Del Toro seems more interested in his color scheme — in 1962 Baltimore, the color green represents the conformist Space Age future planned by Corporate America, while red represents the romantic past embodied by old movie musicals — than in making any sense out of his comic book story.
Del Toro must have put three orders of magnitude more effort into perfecting his color scheme than in working on his plot: The U.S. government has sent an Evil White Man (played by Michael Shannon) to the Amazon to capture a new improved version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The fishman (Doug Jones, quite good) can breathe both under and over water, so figuring out how he does it is the highest priority of the USA and the USSR because of Reasons (tk) having to do with the Space Race. You know, because of all the water in Outer Space …
Sally Hawkins plays a mute cleaning lady who is supposed to scrub down the laboratory every night where the fishman is kept chained up so that the Evil White Man can beat it nightly with his cattle prod, like Sheriff Bull Connor is shown beating saintly black civil rights protestors on TV.
Why is the government official in charge of this giant scientific project constantly beating the unique subject with a cattle prod? Because he is an Evil White Man and that’s just how they manifest their White Evilness. Evil is in their blood. From RogerEbert.com:
In co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro’s political fairytale “The Shape of Water,” Shannon embodies a type of Trumpian nightmare and creates one of the auteur darkest villains yet. His government character Strickland is an American man in 1962 with a sociopathic presence in the workplace and at home, who seeks to humiliate all of those below him and appease all of those above him. Strickland’s misogyny and racism provides a key counterpoint to the wave of civil rights working through the film, but is enough to make him a horrifying monster of power from any era. He reaches a type of destiny when a gorgeous, delicate sea creature appears in the lab that Strickland is overseeing. Under specific orders, Strickland seeks to destroy it, despite its scientific worth and beauty.Our heroine instantly falls in love with the fishdude, and despite her muteness, recruits a Coalition of the Fringes, including her gay neighbor played by Richard Jenkins, her sassy black lady friend at work (Octavia Spencer), and a Soviet scientist spy (Michael Stuhlbarg) who has infiltrated the laboratory, to help her take her frog lover home and keep him in her bathtub.
He makes Kiwi Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) look swarthy in comparison.
What kind of breeding among his ancestors in Mexico produced Del Toro: rich, talented, and very, very white?
But his name ends in a vowel, so you can tell he’s not an Evil White Male.