It took Wonder Woman over 75 years to make her big screen debut, and shortly after came a film about her origin, with Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. The film tells the story of Professor William Moulton Marston and his wife Elizabeth and their polyamorous relationship with a young woman named Olive and how their romance leads the way for one of pop cultures biggest icons. The film is about love, relationships, feminism and equality and breaking down societies norms.
The movie starts in the late 1920s with Marston (Luke Evans) teaching Psychology alongside his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), another brilliant psychologist who is continuously turned down for a PhD because she is a woman. The couple begin to take an interest in Marston’s new teachers aid, the beautiful and intelligent Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) and they strike up a close friendship. As Olive helps the Marston’s with their experiments, most notably with the creation of the lie detector, everyone’s true feeling begin to surface, calumniating in a passionate expression of love between the three of them. When the world will not accept their love, the trio must find a way to be happy with the life they have found with each other. It is this unconventional life that leads Marston to create the idea of Wonder Woman.
The film uses Wonder Woman as a story device rather than the story itself. It would have been simple to create a movie about the origins of Wonder Woman and everything that came with the early iterations of the character but that story would have lacked the depth and understanding that came with Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. To really understand how Marston came up with the idea of Wonder Woman it is important to show how these women in his life influence him and his views. The Wonder Woman story may feel rushed but because of the way the story is fleshed out the audience is able to see how Marston wished to use the comic to help push forth his psychological theory and feminist ideals. The film addresses much of Wonder Woman’s history and the ideals shared by the three leads, as they discuss the contradiction of Wonder Woman being a feminist icon whilst wearing a burlesque outfit.
There is no way this movie would have worked in the same way with a male director, with the idea of a man in a relationship with two bisexual women focusing more on love than the sexual fantasy element. Director Angela Robinson focuses the story heavily on the love between Olive and Elizabeth, showing the audience that Elizabeth wants Olive in her life, not just to please her husband, but to please herself. Don’t get me wrong the story is incredible sexy in its approach, but the love scenes are just that, well shot scenes demonstrating the love these three people share.
The performances in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women are what make the movie the stand out. Luke Evans is fantastic as Professor Marston, but despite him be the titular character, it is the performance of Hall and Heathcote that make the audience believe the love. Rebecca Hall was the clear stand out as the complicated Elizabeth Marston, in a performance that could earn her some award consideration when the time comes. She conveys so much range in the way the character deals with her mistreatment for purely being a woman, with the way she is rejected for her PhD. Hall’s performance is so important to the success of the story, because if her involvement in the romance does not seem genuine, or feels force then the love story fails. Bella Heathcote’s innocence as Olive is another key element of her character, with the opening of the film relying heavily on her naivety regarding her beauty. The film refers to her beauty as a gift and curse in the way it garnishes unwanted attention and jealousy, but she is in fact beautiful.
This movie won’t be for everyone, if you are unable to empathize with the idea of polygamy then much of the film’s emotional elements will be lost on you. Not that you have to be a polygamist to appreciate this story about love, but if you can’t get past the unorthodox nature of the film’s relationship then you may miss out on the underlying themes of the film.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a fantastic film that demonstrates the stress of challenging the norm, of finding an unconventional love and the creation of a feminist icon. Rather than just beat an agenda into the audience the movie uses the intelligence of its leads to debate many issues that we are still debating today. At the heart of the movie is a beautiful love story that will leave the audiences feeling empowered and with a new look at the world.
If you are keen to see how an unconventional relationship leads to the creation of Wonder Woman then definitely check out this movie.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women scores an 8.5/10
Thank you for reading my review of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Is this a movie you would like to see? Have you seen it already? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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