Main cast: Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito), Michael Shannon (Colonel Richard Strickland), Richard Jenkins (Giles), Doug Jones (The Amphibian Man), Michael Stuhlbarg (Dr Robert Hoffstetler), Octavia Spencer (Zelda Delilah Fuller), Nick Searcy (General Frank Hoyt), David Hewlett (Fleming), and Lauren Lee Smith (Elaine Strickland)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Yes, this is a romantic fantasy drama about a woman who falls in love with a fishman or merman or whatever you want to call it. Doug Jones played Abe Sapiens in Guillermo del Toro’s original iteration of Hellboy, and this thing here is a more fancy upgrade in a more expensive costume, kind of like the butt baby of the Engineer from Prometheus and Rikuo from the Darkstalkers series.
This movie came to be because Guillermo del Toro ships the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Kay Lawrence in a very unironic manner, ever since he watched that movie when he was a kid. Thank god he didn’t watch King Kong then… or maybe he’s saving that for a sequel. I personally can’t make myself look at that thing with sexual interest no matter how much stuff I snort up, but hey, from what I have seen online, there is always something for everyone, from toasters to dead cows to fish dudes. Remember Thane from the Mass Effect series and how so many people think he’s the cutest thing ever? Well there you go.
So, this movie. The Shape of Water is set in a time when people still use gramophones, and we have Elisa Esposito, our heroine. A childhood injury at her neck affected her voice box, so she can’t speak. She works as a cleaner in a top secret facility. At work, her closest friend is Zelda, who treats her like a sister that she feels protective over. At home, when she’s not touching herself in her bath tub, she is watching black and white movies on TV with her neighbor Giles, a balding, older fellow who is desperately trying to hit on a young man that runs a pie store. The theme of this movie, scripted by Mr del Toro himself along with Vanessa Taylor, is that Elisa is one of those outcasts who are so lonely that she will fall for a fish man because he doesn’t seem to mind that she can’t speak and, hence, she feels… loved, I guess. Even though he can’t speak her language and doesn’t display any sign of affection other than wanting to boink her like some randy creature in heat. But like I said, different strokes for different people, you do you and whatever you like, and three cheers for our heroine and her Gill Man.
The fish dude shows up when these military folks found it in Brazil – where the natives worshiped him as a deity – and dragged it to the facility. Colonel Richard Strickland loses two fingers to it during the ensuing relocation effort, and he’s in favor of vivisecting it to find out what kind of blubber one can find underneath that very obvious-looking costume they put Doug Jones in. Dr Robert Hoffsetler, however, wants to preserve it – probably because he’s a Russian spy and he wants to keep it around while he waits for his bosses to tell him what Russia would like to do with that thing. Well, Russia favors killing it, as it turns out. No love for fish face today.
Elisa, however, must have ninja powers because she manages to sneak through locked doors and more without anyone catching her, to start spending time with Fishy. She gives him an egg – probably some metaphor for the eventual fish and human inter-species diplomatic congress to come – and she even manages to sneak in a gramophone and a big bag of food every other day to entertain him. How typical: a woman gets a man to fall for her by feeding him non-stop and amusing him. Girl, sometimes we need to love ourselves more. At any rate, she plans to break him out, and with the aid of Dr Hoffsetler, two cleaning women and one desperately inept neighbor dude manage to break Fishy out a top-secret well-guarded military facility. To keep him in Elisa’s bath tub right before she floods the entire apartment and damages the rest of the apartment block in order to have sex with him.
As you can guess, logic is not the strongest point in this movie. You’re supposed to be enthralled by the beautiful lighting, the set, and the fact that the so-called outcasts are all beautiful people in their own right using first world issues like being unable to speak (for a janitor, Elisa’s room is huge, well-furnished, and amazing) or balding to appoint themselves special snowflakes. So what if love here is portrayed in an inherently selfish manner? Elisa doesn’t care of the damage or hurt that may befall those she drags into her schemes, and heaven knows, her attraction to Fishy is all about herself wanting to feel special. Fishy just wants to hump after he realizes that the chick taking care of him is going to, well, take care of him some more. Giles is the stereotypical gay guy who exists to be the heroine’s emotional tampon (his happy ending is the heroine getting a happy ending, sigh), while Zelda is the sassy black woman sidekick character.
I hate to admit this, but I personally would have boinked Michael Shannon’s evil character. He’s nasty, cruel, ruthless… and is so hot being all that and incompetent in the process. Hey, don’t laugh, if people can make pornographic images on DeviantArt, Tumblr, and other usual places inspired by this movie, I am allowed to have my own preferences too without being mocked. So there!
Oh yes, The Shape of Water. It’s very nice to look at, and I suppose it’s also nice to see Michael Shannon’s butt again, but the whole fish romance thing is just silly, and the unintentionally hilarious and awkward dream dance-and-song sequence Elisa has of herself and Fishy just can’t be topped in the cringe department. But that’s okay, monsters need love too, whether they are fish men or incompetent arseholes.