The Shape of Water 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
I find it unusually hard to review Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar winning film, THE SHAPE OF WATER. On one hand, I want to heap massive amounts of praise on the film for all of its technical achievements but on the other hand, I failed to connect with the film and it left me with an empty feeling, thus falling short of the greatness it strives to achieve. There’s a lot to love about THE SHAPE OF WATER, from the beautiful settings to the brilliant acting, but it never hits me on an emotional level and so there’s a shallowness that envelops the entire film.
The story follows Elisa (Hawkins), a mute woman living alone in her apartment while working as a janitor at a government research facility. She finds joy in spending time with her older, homosexual neighbor Giles (Jenkins) and gossiping with her coworker Zelda (Spencer). Her seemingly content life is turned upside down when she unexpectedly befriends a strange merman-like creature being held at the facility. Things get worse for her when she learns that the ambitious and borderline evil Richard (Shannon) is hellbent on dissecting the merman and using as a science experiment. As the film progresses, Elisa slowly starts to fall in love with the creature and becomes determined to enlist her friends to save its life.
Technically speaking, THE SHAPE OF WATER is clearly an Oscar-worthy film. Director Guillermo del Toro has crafted a fairy tale world that is magical to experience. His use of color, primarily greens and blues, give the film an old-Hollywood feel to it and the audience feels like we’ve been transported back in time. A lot of the greatness of the film lies with the amazing score from Alexandere Desplat, which earned him a much deserved Oscar. Guillermo del Toro has also chosen a spectacular cast, lead by the charming Sally Hawkins as Elisa. She has a sorrow in her eyes that carries the film, creating a nice opposite to the evil in Michael Shannon’s eyes. But Shannon doesn’t go comic-book villain with Richard and through various scenes, the audience begins to sympathize with him. Or at least as much as you can with someone trying to kill a merman fish creature. As great as Hawkins and Shannon were, the real standout was the always great Richard Jenkins. I thought Giles was the most interesting character of the bunch and his situation and tortured soul had the strongest emotional pull in the film.
Despite all of the technical achievements, the frustrating thing is that I never really cared about the relationship between Elisa and the fish man. The problem is that the entire second and third acts of the film are reliant on the audience being emotionally vested in their relationship. Without that investment, the second and especially the third acts all kind of flat. There are a couple of reasons why the relationship didn’t work, none of which involve the fact this is an inter-species romance. The problem is that the fish man was treated like an animal for almost the entire film and not once did we see him/it do something that would match the emotional level of Elisa. So for a lot of the film, the love felt one sided.
Without that emotional investment, it’s hard to feel too much passion for THE SHAPE OF WATER. Romance can be a lot like comedy in the sense that some romances are going to be more passionate for some audience members than other (I still can’t get behind the “romance” in the Fifty Shades trilogy). However, even if you’re indifferent to the Elisa-fish man relationship, there’s still plenty to marvel at in THE SHAPE OF WATER.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: This is another upconverted 2K master and it comes with all of the standard upticks in detail we’ve come to expect. Closeups have more detail, especially when the fish man is involved. Settings have a little more detail as well and this becomes noticeable in scenes where the backgrounds are dark, but the actors are standing in light, such as the water tank or when the characters are on the loading dock. But the HDR is where the 4K looks different and it’s hard to explain those differences. But the film has a greenish blue tint to it that looks a little more natural and defined in the 4K. It’s not consistent, but it’s most evident any time Elisa is talking to the fish man in his tank. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s something that is very noticeable when comparing the 4K to the Blu-ray.
Audio: The same DTS-MA track from the Blu-ray is included on the 4K.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no special features exclusive to the 4K, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times (28:55): This is a well done, four part making-of featurette that covers the making-of basics and shows some behind the scenes footage.
Anatomy of a Scene (8:05): del Toro breaks down two scenes.
Guillermo del Toro’s Master Class (13:25): del Toro has a fun Q&A session, along with some of the crew.
Shaping the Waves: A Conversation with James Jean (5:05): The illustrator James Jean gets interviewed about his inspirations and goals for the film.