Professor Marston & The Wonder Women
Written and Directed by Angela Robinson
Starring Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Oliver Platt, Connie Britton
As a child, comic books were vaguely on the periphery of my consciousness. Fantasy-adventure films of the time, like Flash Gordon, The Never Ending Story, Labyrinth, or even the Muppets were my comic books come to life. I certainly read the comic books that came out, but they were tie-ins to existing properties. Though their stories were original, their ideas were not. For an original idea, I’d have to go back to when my dad was a kid (sorry dad, I don’t mean to age you.)
In the early 1940’s, when Angela Robinson’s riveting drama Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is set, war, violence and conservatism permeated the minds of average citizens, as did patriotism. Do those ideas sound vaguely familiar today?
For those of you who were kids, you might be able to relate more to this than my words could ever convey, but these values were instilled in you, and even me, generationally.
As the film opens, the idea of how to convey these ideas has come into question. Luke Evans, who plays William Moulton Marston is on the hot seat, being grilled for including lewd and suggestive acts in his ‘Wonder Woman’ comic book that has parents across the nation worried about what ideas their kids might get into their heads. Again, does this sound familiar?
Though the storytelling is inconsistent at times, writer-director Angela Robinson takes us from the governmental bureaucracies of the time to the halls of academia where Marston is a psychologist teaching at Radcliffe College, the all-female annex of Harvard University. The stunning Rebecca Hall (2016’s Christine, The Town, The Prestige) plays Marston’s wife, Elizabeth, who is dismayed at the idea that Harvard continually denies her a doctorate degree simply because of her gender.
Together, they professionally court student Olive Byrne to intern for them. Olive is played with a delightful chaste by Bella Heathcote (The Neon Demon, Fifty Shades Darker). It is the foundation of this professional relationship, turned much more intimate, that serves as the foundation for the fictional comic book character, Wonder Woman.
Robinson worked diligently to ensure a scientific approach to the experimentation the trio undertook to not only explore their own lives together, for better and for worse, but to develop the complex behaviors associated with the Wonder Woman character. Robinson also went on to show the reactions of kids and adults.
Was the reaction a bit over dramatic? Sure. But the ideas conveyed throughout the film have not changed in 76 years. Our perceptions today have certainly changed but that perception does not and should not diminish the ideas Robinson or even Marston were trying to convey. And, that is the heart and soul of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.
I mentioned earlier about my childhood experiences. They are an evolution of entertainments of the past. Instead of pulp and ink being used to convey ideas, for me it was miniatures, smoke, mirrors and lighting, combining aspects of both forms of entertainment for today’s masses. Of course, todays talent such as Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins embody the physical aspects of the characters and their ideals.
In between Wonder Woman (2017) and the upcoming Justice League sits a ruby-laden tiara and its name is Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. We can now add Angela Robinson to the list of voices for change, fairness, patriotism and above all else, justice.
3.25 stars out of 4