Based on the true story of how the DC superhero Wonder Woman came to be. College professor and psychologist William Moulton Marston (Evans) and wife Christine (Hall) yearn for a more unconventional and adventurous life than society will allow. The opportunity for such a lifestyle arises when they become attracted to a student named Olive (Heathcote) who volunteers to assist in their research. The trio commence a love affair that shakes up the world and inspires the creation of an icon.
Even if you’re not thoroughly interested in the comic book origins of today’s movie superheroes, names like Stan Lee and, to a lesser extent, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko will ring a bell. However, less known is the creator of Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston. While they wrote for rival publications, these writers share in common controversy behind the scenes, but while this was related to an ambiguity over exactly who created what between the Marvel trio, Marston’s comic came under criticism at the time for being ‘sexually perverse’, a pitfall that was regarded as mirrored by his own unorthodox relationships.
While Professor Marston and the Wonder Women feels somewhat overdrawn in its story and unnecessarily long, it is initially engrossing on its engagement with gender politics and a feminist commentary. It expresses a highly liberal stance promoting sexual freedom which is very convincing, particularly in its touching ending. The film also doesn’t shy away from some of the fundamental controversies of feminist ideology, firmly pitting the ideas of sex as empowering versus disempowering against one another. Timeless problems like being deemed a ‘slut’ or ‘freak’ versus acting as one chooses are handled sensitively, and the film is also boosted by its touching representation of homosexuality.
While the creed is proposes is persuasive, one can’t help but feel a little bored by the lack of inspiration in its presentation. The cinematography is flat and one gets the sense that Luke Evans was miscast in the titular role. While he gave a terrific performance as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast earlier this year, his performance here lacked energy and was, out of the three leads, by far the least interesting. On the bright side, Rebecca Hall delivers a fiery performance as the proud, brilliant and profanity-loving Elizabeth while Bella Heathcote is well-cast as the attractive enigma Olive.
It’s not going to traumatise your love for this year’s Wonder Woman – as it shows the feminist intentions were there, even though kinky sex also played a part – but as far as Professor Marston and the Wonder Women goes, it lands somewhere between hit and miss.