Movie Review: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

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Movie Review: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a reasonably tasteful tale of love, bonds… and bondage. Strong acting and a deep sense of place and time make this an entertaining biopic, but anyone expecting a lot of Wonder Woman in Wonder Women might get tied up in knots.

Let us get this out of the way first: I do not watch biopics for historical accuracy or education; I watch them for entertainment only. I highly recommend you do the same. At best, biographical dramas are biased, limited by the amount of sources they are able to include. At worst, they are willfully misleading, more akin to propaganda or tabloid speculation. As such, I never trust them further than I can kick them. I had a great time watching Straight Outta Compton, but I’d rather buy magic beans than vouch for its veracity. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is much the same; an interesting tale of dubious candor.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Still a more three dimensional depiction of Superman than Man of Steel.

It’s the mid 40’s, and William Moulton Marston is being interviewed by an ethics panel about his creation, Wonder Woman. It’s the great comic purge, and American decency is doing what Hitler couldn’t: defeat super heroes. Interspersed with Marston’s defense of his alluring Amazonian, we get vignettes into his life: creating the lie detector alongside  his wife Elizabeth, their friendship with a Olive, astudent at Harvard-Radcliffe College, and the love triangle that blossomed from their attraction and respect for each other.

An Invisible Jet to the Past

Wonder Women
The costumes in Wonder Women just scream style.

The sense of time and place is recreated with love in Wonder Women. The nascent feminism movement, the wartime boom of comics and their subsequent tribulations; all is handled well. From academic picnics, to the latest fashions, to rotary phones; the time period feels alive. It’s a shame that all of this scenery is used solely as a scaffolding to tell the story of the Marston’s love triangle. There was a lot of comic book meat left on this bone, and those drawn in by the lure of Wonder Woman’s cinematic success will most likely feel cheated.

Bound Together

Wonder Women
“Uh oh, Bill’s got his “Kink Smile” going again…”

What is here, though, is a well crafted love story. The love story of William and Elizabeth, William and Olive, and Elizabeth and Olive is presented with respect and care. It rarely devolves into voyeurism; which is quite the feat given William Marston’s fascination with power dynamics, and later, bondage play. All three leads, Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, and Bella Heathcote give strong performances. Each character is part of the whole, yet wholly individual at the same time. If Wonder Women was going to eschew the comic angle and go for a love story, at least it does so in a satisfying way.

Believe It or Not!

Wonder Women
Director Angela Robinson crafts a story with a lot of human dignity, it would be a bit of a shame if the source material is bunk.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’s veracity has been called into question by the surviving family of Elizabeth Marston. As such I would totally understand wanting to pass on this movie because of that. Yet as I’ve stated up top, I don’t watch biopics for reality. I want Downton Abbey, not Ken Burn’s The Civil War. That’s just me; I’d rather the time, place and characters feel real rather than the events. Wonder Women succeeds at that, and tells a complicated tale of mutual love between three adults with care. It’s worth a watch just for those.

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