So… this is interesting. As a film critic, it’s not often I write a review only to end up scrapping my words and completely re-writing it because of new information. If you missed it, I highly suggest you read my interview with Christie Marston, the granddaughter of the real Professor William Moulton Marston. It’s a very eye-opening discussion that reveals the new movie PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN is (for the most part) imaginative fiction rather than a traditional biopic told with respect to its subjects. In the film, it’s purported that William Marston was a college professor married to a brilliant but overlooked woman, and that they take on a student as a lover, and that kinky tryst is what influences the creation of Wonder Woman. The studio has even designed the advertising campaign to emulate that of the big budget WONDER WOMAN movie from earlier this year. But if audiences are going to see this story because they’re a fan of that character, they’re in for a somewhat shocking surprise.

In the movie, set in the early half of the 20th century, we meet Professor William Marston (Luke Evans) and his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), who spend their time together in his classroom, educating young women on psychological behavior. It’s there they meet Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcoate), a rather willing volunteer for their behavioral experiments. At first they develop what seems like an unlikely but understandable friendship with the young woman, but it quickly turns amorous when Olive professes her love and sexual desire for Elizabeth. Eventually the trio consummate their feelings for each other in a threesome that feels rather outside the norm for the time period, and this act leads to William’s termination from the college. With children becoming a part of their lives, this family now needs money, which leads to William creating a comic book character. One of the key moments, depicted in many of the trailers and posters for this film, shows Olive trying on some fetish clothing in an underground shop, and implies this was part of the influence for Wonder Woman.

While this production is filled with competent actors and impressive attention to detail for the period, it’s hard to ignore the liberties it takes with the facts. Yes, William and Elizabeth did meet Olive and ended up living together, but the bawdy romance depicted in the film is more Hollywood than reality. Director Angela Robinson seemed more interested in allowing the sexy exaggerations to sell the film rather than the actual truth. I initially wasn’t familiar with her work, and upon looking up her credits see that her previous efforts include everything from THE L WORD episodes to HERBIE FULLY LOADED (the lackluster 2005 reboot starring Lindsay Lohan… remember?). It almost seems odd that this story would be next in line for Robinson, but perhaps that’s the result of how she pitched it as a sensationalist sex drama – just one done without consent or consult from the actual family it’s about. To put it simply, the film I saw earlier this week is not the film I now write about, as before (like many who will undoubtedly see this without research) I didn’t have all the facts to know what was real and what was artistic embellishment.

I will say the actors on display all do their best with the material given to them. Luke Evans is engaging and sincere in his portrayal of Marston, despite it not being accurate, and Rebecca Hall is very commanding as the put upon Elizabeth who wants her husband to be happy even at the expense of her own better judgement. Bella Heathcote is also effective as Olive, though it’s hard to imagine a woman in her position not being a little less willing and a little more cautious in various moments. Familiar faces like Connie Britton and Oliver Platt also fill the screen, and give the overall presentation a sometimes grand quality. But as a period piece set in the 30s and 40s, the subject matter with a sex-fueled love triangle feels very out of place. I’m more let down and somewhat confused as to why the creation and reveal to the world of Wonder Woman as a comic book character wasn’t given more focus, as to me that in and of itself is a fascinating story I’m sure many would like to see unfold in a factual way. Instead the comic book aspects are barely touched upon and come across as almost an afterthought, which is highly unfortunate.  Heck, the character Platt plays is Max Gaines, who is essentially the father of the modern comic book… that guy’s accomplishments alone could have filled a two-hour screenplay, but instead is shown as just a grumpy editor in a rushed-looking office set. One thing the film does thankfully include is how Marston essentially created the lie detector, though he never patented it… think that would make an interesting story? Well, you get maybe a matter of seconds devoted to it in brief dialogue, though it is used as a plot device to allow the characters to be more revealing to one another.

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN is likely hoping to sell tickets for the steamy scandal side of its story, but it’s blatantly using the Wonder Woman legacy to put butts in seats, which is particularly offensive now knowing just how much it strays from the actual events it’s supposed to be depicting. As I mentioned in my interview with Christie Marston, it’s rather frustrating seeing how the film makes no effort to note in the opening or even the final moments that there was considerable artistic license taken in order to produce this screenplay. I would rarely tell someone to not see a film, as I feel everyone should judge art on their own terms, but I would strongly suggest in this instance you study the facts before seeing this highly fictionalized take.


Be Sociable, Share!

About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.