How does the world around you shape your thoughts and manifests itself in your work of fiction? This is the theme for Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. With the blockbuster success of this summer’s Wonder Woman plus a resurgence of interest in the female comic book icon, it looks like now is the perfect moment for a film on the inspiration behind the character. The movie is a tale of love, passion and women power. One of the most underrated movies this year, it is based on a true story.
Issues of feminism and the polyamorous relationship between psychologist and comic book writer William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and his mistress, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) is explored brilliantly. This is the untold and controversial origin story that Wonder Woman fans will savour.
The movie has the perfect setting for a period piece. Professor Marston and his wife teach psychology in Harvard and Radcliffe colleges. We see the development of the DISC theory and the model of the first polygraph lie detector. But as Professor Marston hires a new teaching assistant, things get uneasy in the relationship. Both the professor and his wife fall in love with their assistant, Olive Bryne. From there on, the story is about forbidden love. Meanwhile, Professor Marston has created this new character – Suprema, the Wonder Woman – taking inspiration from the two women in his life. But hints of sadomasochism and bondage sex in his comic books becomes a problem for mainstream America. Angela Robinson manages to draw parallels from the comics to Marston’s personal life – which is delightfully done.
As the film ends, we see that it is an affirmation of feminine power, wisdom and strength which can change hearts and minds, influence culture and inspire others to be their most authentic selves.
Being an ardent comic book fan, I was aware of the relationship Professor Marston had with the women in question. But that did not stain my experience of watching this movie at all because it is beautifully crafted. You can sympathize with the three in the relationship, and feel for their plight in a time intolerant to polyamorous relationships.
But as the movie is a win on many fronts, it has some gaping faults. The back and forth narrative – so clichéd in period films – has been used here. Pacing and editing seemed way off for my taste. When the movie had the opportunity to show a thrilling take on the rudimentary Lie Detector, it squandered the opportunity by quickly jumping to the conclusion and focus on the characters and not the machine. The background score was pedestrian when the movie could have really scored some brownie points on that front. But these facts can be easily overlooked when you consider that the movie was made on a very modest budget and principle shooting got completed in 25 days. A strong performance from the lead actors steadied the ship, with special mention of Rebecca Hall’s brilliant performance as the stern but shaky Elizabeth Marston.
If you loved Wonder Woman, do not miss this movie.
If you didn’t like Wonder Woman, consider this as a period biopic and watch it. You won’t be disappointed.
Have you seen the movie? Tell us in the comments.