Monster Trucks is universally renown as trash. It’s not only one of 2017’s biggest box office bombs, but Paramount Pictures publicly denounced the movie before it was released, writing it off as a disaster. The Shape of Water, on the other hand, is a critically praised, so-called ‘masterwork’ that is barreling towards this year’s Oscar awards as one of its biggest contenders, with director Guillermo Del Toro already picking up a Best Director award at the Golden Globes. Upon closer inspection, it appears that both The Shape of Water and Monster Trucks are basically the same movie.
Monster Trucks follows the story of a person with a disability who befriends and ultimately falls in love with a sea monster, breaks it free from its cruel captors with the help of a friendly scientist working for the bad guys (who is trying to do the right thing), and returns it to a big body of water just in the nick of time. The Shape of Water is the story of a person with a disability who befriends and ultimately falls in love with a sea monster, breaking it free from its cruel captors with the help of a friendly scientist working for the bad guys (trying to do the right thing) and returns it to a big body of water just in the nick of time.
Guillermo del Toro had the idea for The Shape of Water back in 2011, and he’s been trying to get the movie made for the past seven years. It’s unclear when Matthew Robinson, Jonathan Aibel, and Glenn Berger all conceived their story for Monster Trucks, which was ultimately turned unto a script by Derek Connolly. It doesn’t look like a lawsuit is pending between the two parties, but the ultimate similarities are uncanny.
The Shape of Water follows a mute custodian woman, played fetchingly by Sally Hawkins, who discovers a strange and scary sea creature at work. Monster Trucks follows a high school teen whom, if this was being covered on How Did This Get Made, Jason Mantzoukas would describe as being ‘on the spectrum’. He shows no empathy for the other characters around him, and has no sense of social skills. Though, it’s hard to tell if the writers intentionally gave him Asperger’s. He has several difficulties with social interactions, especially when it comes to his ‘best friend’ and the obvious attraction of a local girl attempting to tutor him in biology. He also shows signs of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior when it comes to working on automotive vehicles. That said, Lucas Till’s Tripp also has the personality of a textbook millennial. He, too, has a disability, though it is not so clearly defined, and he also discovers a strange and unusual sea creature at work.
Both characters slowly interact with and teach the sea creature about humanity while attempting to hide their interactions under the guise of carrying out their job. They both ultimately fall in love with their respective monsters. All the while, there is a well-intentioned scientist studying these new life forms, who at first appears to be working for the villains. But midway through, they both decide that they must protect the new species, and decide to help their respective heroes when the time calls for it. This beat is set to both hands on the dial.
Michael Stuhlbarg plays Dr. Robert Hoffstetler in The Shape of Water, the Russian spy who wants to study and protect the weird sea man he comes to understand as highly intelligent. In Monster Trucks, it is Thomas Lennon who plays Jim Dowd, a man with the exact same interest and intentions when it comes to his newly discovered species. Both working from their perspective labs, the two characters, aside from one having a secret Russian accent, are completely interchangeable, and if one showed up in the other’s movie, and vice versa, audiences wouldn’t be any the wiser.
The two sea monsters are in grave danger from men who don’t really respect these awesome creatures, or what they can do for humanity. The Shape of Water‘s Michael Shannon plays Colonel Richard Strickland. He likes to beat on his humanoid amphibian with an electrified cattle prod and decides that the best course of action is to have the beast dissected for the better of humanity. The strong jawed Holt McCallany, who is so great in Netflix’s Mindhunter, plays nearly this identical role in Monster Trucks. Only being a family film, he’s more interested in starving out the wet octopus lizards that have been discovered hiding under an ocean of oil in his small town. The two actors would be interchangeable in their respective roles. And their driving theme is the same in both movies. Torture the monster, threaten to kill it, and refuse to see the greater good it serves mankind. In The Shape of Water, it’s curing baldness and bringing people back to life. In Monster Trucks, it’s a sustainable energy source and bringing people back to life. The only difference is that Shannon’s character is a little more cruel, engaging in actual scenes of torture. McCallany is working in the confines of a kiddy movie, so his threats are more tell than show.
The Shape of Water is much more economic with its characters. Though both films have the same cast rundown. There’s the best friend that helps with the monster’s escape. Sally Hawkins has Octavia Spencer as custodian Zelda Fuller at her side, who helps in the ultimate getaway, though eventually serves in being the one who gives up the monster’s whereabouts. Lucas Till gets Tucker Albrizzi as Sam Geldon, who, much like Zelda, helps orchestrate the monster’s escape, but results in giving away the ruse. He works at a local car dealership. Where as the merman is Sally Hawkins’ love interest, Monster Trucks gives Lucas Till a human ‘girlfriend’ of sorts in Jane Levy’s Meredith. Though, he’s never into her quite like she is into him. He’s all about fixing his trucks and loving his monster, but being a family film, Monster Trucks cant take some of the R rated liberties that Guillermo Del Toro frolics in with his film. though ultimately the conceit is the same in both movies.
