The Shape of Water is a brilliant movie, but fans of Guillermo Del Toro know that the bulk of the filmmaker’s features are much darker. This isn’t to suggest Shape isn’t bleak and harrowing, but it certainly doesn’t have the teeth of Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, or the Hellboy movies. And speaking of the latter, Del Toro fans have speculated since the first trailer dropped that The Shape of Water might be an unofficial Hellboy prequel; more specifically, an Abe Sapien origin story.
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Warning: Below There Be Spoilers!
The connections are obvious: Abe and The River God in The Shape of the Water bear more than just a passing resemblance, and both are played by celebrated body actor Doug Jones. There are differences, but this could mean The River God is Abe’s father, and Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is his mother; as their progeny, Abe is still amphibious in appearance and physiology but has the composure and language skills that clearly eluded his father.
Add to this theory the fact that Del Toro was famously unhappy about his separation from the Hellboy franchise, which will continue in 2019 under the direction of Neil Marshall. No doubt the shift in leadership (and cast) will cause an abrupt shift in Del Toro’s canon, meaning the trilogy he imagined will never come to fruition. Could this have been in the back of his mind when he was producing The Shape of Water? Is this his way, perhaps subconsciously, of finding resolution with Hellboy?
Of course, Del Toro has sought to squash this fan theory, as Jones himself confirmed in a recent interview:
“Guillermo was very specific, he did not want Abe Sapien in this film at all,” Jones told the Hollywood Reporter. “He wanted this to be very stand-alone, it’s its own piece of art. Let’s celebrate this own unique story that has nothing to do with Abe.”
Still, with connections being made between every story penned by Stephen King and M. Night Shyamalan combining several of is film into a shared universe, it’s impossible to completely separate Abe Sapien from The Shape of Water. Not only are The Shape of Water and Hellboy 1 & 2 both intrinsically bound to the creativity of Del Toro, sharing a unique world of fantasies created by a singularly extraordinary mind, both have themes of science vs mythology; both films are steeped in a Cold War ideology featuring shadowy organizations that operate outside government oversight.
And though the origins of Abe Sapien were established by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, their mythologies are hardly incompatible. Elisa and The River God from The Shape of Water escaped in 1964, and the first information we have about Abe Sapien is dated 1978:
“In a child’s bedroom, 1978, a comatose, amphibious man was found inside a water-filled capsule within a long-lost chamber beneath the St. Trinian’s Hospital. Found by a group of plumbers, the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense quickly intercepted the creature, and nicknamed it “Abraham Sapien,” in reference to the scrap of paper written on his tube: April 14th 1865 – the date of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.” (Source)
So, what do you think? Is it beyond reason to suggest that The Shape of Water is, at the very least, an unofficial Hellboy prequel? Let’s discuss in the Comments section! If you haven’t seen The Shape of Water, check out the trailer, review, and synopsis below.
Official Synopsis: Elisa is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist.
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