PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN (2017): Review by Malin Jornvi

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is director Angela Robinson’s take on the unusual love story between the creators of the comic book heroine, Wonder Woman. The film follows the progression of the curious relationship through the many complications that arise with their peculiar situation, and though the plot is successfully thought-provoking throughout, it is not until after the film ends that you realize its biggest achievement. (MJJ: 4.5/5)

Review by FF2 Intern Malin J. Jornvi

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is about the creators of Wonder Woman: Harvard psychology professor William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), his PhD-aspiring wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), and Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), a young female student who assists the couple in their research. Robinson’s script relies on this romantic core, and the screenplay is wonderfully executed by Hall’s and Heathcote’s performances. Their portrayals give us two living and thinking female creatures, which still, unfortunately, is a rarity on screen. The women, unnamed in the title of the film, are as much protagonists of the film as Professor Marston himself, and Luke Evans renders a believable character in his complicated infatuation with both his female lovers.

That’s right: the three protagonists develop a polyamorous relationship. One man with two women, together with the prevalent elements of bondage, make the story run the risk of being seen as, just as the Wonder Woman comic was—to some extent still is—considered, yet another mainstream excuse for porn. But in complicating the female sexuality, and emphasizing the women’s independent relation to each other as much as to the professor, director Angela Robinson avoids the pitfall, and the result is a convincing and engaging story of struggling individuals.  

The theme of love is not new to the history of film, and neither the beautiful cinematography nor the rhythmic score brings much novelty. Instead, the film treats the challenges of abnormality in a new way, because, though the plot raises many implicit questions of social norms, gender, and power, the abstract concepts are never allowed to become the main focus, and thus the film never becomes a moral lecture of “right” and “wrong.” No, what Robinson does, by concentrating on the most fundamental of emotions, is illustrating the inside of the deviant: how the abnormal way of life is the only real and natural way for the people living it. By the end of the film, we realize that we have been seeing the world through their eyes the whole time; in reality, most of us still find polygamy odd, but for the duration of this movie, it seems like the one right thing.

My favorite scene is when the threesome sits on a picnic blanket in front of a scenic lake and Olive simply looks at Elizabeth and says: “I think you long for an unconventional life.” As the comment hits her, Rebecca Hall masterfully renders the simple focus, yet extreme complexity, of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Because in Elizabeth’s face we see, at once, the deep human fear that someone will see our inmost truth, yet at the same time, how we, more than anything, want to be seen for who we really are.

© Malin J. Jornvi FF2 Media (10/18/17)

Top Photo: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women movie poster.

Middle Photo: Elizabeth, William and Olive walking across the campus court.

Bottom Photo: Elizabeth, William and Olive exploring the power tensions that become explicit in bondage.

Photo Credits: Annapurna Pictures


Q: Does Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? 

Though much of the film is about the three protagonists and their relationship with each other, Elizabeth’s and Olive’s relationship goes beyond only being about Dr. Marston. For example, the two women will exchange ideas regarding their innovation, the lie detector.

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