Professor Marston and the Wonder Women | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

A bio-pic that tells of the unconventional household that gave birth to the comics-book icon


It would be fair to say that Wonder Woman has a racier origin story than most. No, not what happened on the island of Themyscira, but the circumstances through which the comic-book fighter came to be created. Angela Robinson’s bio-pic fills us in, beginning in the 1920s with an offbeat couple at Harvard. Psychology professor William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) and his assistant and wife, Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall), are working on, among other things, a lie-detector machine. Also on the projects list is a student, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), whom the Marstons pursue romantically, separately and together. Ultimately, the three form a polyamorous household. 

Interwoven through this history is an ongoing explanation and defense, provided by Marston later in life to a disapproving panel, of the Wonder Woman character he created, in part to spread messages of female empowerment. Thus is the viewer able to ascertain how much about Wonder Woman was drawn from Marston’s unconventional life, whether it was her can-do spirit, propensity for getting tied up, or the “lasso of truth” (a.k.a. a lie detector). It’s an interesting story with a good cast that is marred by the awkward framing and a tendency to fall into the generic tropes of filmed biographies. Still, it’s another side of Wonder Woman worth pondering, though this R-rated film, with its ménage-a-trois scenes, isn’t one for the kiddies. 

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