All Guillermo del Toro wanted to do was remake “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” On behalf of cinema lovers everywhere, it’s a good thing that never materialized. Instead, del Toro directed one of the most stirring films of 2017 –– the utterly bizarre and totally amazing “The Shape of Water.”
“The Shape of Water,” is a love story hundreds of years in the making, but there’s never been a tale told quite like this one. It’s been well-documented at this point that del Toro was greatly inspired by the 1954 horror classic, “Creature.” And that much should be obvious to even the most casual movie goer. The modern “Amphibian man,” bears more than a striking resemblance to the Universal Pictures “Gill-Man.” However, fewer press outlets have mentioned that del Toro himself was in-line to remake “Creature,” for Universal way back in 2002. However, he was unable to reach an agreement with Universal producers to create a different sort of reboot for the franchise.
More than that though, “Creature,” is a story in the classic mold of a beauty-and-the-beast tragedy, a plot structure imagined and reimagined a thousand times over.
That’s why del Toro’s 2017 edition is all the more remarkable for its originality. Never does one feel like the movie treads over old ground. In an era where it’s perfectly acceptable (and highly profitable) to regurgitate trite old themes (eight times over!), played-out characters, and pander to the lowest common denominator –– fan service –– del Toro’s movie shines all the brighter because it resists these easy tropes. Rather, “Shape,” is the ideal remake. It doesn’t seek to profit from the success of the original “Creature;” instead, it crafts a new story from the same fabric.
And what a yarn del Toro has spub. Credit must go to both Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon who deliver incredible (though polar-opposite) performances. However, only del Toro could envision a world quite like the one portrayed in “Shape.” What other director could elicit such beauty from a Cold-War era laboratory, replete with luminescent inoculation loops and heavy brass levers?
Simply put, the movie feels like an instant classic already. That may be partly due to the retro motif of the film –– though only the most cynical viewer would deny that the movie possesses the charm of a bygone era on a visceral level.
In the end, “Shape,” should serve as a blueprint for any Hollywood director itching to remake a classic film. The fact that it probably won’t is both sad and satisfying at the same time.