If we can attribute any depth to the title of the film, “The Shape of Water”, it’s that the structure of the narrative is entirely transparent. It’s clear they operated under the assumption that if they threw in enough random scenes of nudity, masturbation, sex and gratuitous violence, no one would dare accuse them of producing a film which assumes the audience is endowed with the rational capacity of infants.

Here’s how logic runs in the movie:

We’ve captured the rarest creature on earth and gone to great lengths to bring it to our top-secret high-security facility – so we can kill it.

Meanwhile, audience exertion extends as far as this:

Exhibit A: I carry a bloody baton and make women watch while I pee. I’m the bad guy. But in case you didn’t catch that, I’ll also beat our extraordinary creature pointlessly, and repeatedly make bigoted remarks to the protagonists’ face. If that doesn’t suffice, I’ll also tell my wife to shut up while fucking her and covering her mouth with my bloody hand. Yes, I’m the one you need to free the monster from. I’m the monster. Glad you grasp the concept.

Exhibit B: I’m a poor orphan girl rendered mute by a mysterious accident in my past. Oh, and water really gets me off – I may be part fishman, myself. My best friends are a lonely gay man and a black woman in a bad marriage because Hollywood feels morally superior when it shines a light on minorities – so we’re stuffing the ballot! (For the record, I represent a number of minority identities, myself, but don’t relish being Hollywood’s hamfisted charity case.)

Orphan girl, probably a refugee from the sea herself, conveniently intersects with and is immediately enraptured with fishman – who, incidentally, she bears no resemblance to. Fishman also instantly senses their connection, minus one brief, forgivable outburst because, you know: keeping it real.

Even though our protagonist’s two best friends have taken it upon themselves to learn sign language so that she is able to communicate both at home and at work, she feels that no one but a fishman she just met truly understands and accepts her as she is. And just in case you still weren’t convinced that the bad guy was really all that bad, we’ll have him make a move on our protagonist because he’s really hornballed by her inability to speak or scream.

While the magically-enlightened or just plain superstitious natives of the past worshiped fishman as a god, both the stereotypically mindless murder-machines of the U.S. military and, for some reason, also Russia, are eager to kill our extraordinary monster. So it falls to our protagonist and her ragtag team of misfits to break him out of this high-security military base! Although she could enlist the help of the sympathetic Russian scientist, it’s better to leave that success-riding plot device to pure chance, and trust that he alone will witness our protagonist’s tampering and fortuitously deliver the literal key which had not apparently factored into the escape plan.

All of the necessary machinations will happen in just under five minutes exactly, even with the protagonist’s accomplice being stopped at the gate, the scientist totally ignorant of the schedule, and both he and the other best friend obstructing momentum. Not to mention the monster taking the opportunity to languidly rise from his escape-cart to make a dramatic first impression on gay friend, who also idles to drop a mindfuckingly banal punchline while stealing a scaled sea-unicorn from a military base. Did I do that? Fortunately only one man seems interested in pursuit, and he’s rendered incapable because they cleverly clipped the headlight from his car. Even more fortunate, Mister Military is an extremely bad shot.

Somehow they smuggle fishman into their upstairs apartment without notice and stuff him into the bathtub, but now he’s been out of water too long, so he suffocates and that’s the end. Just kidding, we just wanted to scare you. Don’t cry kiddies, he’s perfectly okay again. In fact, he can even roam out of water as much as he likes now without suffering any debilitating effects. Thus, after sitting serenely in a tub for half a day and night he suddenly bolts from the cramped ceramic basin, maiming our protagonist’s best friend and immediately eating the man’s cat (I guess eggs didn’t cut it anymore). But it’s okay, he’s a wild animal after all and it can’t be helped! Which, wow, is super sexy so let’s get our bestiality on. You might even call it a metaphor for interracial sex because it is totally the same thing. Better still, let’s stuff a towel under the door and turn on the taps so we can have mad underwater intercourse in our magical bathroom-turned-aquarium. C’mon, it looks cool.

Anyway, now that our monster-man has gotten that out of his system he’s a total doll with the surviving kitties, who will totally trust him 100% after watching him savagely devour their roommate. Adorable. Oh, and this seems like the perfect time for fishman to have a sudden burst of guilt for giving in to his natural predatory instincts and express this by demonstrating his magical healing powers. At least, you’ll think that’s what we’re doing, but no! We’ll save that reveal for the next day! So yes. Yes, that’s what we’re doing. He’s magic. It’s flawless foreshadowing.

Because all is not according to protocol in our military man’s life, so let’s have him hijack the needless plotline of the interfering Russians (we’re mad at Russia right now, so no movie is complete without evil Russians) to violently kill our humble scientist and remind everyone that we’re not actually a Disney movie because we have sex and violence. That’s what makes us cool, kids. Edgy.

Of course, our clever scientist proves not so clever in his final moments so that we can bring on the chase scene and further emphasize the unambiguously vile nature of our villain and moral high ground of our heroes. Just as they arrive at the scene of escape, the military remembers how to shoot. But don’t worry, we have magic. We showed you earlier, so it’s totally not deus ex machina. Oh, and it wasn’t bestiality either because orphan girl is really a sea monster too. Or something. I hope she likes catfish.

So the moral is, don’t be a dick and yay diversity. The weak are strong and the strong are stupid. Animals are people too and people are animals so we can still be friends when we’re not irresistibly compelled to eat each other. Also, stop wearing a toupee and just be yourself… even though you look much better in the toupee; it’s quite a good one.

The film is a visual feast, but even that is largely derivative of better films that have gone before. If there’s any explanation for the general reception, either the audience is old enough that the rampant nostalgia porn checks all their boxes, or young enough not to know better. It has less emotional and intellectual scope than Greg Weissman’s “Gargoyles” (which actually had a lot). The only thing extraordinary about this movie is that it was given a serious treatment rather than being vanquished to the late night slot on Cartoon Network. Better cartoon writers everywhere are wondering where their oscars are. And so am I.