“Professor Marston and the Wonder Women”: A Millennial’s Movie Review
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a romantic drama and biopic directed by Angela Robinson. The film stars Luke Evans and Rebecca Hall as William and Elizabeth Marston, married college professors and psychology researchers. When eager student Olive Byrne (played by Bella Heathcote) volunteers for the Marstons’ latest research project, an unusual relationship begins to take shape. Faced with their doubts and those of their community, the three must come to terms with the reality of their true feelings while also under the pressure of their society’s judgemental eye.
Produced by Stage 6 films, a company known for films such as The Edge of Seventeen and Don’t Breathe, but not much else, Professor Marston was never going to be a film on the top of anyone’s watchlist. But should it be? William Marston was the creator of the Wonder Woman comics, later adapted to TV and film. And with the timely success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, it really is the perfect time to release such a film. With the lead talents of Rebecca Hall and Luke Evans (a.k.a the definitive live-action Gaston), the film has strong ammunition to perform well critically and commercially. Will it live up to the other Wonder Woman film in 2017? Or does it get itself tied up in too many places?
I believe it’s hard to ignore the fact that Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a story that is best told in this century, and is a reflection of the progressivism or open-mindedness of some societies today, relative to the same societies 20-50 years ago. Despite probably being historically inaccurate (claims the surviving family member Christie Marston), the film itself is incredible in several ways. It dives into the characters of the Marstons and attempts to understand the very human emotions behind their relationships with Olive Byrne. The film does not spend much time at all on Wonder Woman, but provides us with possible insights to explain the origin of the beloved female superhero through the film’s characters. The film isn’t perfect, as it sometimes feels heavy handed in its editing and direction. But if you think you have an open mind about topics that are considered taboo even in today’s world, and are curious as to how the Wonder Woman character may have come about, then I recommend you see this film.
There’s no escaping the fact that Professor Marston and the Wonder Women deals with a lot of the controversy surrounding Wonder Woman in Prof. Marston’s time. The film involves characters confronting issues about their sexuality as well as bondage and accusations of perversion. But what is surprising is that the film takes some taboo elements and explains them in a way where we can understand why these characters do the things they do and love the things they love. The film is about confronting the truth about one’s inner self, and the breaking of one’s metaphorical chains once that happens. It is, of course, about love. And how that love manifested itself in a man’s mind as a comic book character. The story is heartfelt, interesting, well-paced and is smartly structured in a way where we can see how the characters’ views and theories shape their attitudes and outlook on life.
The cast really breathed life into their characters, and though Luke Evans appears to be the protagonist, Rebecca Hall is most certainly a lead character. Of all the actors and actresses, she shows the most range as her character has the greatest conflict with its inner self. And she absolutely sold me on her performance. One that involves so many complex emotions that is so effortlessly executed. Evans holds his own as well, and can be proud of adding another good performance and film to his resume. Bella Heathcote is also good, and though her supporting role is relatively passive, her character is a strong catalyst to all the juicy character development in the film.
Submitting to Truth
Though there doesn’t seem to be anything that the film carelessly brushes over, there are parts of the film which I thought could have been longer in order to add more emotional impact. Marston dealing with the backlash against his comic and the prejudice against his relationships are key to his arc, and a few more minutes of each would have not only added more depth to the characters, but also anchored the antagonism of society to a greater degree. I felt so intrigued by the lives of these characters that the film sometimes cut to a new scene when I wanted to know more, or at least to process what I just saw. As such, the film feels undercooked in certain places.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is definitely one of the most unique film experiences I’ve had in 2017. This is a film that I feel like I can talk about and discuss with other people. A film that provokes thought about what it means to love, and what it means to love in a way that is shunned by the consensus. Love it or hate it, the film does offer a poetic origin of Wonder Woman. Do take the film’s plot with a grain of salt, as it is likely to be as accurate as Braveheart in terms of representing real life events. But the film is for the most part, very well made, and an important film for this day and age. It definitely deserves the attention of the curious, the thinkers, the lovers, and pretty much anyone who wouldn’t mind a filmmaker’s fresh perspective.
Overall Score: 8.4/10