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Review: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

October 13, 2017

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

After the Wonder Woman movie broke box office records earlier this year, we now get to explore the surprisingly kinky origins of the female superhero in the frothily entertaining and well acted biopic Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.

The film dramatizes the story of Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), a psychology professor in the 1920s, who is working alongside his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) on DISC theory, his study of dominant and submissive behaviour traits and how they influence interactions between the sexes.  When they bring in their young student Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) to assist them in their research, William starts to become infatuated with her, as Olive comes to fall for Elizabeth.

The three of them fall into a polygamous relationship and decide to move in together, forming an unconventional family unit around their unique arrangement, and even sharing parenting duties between them.  William is inspired by his sexual relationships with both women to create the fictional character of Wonder Woman, and decides to write her into a comic book that is filled with subliminal messages to help break down gender and sexual barriers.  With her costume being inspired by kink attire, and many allusions to bondage culture, right down to her rope that forces bad guys to tell the truth, it’s only so long before his Wonder Woman comics start to clash with the culture at the time.

These unlikely origins behind the character of Wonder Woman, and the unconventional love life of her creator, provides the basis for Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a better than average biopic from writer-director Angela Robinson that does a fine job of tapping into the inherent entertainment value of its material.  A ménage à trois montage set to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” springs to mind as one of the film’s most playful moments.

While the screenplay does touch on some deeper social themes, mainly how different expressions of sexuality are still largely considered taboo, the film itself doesn’t go too deep and is mostly just a good bit of fun.  This is a well paced, slickly assembled and easily enjoyable romp that sheds light on the unlikely origins of a beloved superhero, and it’s carry by solid performances from its three leads.

A version of this review was originally published during the Toronto International Film Festival.

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