Both Sally Hawkins’ Elisa Esposito and Lucas Till’s Tripp have mentors that also help orchestrate the monster’s ultimate escape. Elisa gets Richard Jenkins as Giles, a gay man who paints Jell-o advertisements for a living, though he is unable to truly express his sexuality in the repressed 60s, and no one finds his work necessary anymore. So he decides his true purpose in life is saving a sea monster. Tripp gets Danny Glover as Mr. Weathers, who serves the same purpose, playing a mechanic now confined to a wheelchair, who isn’t much help to the community anymore, but is loyal to Tripp, and feels his ultimate fate is to help get this giant octopus back to the water.
Both The Shape of Water and Monster Trucks run on the same track. They hit all the same story beats at the exact same time in the script. Binary human meets monster. Binary person falls in love with monster. Binary human convinces two other human friends to save monster from guarded lab in a highly orchestrated rescue mission. Though, there are some obvious differences that make the two movies separate entities.
As stated before, The Shape of Water is being sold as an R rated love story. Monster Trucks is a PG rated family adventure comedy at a time when PG-13 rules the scene. Guillermo’s movie takes place during the cold war, in the 60s. Chris Wedge (best known for directing the first Ice Age) sets his movie in modern times. The ultimate difference is that The Shape of Water uses some strategically placed monster-on-human sex scenes between its manlike creature and mute woman to titillate, excite and perhaps disturb audiences. It could be argued that Monster Trucks uses its demolition scenes of crushing cars and other inanimate objects in the same way. It is, after all, called Monster Trucks, so it does try to squeeze some monster truck goodness in to titillate, excite and disturb.
Both movies have evil white males at the center of their movies, which is becoming quite popular in the SJW playing field that currently dominates Hollywood. While there are no straight white male heroes in The Shape of Water, there are in Monster Trucks. But they are handled in slightly disturbing ways. Both Tripp and his high school male counterpart are indifferent to women. They actually appear to loath the very essence of girls. And pretty much ignore them, not even objectifying them as objects, but as irritating distractions. Tripp is one of the most unlikeable heroes in a recent big budget movie. And he has absolutely no social skills as mentioned before, which is off putting, and perhaps one of the big reasons the movie didn’t register with audiences. At least you can empathize with Elisa.
While the two movies have almost identical plots that are carried through in an almost identical manner, it would be easy to write off as mere coincidence. And it’s arguable that there is enough separating the two movies. Until you get to the end. Believe it or not, because I didn’t while watching both movies this weekend back to back, The Shape of Water and Monster Trucks, I kid you not, have the exact same ending! The bad guys ‘stop’ the monsters, and the creatures falls into the water with their respective loved ones, slowly sinking. The shots are nearly identical, The Shape of Water even using this image on its poster. Shape‘s merman has bright blue luminescent skin that brings Sally Hawkins back to life. Holy cow, no way, Monster Trucks Creech also has bright blue luminescent skin that rockets across it’s body in identical flashes of self contained lightening that also bring its human counterpart back to life. Unbelievable. As so clearly stated in the headline, these are basically the same exact movie. Just told at a slightly different angle.
The Shape of Water and Monster Trucks are not just surprisingly similar, it’s like watching simultaneous remakes of the same script just from different directors who were allowed to tweak their presentation a bit. You simply can’t deny they have identical stories. It’s just that one movie happens to be an Awards darling, and the other barely registered at the box office. Sources claim that Monster Trucks had an insane budget of $125 million, not covering advertising costs, which Paramount abandoned midway through its campaign. The sci-fi family comedy earned $33.3 million domestically, eventually taking in $64.4 million worldwide. It was one of last year’s biggest money losers. It was meant to ignite a franchise. It barely ignited a bucket fire. The Shape of Water, on the other hand, has a way smaller budget of $19.5 million, opening in wide release at the very end of last year. It has pulled in $26.4 million domestic, $29.6 million worldwide, already making back its budget. And though it has been available to most of the country at this point, you can expect that box office to grow in the next couple of weeks as its chance at Oscar increases and it continues to open in more theaters, with it playing in just a fraction of what Paramount gave Monster Trucks at the time of its release.
The Shape of Water is a super fan movie. Fanboy cinephiles, no matter how they may actually feel about the movie, are forced to say they love it or lose credibility. Though I dare them to show me one scene in the movie that is original or in the least bit surprising. And the counter argument is, yeah, because it was always supposed to be a repurposed Creature from the Black Lagoon told through the sensibilities of Guillermo Del Toro. In truth, The Shape of Water is standing on the razor’s edge of being a terrible movie. There are enough things that save it from being utter Drive-In schlock, which is exactly what it is. It’s all dressed up in awards season glamour. But truth be told, when it comes down to it, Monster Trucks, with all its smash-ability, might just be the more entertaining movie. Mind you, I didn’t say better. They both serve their purpose. Both simmering on the stove, they’re both just dumb monster movies with the same exact plot. Challenge that all you want, but there’s not really an argument.