Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
I waited half the movie to see Gal Gadot before realizing she probably wouldn’t be making an appearance. I’m joshing, of course. I knew going in this was the real life story of William Moulton Marston, the former Harvard psychology professor that created the most popular female superhero ever.
Now, I liked the movie The People vs Larry Flynt, but hated the fact that everyone tried to act like he was some great crusader for the First Amendment. In reality, the dude was just a smut peddler and found a way to get rich doing it. But no matter what side of the fence you are on regarding Flynt, at least the movie was entertaining. I suppose that’s what happens when one movie is directed by Milos Forman (Amadeus, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and one is directed by Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S., Herbie: Fully Loaded).
With the story of Professor Marston, people are going to say he was great for women (Gloria Steinem is even quoted at the end of the movie). They’ll try to also argue that not all relationships are so conventional, nor should they be. But ya know what? His wife’s character (Rebecca Hall), said it best early on the movie: “When are you gonna stop justifying the whims of your c**k with science?!”
I found this guy to just be a perv that slept with his student, and manipulated her along the way. The fact that he may have fought the good fight for feminists as well…okay. At the end of the day, none of that really matters, because I still have to like the movie. And when I’m watching characters that I don’t care much for, that makes it hard. When I’m watching a movie with laughable dialogue and bland characters…I sit there wishing I could fly an invisible plane out of that theatre.
This movie tells the story about how Wonder Woman was created as a feminist role model for young comic book readers. We learn about the controversy surrounding the way characters dressed, as well as bondage things going on. We realize that Marston did those things on purpose. It’s interesting to realize he peppered the comic with so much of his own sexual fetishes, and that in real life he had a polyamorous relationship. That makes this all the perfect thing to make a film on. It should be interesting finding all this out. Instead, you’re watching a bland professor (Luke Evans, The Girl on the Train) with goofy theories (his big one was “DISC” which stood for discipline, inducement, submission, compliance). We also had to watch his bitchy wife (Rebecca Hall), who is so mean to everyone around her, we wonder why anyone would be in love with her. It’s understandable that at that time in the ‘30s, she couldn’t get a job or the degree she earned from Harvard, but it got ridiculous listening to her (also because a character in that time period wouldn’t say “motherfu**er” that often, or “co**sucker”). And the way they manipulate an attractive student (Bella Heathcote of Dark Shadows) for their own experiments and then sexual experiences, is rather disgusting. Had it been a 35-year-old, willing neighbor, okay. That would be grown adults making these decisions. And just like any polyamorous relationships, there’s always somebody that is jealous and not enjoying it the way the others seem to be.
There’s also a lot of over-acting, and poor dialogue. It’s a shame, because there’s an interesting true story buried under all this garbage. Instead, it tries to be campy at times, but it just comes off as laughably bad.
The movie might not have been as boring if they instead did a story about how religious and community leaders condemned comic books for awhile. They show a scene with people throwing Wonder Woman comics into a bonfire the way some did with Beatles albums in the ‘60s (after Lennon said they were more popular than Jesus), and the way religious leaders did with heavy metal albums in the ‘70s.
There are also a few scenes with the always reliable Oliver Platt, as the publisher that puts Wonder Woman out after hearing Marston’s pitch. Either of those stories would’ve been a much better film than three idiots trying to make a family out of this relationship.
A lot of this movie just feels…phony. You listen as the wife says things like “I don’t experience sexual jealousy,” yet then shows that she does.
She relents to his stupid theories and suggestions. It doesn’t take long for us to realize he’s merely a perv that wants to convince his wife she should allow him to sleep with his student. It hardly makes us feel bad for him when he gets fired.
The only thing that feels remotely convincing in all this is the student’s concerned boyfriend.
The stupidest scene involves the three of them going to a lingerie shop that feels like they’re watching a magician perform tricks with a rope. It’s supposed to be that moment where audiences are shocked to see…that’s how he came up with the Wonder Woman outfit and lasso. Yawn.
It also has an annoyingly heavy-handed score (but it does get credit for using the Lou Prima classic “Sing Sing Sing”).
My wife and I were both disappointed in this. Although she did give me a courtesy laugh when I pointed out the young woman that sold us the popcorn at the Angelika Film Center, and said that we should bring her to movie screenings, to test some of my movie reviewing theories.
This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.