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Amphibian Man

The Shape of Water
by yo go re

Studio won't let you make Hellboy 3? Fine, write some Abe Sapien fan fiction and win an Oscar for it. That'll show 'em!

If I spoke about it - if I did - what would I tell you? I wonder. Would I tell you about the time? It happened a long time ago, it seems. In the last days of a fair prince's reign. Or would I tell you about the place? A small city near the coast, but far from everything else. Or, I don't know... would I tell you about her? The princess without voice. Or perhaps I would just warn you about the truth of these facts. And the tale of love and loss. And the monster, who tried to destroy it all.

At age 6, Guillermo del Toro went to see The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and was turned on fascinated by the scenes of the Gill-man swimming with Kay Lawrence. Little Gillermito was sad that the monster didn't end up getting a girlfriend, a feeling that never abated as he grew to adulthood. So he wrote The Shape of Water as something of an unofficial sequel - just like in Black Lagoon, the creature was found in a river in South America, which is a pretty obvious nod to the Universal Studios film: it's a big wide world out there, and the Amphibian Man could have come from anywhere; choosing South America makes the intention clear.

The Amphibian Man was played by Doug Jones, because of course he was - he's Hollywood's go-to guy for "actor wearing a complicated full-body monster suit," and Guillermo del Toro's even moreso. I mean, we've now reviewed four of these Guillermo del Toro Signature Collection figures, and Doug Jones has been three of them. The makeup was so low profile (aka thin and close to the face of the person wearing it) there wasn't a ton of room for extraneous electronics - so the creature's eye movements and small expressions were done digitally. Big expressions like angrily baring his teeth, though? Those could be done for real. The figure includes an alternate head like that, and they swap out easily.

Shape of Water's creature is tall and skinny - even as an action figure, he stands 7½", big enough to look down at average humans. His body is smoother than the Gill-man's, though it still takes its influence. His skin is covered in scales, but you can make out more human(oid) anatomy here than you could on the Creature from the Black Lagoon, things like collarbones and a butt. There is a certain piece of anatomy that isn't seen here, but then, it's not seen in the film, either, so that's perfectly fine. While the Gill-man had large feet with the toes spread to reveal the webbing between them, Amphibian Man's feet are more slender, and the only webs we get to see are between his fingers. There are, however, soft PVC fins all over his body, so we don't mistake him for some kind of snake-man.

The colors are dark. Even the "light" underbelly is shady and desaturated. That bit (and most of the fins) would almost qualify as yellow, while the rest of his body is a dark blue-green. There are brighter blue stripes all over him, suggesting the bioluminescence seen in the "healing" scenes. The eyes are glossy black, and a bit of pink is evident on the lips. The figure uses the same sort of molding that allowed so many of NECA's movie figures to have the translucence of real skin, so he looks surprisingly natural.

In order to give the Amphibian Man a distinct physicality, Doug Jones patterned his movements on bull fighters: that sort of odd stance that seems to lead with the hips? That one. The toy can duplicate that, plus many others thanks to his abundant and useful articulation. Some of it's a little weird, but mostly grand. He's got swivel/hinge ankles, double-knees witha hinge on the bottom and a swivel/hinge on the top, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, a balljointed chest, swivel/hinge wrists, double elbows, swivel/hinge shoulders, and a balljointed head. The angry head has a hinged jaw, as well.

The elbows are the strange part. Doing double-joints there is nothing new for NECA, but this particular style definitely is. The upper joint is a swivel/hinge, no surprise there. But do you remember ages ago, when NECA was first starting to put joints in their figures, they'd do this thing where the elbow joint was just a swivel, set at 45° through the arm so that when you turned it it almost looked like the arm was bent? That's what the lower joint on these elbows is. And like, why? It doesn't look that much better on a bare arm than their normal "double-swivel/hinge" does, and it doesn't really offer any better range of motion, so what's the idea? It's not bad, just really strange.

The accessories include a second pair of arms. While it appears they're here for no discernable reason (the hands are in different poses, but at first glance that seems to be the only change), there actually is some sense behind it. Yes, the hands can be pulled off easily, and in fact they'll need to be to utilize the next accessory: the big platform where he was chained and examined by the government agents! It's a 6" octagon, with real metal chains clasped into three of the slots around the edges. It's even been painted with a shiny "puddle" in the middle. The manacles for his neck and arms don't open, so you have to pop the pieces off the body to get them in place. And that's where the variant arms come in: one set has fins running all the way down to the wrist, while the other has them stop a bit short, so there's room for the shackles. Unexpected! And possibly unnecessary, but hey, are we going to complain?

Beyond the bodyparts and the bit of flooring, Amphie comes with a plate of eggs (his favorite human food - another thing he has in common with Hellboy's old pal Abe) and two removable little fins that slot into his armpits. Yes, just like Spider-Man's webs. They're only visible when he raises his arms, which is why they're not a permanent part of the toy. He doesn't have any half-devoured cats, but if you need such a thing, remember that Full Moon Toys released a character called the "Castle Freak," and he had something just like that.

Originality aside, The Shape of Water was a wonderful film. If you want to view it as a sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon, you can; if you want to view it as a prequel to Hellboy, you can do that too; if you just want to view it as a movie with a sexy monster making sexy times with a human, well, that's what it's all about anyway, so go to town. (Male sailors got so horny they thought manatees were women, but sure, pretend a woman falling for a fishman is somehow deviant and weird.) NECA delivered another fine monster, which has got to make Guillermo del Toro happy.

-- 07/30/20

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