When Wonder Woman’s origins are discussed, it’s typically of Diana Prince’s Amazonian upbringing on Themyscira. Talk of a fake superhero’s beginnings on paper. But what if I told you there’s a more interesting backstory with historical truth? Behind the scenes and off the page, starting in a Harvard Radcliffe College office? Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston And The Wonder Women is about just this – the man who created DC’s leading lady and the women who inspired such a controversial beginning. A story full of kink, unconventional love and DISC theory – you know, just like how most superheroes are born.
Luke Evans stars as the titular Dr. William Moulton Marston, an intellectual obsessed with predicting personality traits that dictate human conditioning. His wife, Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall), shares an equal inquisitiveness as she pursues her own studies. William’s class, which Elizabeth sits in on, is opened up to student aids should they apply – enter Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), the sultry coed who immediately catches William’s eye. He denies his lusty desires whenever Elizabeth asks, until the trio perfect their lie detector device and the question is once again posed. Elizabeth acts conflicted at first, but then Olive confesses her feelings for Mrs. Marston. Thus begins a polygamist relationship between the three, the Marston’s firing, a dive into bondage and the birth of Wonder Woman from the most knotted circumstance.
As a romantic tale, Professor Marston And The Wonder Women is a sweet, salacious take on unconditional love in its purest form. This is the 40s, mind you – pornography was hand-drawn and kink-shaming in full swing. Evans, Hall and Heathcote are exploring their bodies and feelings with a forbidden passion, but it must be kept behind closed doors as far as their rope-play is concerned. This doesn’t stop the trio from engaging in a smoldering chemistry that recognizes romance as a fireworks explosion between consenting parties – honest in addressing why we should always chase the lives we desire. Period aesthetics dating mindsets and conflicts, bonds so strong they light up the screen like a reflection from Diana’s golden bracelets.
This leads to the creation of Wonder Woman, a comic which at first heavily depicted bondage, spanking, homosexuality and many other taboo themes that William Marston demanded. Wonder Woman was created with our personality traits in mind, once again aligning with this “DISC” theory William studied. When modern readers think about Wonder Woman, they think about her purity as a powerful female hero – not the fact that she was created as a social experiment of sorts, too saucy and suggestive for censors to accept. Robinson gives us a true idea of how Elizabeth and Olive helped shape the Wonder Woman character while William waged his “smutty,” ideological crusade, biographical in nature but never dull for a second.
For a film about important woman, Hall and Heathcote are stood on a performance pedestal. Hall, the foul-mouthed specimen of English wit whose effusive use of the word “fuck” is only bested by confidence unmatched. Heathcote, the wide-eyed bombshell whose mind does not deserve to be underappreciated. Evans is a lucky actor stuck between two actresses whose presence is beyond sensational, so entrenched in bringing out the “wonder” in both women. Their romance together some of the most affecting sexual and emotional chemistry you’ll be privileged to witness all year, Hall’s delivery of dialogue deserving of Oscar attention in the right world (“We can’t f#*k in the la-bor-a-tory!”). Evans is not forgotten – his denouncing of the closed mind a worldly message in its own right – but this is a movie for the ladies in his life.
Professor Marston And The Wonder Women may be a bit stuffy at times when it comes to whims of the era, but this is a far-too-unknown story told with individuality on the mind. How a superhero emerged from fetish and backroom secrecy. Credit Angela Robinson with pushing a thoughtful, shame-blasting story with a message of sexual equality, handled with the utmost cheeriness and the most devilish smile. Such a calculated, level-headed addressing of unconventionality that reminds just how different each one of us are – and why we shouldn’t judge what makes someone else happy. You know, in addition to all the Wonder Woman stuff (bet that lasso makes sense now).
Professor Marston is a sweet, saucy biopic about unconventional love and iconic origins (plus bondage!).