The 13th Floor

Is Del Toro’s THE SHAPE OF WATER Secretly THE SHAPE OF ABE SAPIEN?

Guillermo Del Toro’s film career has been exceptionally awesome starting with his hybrid Spanish/English Mexican fairytale CRONOS, all the way up to his badass popcorn flick, PACIFIC RIM. The greatest thing about Del Toro and the thing he loves doing is juggling those two types of films back and forth in his repertoire.

After Finishing PAN’S LABYRINTH, he came back to American Audiences with HELLBOY 2. Perhaps the best case of Del Toro combining his two styles of filmmaking, however, was CRIMSON PEAK. This film saw him bring the intimate, character-driven style of storytelling he uses more in his foreign films and combining it with an expensive Blockbuster aesthetic he usually reserves for his films targeted at American audiences.

Del Toro’s next film is shrouded in secrecy with him stating that it is a ‘fantastical romantic drama” about a lonely woman named Elisa who works in a government laboratory and discovers a top secret government experiment. Why the secrecy? I believe this to be a cover up very much on the level of Adam Wingard’s BLAIR WITCH. I believe Del Toro’s new film, THE SHAPE OF WATER to be an Abe Sapien film.

We all know that Neil Marshall (DOG SOLDIERS) is directing a new R-rated HELLBOY movie starring David Harbour of STRANGER THINGS in the titular role and damn if that isn’t already an inspired and original team behind the film, but most fans feel very scorned still by the idea that we will never see Ron Perlman don the red horns or have Del Toro craft another insane practical FX monster extravaganza – especially considering how hardcore Perlman vocalized his desire to end the trilogy along with the meetings Del Toro set up with Mignola to discuss a final outing. Hell, I even signed a petition to get the third film made that saw tons of support!

As I said, the team behind the new film is truly inspired and the idea of an R-rated HELLBOY, while seeming to jump on the R-rated studio band wagon, is interesting. The biggest hurdle for the new film would be to ease the transition from Del Toro’s ‘verse to Marshall’s. What better way to do this then to have Del Toro himself give his blessing by making a film set in this new universe as a passing of the torch and good faith for the fans? You can call me crazy and say I have too much faith in the big wigs behind this, but I feel like there’s a lot of evidence supporting my theory.

Not too long ago after the new iteration of HELLBOY was announced, Bloody-Disgusting ran a piece on a film called HELLBOY: SILVERLANCE, which was to be a film centered on Abe Sapien written by HELLBOY movie writer Peter Briggs. While Del Toro hasn’t said he had anything to do with the project, it would have been set in his established universe and would have seen Doug Jones return to reprise the roles of Abe Sapien and the Angel of Death, with Perlman along for the ride in a cameo capacity.

I can’t imagine Del Toro not having any influence on SILVERLANCE with Jones and Perlman both being regular players in his films. Del Toro would have to have at least had conversations or contributed ideas to the film as he would most likely support a film that would launch Jones in a starring capacity wholeheartedly, much the way Robert Rodriguez finally gave Danny Trejo a starring role in MACHETE.

Though no official word has been given on whether Del Toro had worked at all on SILVERLANCE, THE SHAPE OF WATER has been a project he’s been working on since before PACIFIC RIM in 2013 and is a concept that he could’ve easily fleshed into an Abe-centric story – especially during the period of time period in which he had his hands in developing a myriad of projects while stuck “directing” THE HOBBIT, a film that put him in a more producer/writer capacity for most of the projects he was developing due to THE HOBBIT’s many constant problems in the development stage.

One of the first announcements about THE SHAPE OF WATER came as no surprise that, of course, Doug Jones would be in the film, presumably as the creature within the story. The second bit of news was that the SHAPE OF WATER would indeed be R-rated, which came as a bit of a surprise to myself as most of his American Films are PG-13 fare so as to bring in a wider audience.  CRIMSON PEAK is the exception, breaking that trend and leading me to believe that, indeed, he would continue to combine his two styles of filmmaking  moving forward.

Other than David Harbour, no other cast member from the new HELLBOY film has been revealed. We don’t even know if the BPRD will be a major part of the film as the RISE OF THE BLOOD QUEEN storyline in the comics is near the end of the HELLBOY run when he no longer works with the BPRD. Re-launches of franchises (especially so soon after previous iterations have ended) have struggled to recast major parts when characters have become so beloved and the actors who brought them to life are still capable of portraying those roles.

The instance that comes to mind the most is JK Simmons’ portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN films, a performance so perfect that the continuing re-launches of SPIDER-MAN didn’t even bother acknowledging the character’s existence.

Harbour is hot off of STRANGER THINGS and the studio wants to use that to help push the film. They want to set this new universe apart and give it its own fresh look as Harbour definitely has a different body type and style than the geek icon that is Perlman. Doug Jones never gets his face seen, though, as he is a movement actor & creature performer. You could completely redesign Abe using CGI or different practical FX while still using Jones as the character’s base.

THE SHAPE OF WATER is set in 1963 and, in the comics, Abe was discovered in the seventies, so the time frame is not too far off and could easily be rewritten for the films. With RISE OF THE BLOOD QUEEN being set in a more contemporary time, this could be an easy prequel to introduce Abe into the universe and perhaps have him appear at the end of the new HELLBOY film as an already-established character.

Finally the biggest aid to my theory is the trailer to the film itself. In it, we meet Elisa who uses sign language to communicate with a blue amphibian-like creature that is kept in a water tank very reminiscent of Abe’s water pod used to heal him in the original HELLBOY.

The creature is only glimpsed at here and there as we see the top of his head and hands grabbing things. He is blue and has some swampy green spots along him, not exactly like Abe’s makeup in HELLBOY but way too close a design to not be related. What we see him grabbing in the trailer are eggs as that is what Elisa feeds him and as we know from Professor Broom in the original HELLBOY, of course, “Rotten eggs, a delicacy. Abe loves them.” Though not rotten, the parallels of this creature’s diet and Abe’s are so similar.

Of course the biggest question for me is how is it that this creature and Elisa are communicating? Elisa uses sign language, but how is it that this creature could know sign language? There are shots of the creature’s hand touching the glass that look like they were taken straight from the other HELLBOY movies as the hand looks almost exactly like Abe’s! When pressed on the glass, Elisa gives way to feelings of love and joy, almost as if she were communicating with the creature through her emotions in a telepathic manner… just like Abe Sapien!

This trailer just felt like it gave so much away with Del Toro winking at us through all the imagery. At no point does it state that this is an Abe Sapien film, but it felt like Del Toro slapped me with the imagery of an Abe Sapien film and called me a dummy while cackling. The question is, does this tie into the new HELLBOY Universe or is it simply Del Toro capping off his own? I straight-up think this is the passing of the torch and the SHAPE OF WATER is the first foray into the R-rated HELLBOY Universe.

The only downfall to my theory I can think of is Millenium Films is behind HELLBOY and Fox Searchlight is behind THE SHAPE OF WATER, but the allure of that shared Universe money is powerful and even got Sony to finally co-venture on SPIDER-MAN with Marvel Studios – strange bed fellows indeed. Am I Russel Casse crazy or am I onto something like Mulder? Only time will tell!

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