In 2017, Wonder Woman proved to be a smash hit, raising the question why it had taken nearly eight decades to bring her to the big screen in a titular feature. Another aspect of Wonder Woman that has raised some eyebrows – if only in the marketing department at Warner Bros. – is the biographical feature about her creator and his unconventional life. Much like Wonder Woman presented us with a contemporary take on the origin story of the most famous female superhero of all time, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women concerns itself with her origin story in terms of how she came to be at the hand of William Moulton Marston and the women who inspired him.
The reality of Marston’s life has been a source of controversy over the years, as he lived in a polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth and live-in mistress Olive Byrne, fathering children with both women. While the sexual nature of the relationship between Elizabeth and Olive has been contested by granddaughter Christie Marston, the filmmakers’ decision to supposedly take certain liberties with the Marstons’ and Byrne’s relationship may not ring true in terms of how they actually lived their lives, however, the way the subject matter is handled is almost unprecedented in terms of representation of bisexuality, polyamory and, to some extent, BDSM as a big screen feature aimed at mainstream audiences.
Throughout the film, a mutually consensual, polyamorous relationship is portrayed without the usual lewdness that such unconventional subjects usually fall victim to in mainstream media. There is no lurid mastermind sleazily grooming additional parties to make them part of a situation they later come to regret. Instead, the progression of the relationship between the three protagonists feels natural, earnest and genuinely loving. However, the relationship is not without conflict, but each party ultimately has the best interest of the others at heart, even if that is at times what causes the conflict in the first place.
In terms of the acting, the performances of Evans, Hall and Heathcote are all strong and convincing, not least in terms of the chemistry between all three parties. The foreshadowing of the BDSM element in terms of bondage in particular is clever and subtle, as the confines of the lie detector, the Lasso of Truth and the bondage rope all tie in with one another. As a result, the trio’s discovery of bondage does not feel sensational or lewd, but rather impactful and empowering, as it is played similar to when a superhero steps up to finally accept their mantle.
In addition to inventing the lie detector and creating Wonder Woman with his wife, Marston also played an integral part in the creation of DISC theory, which many a workplace assessment is still based on to this day. As the narrative progresses, each section thereof is divided into the four behavior types associated with DISC – dominance, inducement, submission and compliance. Not only does this introduce Marston’s other work into the film, it also serves as the narrative framework, as the trio must at one point or another conform to one of the four behavior types if they want their love to persevere.
Ultimately, not only is Professor Marston and the Wonder Women a refreshingly heartfelt and open-minded portrayal of an unconventional family unit, it is also a compelling drama in terms of storytelling in more general terms, not to mention that serves as a superb companion piece to Wonder Woman for the adult comic book fan, making Professor Marston and the Wonder Women a delectable ménage à trois of romance, desire and popular culture.
Verdict: 9 out of 10.