer of ‘86: Tarred and Feathered: Howard the Duck

Universal Pictures

Summer of ‘86: Tarred and Feathered: Howard the Duck

Bad reputations can follow films and their makers for years (even decades) after the initial theatrical release. Sometimes this stigma is completely unwarranted, like with Elaine May’s scathing and brilliant absurdist comedy Ishtar. But in other cases, a film can actually high jump past their shit-status by leaps and bounds, cresting into a completely new realm defined by non-verbal astonishment.

Howard the Duck is one such cinematic atrocity. Audiences and critics knew it was terrible in August of 1986 when Lucasfilm and Universal Pictures released the film, and I damn well know it in 2011 having recently suffered through its nearly 2-hour runtime. Willard Huyck’s clumsy melding of comedy, science fiction and film noir is so misguided you have to wonder if the filmmakers even understood the genres they were referencing. So if Howard the Duck has a rightful place in the canon of worst films ever, why the hell would anybody volunteer to write about it?