“The Shape of Water” does a magnificent job of bringing us into its world.
The film takes place in an alternative version of early 1960s Baltimore: with huge apartments, secret military laboratories, kind-hearted Russian spies, and very few black people. Oh, and one magical sea creature.
Director Guillermo Del Toro is unquestionably a talented director. And he has a niche genre that’s all his own.
Del Toro makes fairy tale fantasy movies. The plots sound like they are for children. But children aren’t allowed to watch his films due to the extreme graphic violence, copious F-bombs, and full-frontal nudity.
Del Toro’s breakthrough hit, 2006’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” is a 4-star classic. It’s the story of an imaginative little girl in 1930s Spain who creates a macabre alternative world. Del Toro’s point is that she is incapable of imagining anything as scary and terrible as her real life in the waning days of the Spanish Civil War.
“The Shape of Water” doesn’t have a clear point. And it’s not nearly as good as “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
“Water” tells the story of a mute lady named Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who takes a liking to the sea creature who is chained up in the military lab where she works. When Elisa sees him, it is love at first sight. That doesn’t make any darn sense, but it is convenient for the plot.
Unfortunately, military man Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) hates the creature as much as Elisa loves him.
The rest of the movie is essentially a Loony Tunes cartoon as Elisa’s Bugs Bunny outsmarts and hurts Strickland’s Elmer Fudd. Only this time, Elmer Fudd’s wounds bleed and get ghastly infections.
The problem with fairy tales is that they don’t have good characters – only heroes and villains. “The Shape of Water” is no different.
The film is perfectly entertaining. But ultimately I didn’t care about the love story and didn’t root for the heroes because they are so perfectly likable and bland.
Guillermo Del Toro didn’t foresee the problem with having a pack of flawless heroes and a villain played the great Michael Shannon who possesses every human vice. Eventually, intelligent viewers are going to begin to empathize with Strickland.
Strickland’s last words to the sea creature “****. You are a god” is the film’s only moment of true magic and wonder.
In the end, though, this is not a great movie. “The Shape of Water” does a magnificent job of bringing us into its world. But a lousy job of relating it to our world.