By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
Wonder Woman has been a popular figure in pop culture for over 75 years. Her comics have been smash hits, not to mention her animated appearances and live action TV show starring Lynda Carter. As I’m sure most of you are aware, the character made her live action solo film debut earlier this year as well, breaking records everywhere and putting DC films back on the map (review HERE). The character is an icon, and one that’s been around for years. So, naturally, I’d find myself curious about her origins. And I’m not just talking the origins of the character, but of her creation. Enter PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN.
I went into this film blind. I knew of its existence, and its unfortunate flop at the overseas box office, but when it came to the actual story being told, I didn’t have a clue what to expect. Were we going to focus on a legal battle? A copyright issue? Or a sexism controversy? I wasn’t sure. It could’ve been anything, and what I will say about it is that it’s not anything at all like I was expecting. This is a tale of sexuality, dominance, submission, loving who you want to love, the female power, unnecessary restraints on relationships and the creation of one of the most iconic comic book characters of all time, not to mention the outrage her appearance caused.
The titular character of Professor Marston (Luke Evans) is a semi-famed psychologist and college professor in the midst of creating what would go on to be the lie detector with his wife and frequent collaborator Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall). When their research and practice is put at a standstill, they attempt to overcome the problems by asking one of the students to help. This student is Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). Together, the three of them grow close; reaching a point where their relationship takes a step further, and their journey together results in the creation of Wonder Woman.
While I went into this film expecting it to be as such, PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN isn’t necessarily the story of the character’s creation. I mean, yes it is. Technically speaking, it is, but her creation comes from the aftermath of a long string of events, where she doesn’t really come into the mix until the third act. We follow Marston and his wonder women of life as they explore an unconventional way of living, while embracing themes of dominance and homosexuality. It’s where this tale of love and embracement becomes a moving, emotionally resonant biopic I’d definitely recommend.
It does deal with a lot of heavy themes, most of which involving topics of sex, so while a biopic about the creation of Wonder Woman might sound like something the whole family can enjoy, it’s certainly for mature audiences only. Even before the Wonder Woman aspects are introduced to the plot, aside from intercut interviews set after her creation, the film manages to work well in its own right. It’s a story of exploration and discovery, and the themes resonate deeply. They never take the sexual aspect of the story too far. In fact, everything they show is completely relevant to the plot, and it’s a story I loved watching.
The entire film feels very low budget, to the point where it often feels like a television movie put on the big screen, and I’m not talking about a GAME OF THRONES-level TV show. I’m talking sitcom levels of set design. It’s all very basic and small, with generic period piece costuming and set design, except without the flare or excitement. Writer and director Angela Robinson does do a great job, especially in the scripting department, but her background as a television director (her last feature film was HERBIE FULLY LOADED in 2005) is made very apparent.
Not only that, but towards the second half, the film does have a tendency to go full Hollywood. Biopics can be executed in very similar, familiar ways from time to time, and while PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN does its best to avoid falling for clichés, it can’t help it. The second half sees plenty of time jumps, bouncing all over the place, and it’s a bit too much to take in, but all of the scenes used are necessary to the story. Their inclusion is understandable, but it doesn’t make the execution any less choppy.
For the most part, PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN is spectacular. The first half in particular is a well-acted and thoroughly entertaining, if not surprisingly mature, look at some very interesting topics and themes. This isn’t a film necessarily about the creation of Wonder Woman, but more so what led to the creation of Wonder Woman, and it’s one I couldn’t recommend enough.
3 1/2 Stars
Like the article? Make sure to spread the word on social media.
You May Also Like: