Guillermo del Toro has gifted the world with so many strange and fantastical creatures he scored his own exhibit at LACMA last year. And we’re about to get another one. In “The Shape of Water,” arriving in December, we get to meet the one credited right now as simply “the creature”: a slimy, amphibious thingamajig who looks an awful lot like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But this one doesn’t prey on humans; he falls in love with them.
Sally Hawkins takes the lead as a mute everywoman on cleaning duty at a high-security government lab in 1963, who discovers her employers’ biggest get is said aquatic dude, played by regular Del Toro creature performer Doug Jones (not to be confused with “Twin Peaks”’ Dougie Jones, though we’d love to see these two guys get their own good-cop-bad-cop spinoff action movie). The two find inter-species amour, but you know who’s not having it? Michael Shannon! The world’s most unpredictable actor — and subject of one of our favorite homegrown interviews — plays the crusty, sinister government goon who’d prefer to hurt, not coddle, the creature.
We’ve never been totally sold on Del Toro, whose films tend to strike us as a flurry of inspired ideas and creatures in search of organization. His last movie, “Crimson Peak,” was a relentless beaut but couldn’t help but feel thin and underrealized by film’s end. “Pacific Rim” came off like a great opportunity wasted on far, far too many shots of humans inside giant battle bots, seriously cutting in on majestic images of, you know, giant battle bots.
Then again, Del Toro’s simplicity may be a good fit for a fable crossed with a love story, especially one tied to the eternally lovable Hawkins. Then again again, we expected something similar from “Pan’s Labyrinth,” of which we’re one of the three or four people who found it underwhelming. Still, at least we’ll get a cool creature and Sally Hawkins!
“The Shape of Water” doesn’t hit theaters till Dec. 1, and also features Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg. Watch the trailer below: