Hot Take: One of those rare untold tales that is much more interesting than you expect. Sure, Wonder Woman is now changed forever but Professor Marston and the Wonder Women surely holds your attention.
My first thought watching Professor Marston and the Wonder Women was, “What the heck have I done with my life?” Professor William Marston invented the lie detector, explained the behavioral study known as DISC theory and was inspired by his two lovers (his wife Elizabeth and his student and love interest of both he and his wife, Olive Byrne) to create Wonder Woman. So many thoughts went through my mind watching this titillating tale of perversion, intelligence, love and discovery. As Marston’s complex and unconventional life story was told on the screen along with his wife and their lover, I settled on the fact that most lives are not this interesting or else 95% of movies would be based on a true story.
There is debate on how true the tale is. The granddaughter of Professor Marston has denounced the film as pure fiction as often the case with films based on true events. The film depicts William (Luke Evans) and Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) as a husband and wife who become obsessed with Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), one of their students. She accused the studio and filmmaker Angela Robinson of blatantly trying to cash in on the success of the recent summer blockbuster Wonder Woman and, honestly, who can blame them with the success the film had. However, this is not anywhere near the realm of the film that blew away expectations this summer and is more an artsy, taboo story that heavily plays on the perceived sexual exploits of the three subjects and how their life may have imitated art with the Wonder Woman comic of the ’40s featuring undertones of bondage, dominance, submission and overall kink. Robinson chooses to portray the married Marstons and their polyamorous partner Olive as both loving and sexually free with the trio exploring all of their sexual fantasies together. The film is not bashful in detailing the story, either, so if such topics make you uncomfortable, you might want to wait to see it in the privacy of your own home.
While there could be debate on how involved Elizabeth and Olive were (the Marston’s granddaughter says their relationship was sisterly), it is definitely true that both had a sexual relationship with William as they both gave birth to his children. Between the two women, William had 5 children in all and while there is no documented proof Elizabeth and Olive were also lovers, the two lived together for over 40 years after William’s death. Olive was the physical inspiration for Wonder Woman while the film contends that both women were the embodiment of the Wonder Woman character and many of the things depicted in the comic were plucked from their own sexual adventures.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is definitely different. It’s matter of fact telling almost manages to tone down the exploits to feel almost normal. In under 2 hours, it covers a lot and that might be a detriment to the overall story as many different aspects of Marston’s life would be worth telling. It’s tough to say what should be excluded or even the focus because, for sure, Dr. William Moulton Marston led an interesting life and the women behind his success have a story worth telling, too.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Origin Story of The Comic Book, Wonder Woman
Who would have thought there’d be room for two origin stories based on Wonder Woman this year?
- Hall and Heathcote Impress
Both female leads (neither should be referred to as supporting characters in this film) impress on screen and have quietly amassed solid resumes. Since 2015, Hall has scored high marks for her roles in The Gift, The BFG, Christine, The Dinner and now Professor Marston and the Wonder Women while Heathcote shined in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Neon Demon and Fifty Shades Darker. Okay, let’s be honest, nothing shined in Fifty Shades Darker.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- The Odd Rom Com Elements
At times, the menage-a-trois occasionally dips its toe into the romantic comedy pool and comes across a bit tame because of it. The moments are fleeting but the film never completely goes there and feels a little bit as if it were hedging to maintain a more mainstream audience.