Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Wonder Woman’s Other Origin Story
It is definitely the year of Wonder Woman. The character’s standalone action film was a monster hit earlier this year and she is about to play a major role in the Justice League film. But in between those two tent-pole films comes the release of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a smaller scale film that tells the unexpected story that inspired the character’s creation in the first place.
Luke Evans stars as the titular Professor Marston, the original creator and author of the Wonder Woman comic books. Marston is a Professor of Psychology at Radcliffe University. He teaches the classes, but his life’s work is shared with his wife Elizabeth. The film begins with them seeking a student assistant and the job goes to a young woman named Olive Byrne. Throughout their early work in the development of an early lie detector prototype, a romantic triangle develops between the three and they decide that, rather than resist their feelings, they will embrace their unique triangular relationship.
The trio live together and establish an extended family with William fathering children with both Elizabeth and Olive, all while looking for a way to introduce his DISC theory to the public. The theory postulated that people could exist in either an antagonistic or a favorable environment, depending on whether they experienced Dominance, Inducement, Submission, or Compliance. Of all things, it was a bondage demonstration that led to the inspiration of sharing his ideas through a comic book hero named Suprema the Wonder Woman. The “Suprema” was dropped from the name and soon the comic became a big hit, only to face the wrath of the legion of decency.
The story behind the creation of Wonder Woman, especially the love story, is unconventional to be sure, but director Angela Robinson tells the story in a very conventional way. This works both for and against the film. It works for it in that the movie does not sensationalize the three-way relationship between its romantic triangle, treating it as a filmmaker may treat a more conventional love story between two people. This allows us as an audience to concentrate more on the characters and see the relationship from their perspective, rather than attach a stigma to it. It works against the film because, well, it’s conventional. The story it is telling may be a unique one, but the movie itself feels like dozens of other biopics.
While the movie’s most forefront focus is the love story, the movie never forgets that it is also about the creation of an iconic character. At one point, Professor Marston says that Elizabeth and Olive combine to make the perfect woman and he ultimately based the character of Wonder Woman on his two lovers and their feminist ideals. He also tells of her secret identity as being something of a mirror of his own life, presented as one thing outside his home, while being something completely different within.
Some possible inspiration for the character’s costume and weapons are also referenced throughout the film. Olive wears bracelets throughout the movie that would inspire the Bracelets of Submission (the “S” in DISC theory) worn by the character and Professor Marston’s invention of the polygraph and his love of bondage would inspire the Lasso of Truth. Other elements, such as Marston being gifted with an “invisible” toy plane, feel more likely that they were added as knowing winks for humor’s sake rather than having an actual basis in reality, but the humor is much appreciated.
Aside from feeling a little too conventional at times, the movie also struggles with some odd shifts of tone at times and there are some music choices that seem odd and out-of-place with the rest of the film. The visuals also waver between stylish and bland. The actors are consistently good, though, and they carry the movie through.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women tells a different kind of superhero origin story that is unusual and unique. It is a truth behind the most popular female superhero of all time that helps us to see a whole new level of depth within her character. While doing so, it also tells a fascinating story of how three people found love outside the realm of convention and made it work.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is rated R for “strong sexual content including brief graphic images, and language.” There are a couple of sex scenes, but they are filmed in a much more restrained way than they could have been. Honestly, some of the frames from the actual Wonder Woman comic that pop up throughout the movie might be considered more objectionable than the sex scenes.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.