The Shape of Water Movie Review: An Interesting and Romantic Take on a Creature Feature

The Shape of Water is most likely going to be considered a somewhat controversial film. Instead of making a generic horror creature feature, Guillermo del Toro made an interesting, romantic, and socially driven take on a creature feature. I’ve heard The Shape of Water recently be described as a fairy tale by many people and I would agree with that description, but it probably isn’t the type of fairy tale you would want to take your kids to see.

The Shape of Water is about a mute woman named Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins). Elisa and her friend Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer) work as janitors at a government research facility in Baltimore during Cold War era 1961. One day Elisa realizes that the researchers are keeping and studying a weird amphibian man creature. At first, the creature seems like a dangerous monster, but Elisa takes an interest in it and is attracted to how different it is which leads her to trouble.

I’m not all that familiar with Sally Hawkins although just based on her great performance here I will definitely keep an eye out for her in future movies. Hawkins is amazing at portraying emotion in this movie which is incredible considering her character is mute. I’d be very surprised if she doesn’t at least get nominated for best actress at the Academy Awards. Octavia Spencer is also very good, but that is nothing new from the veteran actress. Her character really works naturally and well with Hawkin’s character. She is almost like the big sister looking out for Hawkin’s character and I think that type of chemistry is very relatable. I really like the fact that the main character is an overnight graveyard shift janitor because it is usually rare to see protagonist main characters with a service profession and I think it makes them much more relatable to the general public. Michael Shannon is also in this movie and like Spencer he is another veteran actor who has just been killing it on the big screen for the last few years. Here he plays a real mean bastard of a man and it really works.

The best thing I like about this movie is the setting and the style it has. The filmmakers do a great job at using color and making an interesting looking period piece. There are not that many locations in the movie, but every location in the movie is obviously handled with great detail which really makes me respect the craft that went into the set design. Even the music by composer Alexandre Desplat is great fitting perfectly in the early ’60s setting.

The themes in the movie are pretty obvious to spot and are filled with social commentary. Ideas of racism, sexism, and homophobia are displayed throughout the movie and the idea of using the amphibian creature man to represent persecuted people is pretty clever. The social commentary displayed here really fits with the time setting and it is also still somewhat relevant today. It is nothing we haven’t seen before but it is still unique in how it is done. Although it is mostly just preaching to the choir I think the social themes should be appreciated by most of society unless you are a doofus walking down a street wearing khakis and carrying a Tiki torch protesting social progression. The themes actually kind of made me think of similar themes used in the 1998 film Pleasantville.

The creature in this movie looks great. I’m not the biggest fan of over done CGI and I think what they pulled off with the look of this creature is pretty amazing. I’m not sure how much CGI was used compared to practical effects, but overall I think the creature felt as real as it possibly could. I’ve heard that Guillermo del Toro was originally offered to help with the Universal Studios planned Dark Universe which is a cinematic universe that unites several different classic Universal Monsters. Watching The Shape of Water and seeing how great the creature looked really makes me think that the Dark Universe would be in much better hands if Del Toro was at the helm considering he understands how to make both good legitimate horror and action genre movies.

The only negative thing I can say about The Shape of Water is that it is has a fairly thin plot and the length of the movie is just too long for that plot. At two hours and three minutes I just think it is fifteen minutes too long. I also don’t think the plot is has original as people think. If the movie Splash (1984) didn’t exist maybe I wouldn’t think that but I just kept thinking about the similarities in the back of my mind while watching this movie. With that I can say that The Shape of Water isn’t a great film but overall it is really good.

Dave’s Rating- ★★★★(4) out of ★★★★★(5)