It may be that you’d need the Lasso of Hestia itself to separate truth from speculative fiction when it comes to “Professor Marston And The Wonder Women”. Presented as a true story, although much of it is disputed by the Marston family, the origin of Wonder Woman turns out to be as captivating and enchanting as the character herself, without the need for sculpting anything from clay.
“Professor Marston And The Wonder Women” tells the life story of William Moulton Marston, inventor of the lie detector (but not really) and creator of Wonder Woman (but not really?) and his polyamorous relationship with his wife and mistress as well as exploring some of the BDSM tropes which became hallmarks of the early Wonder Woman comic strips.
Like the superhero is name checks in its title, the movie is trying to protect a secret identity: it’s not really the story of how Wonder Woman came to be the most popular female superhero of all time, it’s not even really about the real-life individuals and experiences which inspired her and her stories: it’s a sweet and unconventional love story about three people in love with each other and trying to reconcile their feelings and desires in a world unwilling and unready to tolerate them. It’s this that takes centre stage, pushing the biographical drama to the wings, and the movie is all the stronger for it.
Luke Evans makes for a noble, if slightly manipulative, Marston and keeps the story on track through a narrative structure which has him providing testimony on the creation of Wonder Woman to the Child Study Association Of America who believe the comic character to be a bad influence on young minds. It’s through his flashbacks that we learn of Marston’s life and the two women who dominate it: his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and his student turned assistant Olive Byrne (Belle Heathcote). Hall and Heathcote light up the screen and their palpable chemistry, with Evans and each other, electrifies proceedings, giving the love affair pathos and authenticity, emphasising the romantic and emotional connections as much as the headline-grabbing kinkiness.
While the film may overplay Marston’s part in the creation of Wonder Woman (at the expense of his wife’s involvement and influence), and reinforce the myth he invented the lie detector (he actually invented an important component of the polygraph: the systolic pressure cuff), for the most part it portrays an unconventional love story in a tender and unexploitative way and whether or not real events unfolded the way they do on screen, the film’s empathetic commitment to its three main characters deserves applause. It’s been shockingly under promoted and poorly distributed here in the UK but if you are lucky enough to be near a cinema screen showing it, jump in the nearest invisible plane and get yourself a ticket.