First trailer for The Shape of Water promises another dark fairy tale from Guillermo del Toro

Ben Bussey
UK Movies Writer

Guillermo del Toro may have left ‘Hellboy’ behind for good, but he most definitely isn’t giving up on monsters, as is made abundantly clear by the new trailer for his latest movie, ‘The Shape of Water.’

After the big budget studio features ‘Pacific Rim’ and ‘Crimson Peak,’ the 52-year old Mexican director has returned to the lower budget, independent territory of his early triumphs ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ – and, in common with these, ‘The Shape of Water’ looks to be a dark, adult fairy tale.

Heading up an impressive cast is acclaimed British actress Sally Hawkins, who’s no stranger to monsters following her role in 2014’s ‘Godzilla’ (which she will reprise in the upcoming sequel). However, this looks to be – if you’ll pardon the expression – a whole different kettle of fish. Here, Hawkins portrays a mute cleaning lady working in a secretive science lab, which happens to play host to a unique humanoid amphibian discovered in the Amazon.

Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in ‘The Shape of Water’ (credit: 20th Century Fox)

If the sight of a fish-man in a tank (apparently with a liking for eggs) seems familiar, this will no doubt be down to the similar character of Abe Sapien in the ‘Hellboy’ movies. Nor is the similarity merely aesthetic: del Toro has cast Doug Jones – famed creature actor who played Abe, and many other monsters for del Toro over the years – as ‘The Shape of Water’s central creature.

Interestingly, del Toro was at one point attached to Universal’s long-in development remake of ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (now expected as part of their ‘Dark Universe’ series), and it’s not hard to see some similarities here. However, as has long been the norm for del Toro’s movies (‘Pacific Rim’ notwithstanding), it’s quite clear that the filmmaker’s sympathies lie with the monsters.

As such, the real ‘monster’ in ‘The Shape of Water’ would appear to be Michael Shannon as the head of the science lab, a staunch Christian who seems to take very personal issue with the existence of a seemingly man-like creature not made in the image of the Lord. (We daresay there’s a bit of commentary being made on today’s clashes between science and faith here.)

Michael Shannon in ‘The Shape of Water’ (credit: 20th Century Fox)

Just to add further weight to the tale, del Toro has chosen to set ‘The Shape of Water’ against the backdrop of a troubled period in history: Cold War America, in the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This isn’t too far removed from how ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ were set against the Spanish Civil War – and if ‘The Shape of Water’ can achieve a similar balance between real-life drama and a dream-like alternate reality, we should be in for something very special.

This looks to be a welcome return to more personal territory for del Toro, who opted to direct ‘The Shape of Water’ instead of the upcoming ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising,’ on which he passed the directorial reins to Steven S. DeKnight. That sequel opens 23 February 2018 – only a week after ‘The Shape of Water’ reaches UK cinemas, on 16 February 2018.

Read more:
Will Valerian be this year’s John Carter?
Thrilling new footage from Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Two mystery DC Comics movies scheduled for 2020