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Professor Marston and the Wonder Women – Movie Review

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Professor Marston and the Wonder Women – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

The road to inspiration can be a fascinating one and while the creation of Wonder Woman certainly lends itself to a possible biopic subject, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women mostly consists of set-up for the eventual publication of the famous superhero. The large majority of the film primarily revolves around unpacking the secrets of her early comics, including why her weapon of choice is a lasso. However, one leaves the screening feeling like there might have been more to unravel, as the film builds a lot of anticipation before Wonder Woman comes onto the scene. As a potential companion piece with this summer’s blockbuster hit, this film falls short of being more memorable.

A good chunk of Professor Marston is set during William Moulton Marston’s days as a university professor. The film frequently brings up his DISC theory concept, but doesn’t explore it beyond the core words used to define it. Similarly, his invention of the lie detector test is given a quick mention and plot device, but barely figures into the overall story. What slightly elevates these early sequences is the chemistry between Marston, his wife and their assistant-turned-lover. Luke Evans and Rebecca Hall portray both the loving and argumentative side of the Marstons and the initial disruption that comes from the arrival of Olive Byrne. Bella Heathcote depicts Byrne’s growing curiousity with wide-eyed uncertainty and passion.

Director Angela Robinson doesn’t shy away from the BDSM that ultimately inspired the early Wonder Woman issues, while also having a sympathetic eye towards Marston’s desires. Yet, for those unfamiliar with Marston’s background, knowing the inspiration does take away a bit of the magic from the character. It doesn’t take a lot to understand why DC Comics and their parent company have no affiliation with this production. The actual comic book creation barely plays a role as the film skips large portions that explore why Marston wanted to get into the medium and how he got a meeting with DC Comics. Those feel like missing elements that could have been explored rather than lengthy scenes at the college.

The screenplay, credited to Robinson, doesn’t venture too far off the usual biopic formula as it tells the story in a chronological fashion. The film includes a device with Marston being interviewed, but it’s mostly there for him to provide the necessary narration. The actual publication of Wonder Woman and subsequent condemnation provides the most interesting aspect of the movie, as does Byrne and the Marstons moving into suburbia. The script only briefly touches on the neighbours and their resentment towards them and the film crawls to its eventual finale. However, Robinson is unafraid of showing the happy polygamous relationship that forms between the three and the genuine love for their children, even if they do take a backseat much of the time.

One wishes Professor Marston and the Wonder Women wasn’t so formulaic, although it doesn’t censor the material. Angela Robinson uses the iconic Wonder Woman imagery to give the audience that “ah, ha” moment, but a lot of the film feels like it’s building up to those sources of inspiration. The film wants to focus on the creation of this comic book icon, Marston’s sexual lifestyle and maybe throw in his lie detector. The material is presented in too much of a generic biopic style to leave any sort of impact. Plenty will be learned about Wonder Woman along the way, but not enough to change one’s mind about her role in comic book history.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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