Don't get your hopes up, Hellboy fans: The Shape of Water is no Abe Sapien prequel. It's true that the creature at the center of Guillermo del Toro's latest, known as "The Asset", bears a striking resemblance to Abe, a character from the director's Hellboy films - but as del Toro has shot down that's no indication the films are connected.
In addition to the obvious visual similarities between the two characters, both the Asset and Abe Sapien are played by Doug Jones, who also played the Faun and Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth, and Saru in Star Trek: Discovery. Further, the creature also shares Abe Sapien's love of eggs and classical music.
In fact (and without spoiling the plot of The Shape of Water), Abe's backstory parallels some background events of the film. For instance, Abe Sapien was sealed in a glass tube, filled with water, during the Civil War in the basement of St. Trinian's hospital in D.C. In 1978, he was rediscovered by some plumbers; he was initially examined by the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense and would have been vivisected if Hellboy hadn't stepped in. Similarly, The Shape of Water begins with the Asset confined to a glass tube, filled with water, in a government facility in Baltimore in 1962. While the cities and years are slightly different, the Cold War, the bureaucratic setting plays a major role in both stories.
However, Guillermo del Toro has said that the creature in The Shape of Water was inspired by the titular monster from The Creature from the Black Lagoon. When asked directly on Twitter if The Shape of Water was a prequel about Abe Sapien, del Toro responded clearly:
It is not. https://t.co/smbrgqGeP4
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) July 20, 2017
When another fan coyly noted that the film could be about Abe Sapien and simply not a prequel, del Toro clarified bluntly:
Not Abe. At all.
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) July 21, 2017
Nevertheless, some fans have developed a theory that The Shape of Water could be an unofficial prequel, perhaps tying in or some twisted blessing of the David Harbour Hellboy film due in 2019, and that del Toro's negative claims are legally necessary since Abe Sapien and the rest of the Hellboy franchise are copyrighted material. Perhaps "the Asset" is the same species as Abe (ichthyo sapien) or The Shape of Water takes place in some sort of parallel universe. Unfortunately, that notion seems to only exist within the fandom.
- The Shape of Water (2017) release date: Dec 01, 2017