I’ve been reading comics most of my life, so I’m pretty familiar with Wonder Woman. I’ve also read about comics a lot, so I know the broad strokes of Professor Marston’s life. When I heard about the movie, I was curious enough to check it out, and today I got the chance to. So here goes my review of “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.”
I enjoyed it, but I can see why it didn’t do better box office. It was character heavy and action virtually non-existent, as you’d expect from a biography. Some of the character development scenes I could see some thinking of as slow-paced, but I thought they worked. I learned a good bit about the man. I had known Marston created an early version of the lie detector. I did not know that, because he believed scientific advancement should be for everyone, he didn’t patent it.
Marston and his wife, Elizabeth, worked together at Radcliffe University. He was a professor of psychology, and she was fighting to get accredited for the doctorate she had earned. Their lives changed when they took Olive Byrne on as a teaching assistant. That was the beginning of a very unconventional relationship. Polyamory raises a lot of eyebrows in this day and age. Back in the 40’s and 50’s? They were immensely brave to live the way they did. As the relationship progresses, their secret gets out and they suffer all manner of consequences. But, before that happens, you get to see the pieces come together that will eventually be Wonder Woman.
Another thing that might detract from some people enjoying the movie is they skip around a bit in time. There are scenes set during Martson’s classroom lectures, the main characters’ personal lives, and a meeting about what was essentially a decision to try and censor the Wonder Woman comic. While the scenes in their lives moved ahead steadily, they kept returning to the other time frames at random.
Marston sadly died early of cancer. Elizabeth and Olive lived together for the rest of their lives. They didn’t always have an easy time of it, and they faced a lot of prejudice for daring to live the way they wanted to, not the way other people though they should. You can say a lot about Marston, and, at the very least, you’d have to say he was unconventional. But he was brave enough to live by, and up to, his own ideals. You really have to admire that.
What I liked: Polyamory isn’t easy, and the movie doesn’t pretend that it is. There are a lot of rough spots, both within and from outside, and they didn’t handle it perfectly. These were believable people with flaws. Marston, while far from perfect, is inspiring if you think about what he did and when he did it.
What I didn’t: There’s a scene with Olive in a “burlesque” costume that seems really, really close to Wonder Woman’s outfit. I kind of wonder if that’s one of the creative liberties they dramatized. On a purely personal note, and I’ll admit it might just be me, Luke Evans, who plays Marston, sounds a LOT like Trevor Noah, and it kept throwing me off until I figured out who he was reminding me of.
I was impressed with a lot of the things they did with this movie. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. Recommended if you want to see the history behind the best known female comic book character of all time, or see a functioning example of polyamory works.