A different kind of superhero origin gets heavy-handed
Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Opens Friday 13
This is the year of Wonder Woman. Never mind the two DC Comics films with the Amazonian, here comes a biopic about her creator and the two women who inspired him. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is an intimate drama in which the action sequences take place within the characters.
William and Elizabeth Marston (Luke Evans and Rebecca Hall) are academics focused on female psychology. Rational to the extreme, their relationship is tested when William becomes infatuated with Olive (Bella Heathcote, The Neon Demon), his teaching assistant. But Olive is no average college student, and her open mind and sweet disposition soon turns her into an unofficial member of the Marston family.
As the Marstons and Olive explore the limits of their polyamorous bond, the idea of a powerful woman with superpowers and a taste for bondage begins to take shape. Alas, this being the 40s, “pro-decency” movements soon take issue with the comic book hero’s kinks.
Professor Marston is a mildly effective feminist film that benefits from strong turns by Evans, Hall and Heathcote. That said, it tends to underline the obvious, as everybody feels the need to verbalize their state of mind at all times (a sex scene is punctuated by Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”, in case the actors’ O-faces didn’t make the point). When Marston borrows Olive and Elizabeth’s personality traits to shape Wonder Woman’s lore, it’s so on the nose it feels like a parody.
But it’s not bad. Even though director Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S.) falls for every bio-pic trope in the book, the story of the Marstons and their multi-million-dollar creation has enough bite to overcome narrative deficiencies. If barely. ❧