Wonder Woman. An icon of 20th-century pop-culture who provides hope, power and wonder to a legion of fans throughout the world and whose strong feminist ideals have never been more relevant. But what mind bore such a creation? That is the place where director Angela Robinson leads us to in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a phenomenal biographical picture that examines the three extraordinary minds that together would create an icon.
Radcliffe College, 1928. Professor William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) is a revered psychologist, who along with his equally brilliant wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) has taken up a teaching position at the all-female university. Here the couple is introduced to the inquisitive Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), whom they both find an attraction to, and slowly form an open relationship with. As the year’s pass, their relationship grows and is tested by the morals of the day, and with the influence of these two incredible women in his life, Marston strikes upon an idea that will allow him to inject his ideas of feminism and DISC theory into modern American society.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is without-a-doubt one of this year’s most fascinating cinematic experiences. While many people share a great passion for the character of Wonder Women, far fewer have an understanding of how this character was brought to life. They say real life is stranger than fiction, and in the creation of Wonder Woman, this was definitely the case. With the story of Professor Moulton and his radically open relationship and extremely forward thinking feminist learnings, director Angela Robinson has some extremely interesting subject matter to explore up on screen. Her direction of this film and the themes that she explores are both historically relevant and extremely contemporary at the same time. Robinson digs deep into her film, and the characters within it, and her passion for the story that she tells definitely shines through.
Robinson also lucks out with her three leads: Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote. The three work together as a united trinity in their storytelling with each performer feeding off the other’s performance. As William Moulton Marston, Evans taps into the great psychologists grasp for knowledge and understanding. He’s a thinker, who is open to completely new ideas and who is radically forward thinking for his age. Evans plays up his charismatic persona as the revered professor and brings a quiet obsession with his life’s work to extrapolate his DISC theory into his own contemporary American society while moving into a future that is lead by feminist ideals.
Standing next to him is Rebecca Hall as his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston. Hall’s performance as Elizabeth is openly aggressive. She has a take-charge manner and is openly opposed to how her status as a woman is challenged in her contemporary world where even though she is a Harvard educated lawyer, she can only get work as a secretary. Like her husband she is also a radical thinker and out of the two of them is most definitely the realist. But while she might have a cold-edge to her, she loves her husband deeply and slowly comes to love the focus of her husband’s desire Olive Byrne.
The final point of this trinity is Bella Heathcote who stars as the beautiful and captivating Olive Byrne. Beginning as an ingenue character she develops a love interest with the Marston’s and becomes a part of their radically unique world. As Byrne, Heathcote is the physical embodiment of Marston’s Wonder Woman and becomes the centre point of their openly-free relationship.
One of the parts of this film that I deeply loved was that it explored the world of early comic book history, and most importantly the trials and hearings related to the infamous Comic Book purges of the late 1940s. This history is deeply fascinating to me as both a comic book reader and a history connoisseur and it was great to see it accurately played up on screen.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman is also an incredibly hot and firey film thanks to the chemistry of its three leads and the film’s exploration of the world of BDSM and kink. But this is not a move to sell tickets on Robinson’s behalf but is instead entirely keeping with the true historical accuracy of Marston’s life. The original Wonder Woman comics were filled with bondage scenes and this was in part based upon William Moulton Marston’s fascination with fetish culture. The film explores this side of Marston and while it certainly leads to some engaging love scenes, it also grounds the film in its themes of love, openness, submission and the couple’s polyamorous relationship.
I can truly say that Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is one of the most engaging film’s you’ll see all year. Your attention never wanders from it, and I found myself engaged with every new scene that was placed in front of me. From the performances of its three leads to the film’s compelling narrative, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women succeeds on every level. I implore you to watch this incredible film and let its wonderous narrative wash over you.
Image: Sony Pictures