Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, directed and written by Angela Robinson and starring Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, and Bella Heathcote, suffers from a PR problem. That PR problem is a vowel.
If early social media is any indication, most people are expecting a movie about Wonder Woman. This ain’t that. This is about some wonderful women, plural.
I understand the misinterpretation, however—the film does all that it can to visually remind the viewer that William Moulton Marston (Evans) is the creator of Wonder Woman. Given the massive popularity of the DC blockbuster, you might expect a lot of focus in this movie to be on the process that went into creating Wonder Woman. What sparked the idea? How difficult was it sell a female lead character to comic-book publishers in the 1940s? What did the early Wonder Woman comic books address? What was the reception like?
But precious little of that is in this movie. As the title actually says, this movie is about some wonderful women, not Wonder Woman.
So if you were hoping a movie about the early days of comic books or an in-depth exploration of Wonder Woman’s creation, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women will be a crushing disappointment. However, if you’re someone who left Star Wars: The Force Awakens praying that the next movie would feature a Po/Finn/Rey polyamorous triad, then this movie might make you so happy you will cry.
I cried a little. You just don’t see a lot of polyamorous representation in movies—almost none, in fact—and especially ones that are treated with sympathy and affection. That means the fact that this movie puts one front and center is exceptional already, but the love affair between the professor (Evans), Elizabeth Marston (Hall), and Olive Byrne (Heathcote) is far more powerful knowing that it is based on real life. On top of all that, the movie also treats BDSM kinks as a perfectly acceptable, fun, addition to this happy threesome’s sex life, another rarity.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a powerful statement. It reminds queer, kinky, and poly folks that they have not only existed, but thrived, throughout time. In fact, I left the theater and went straight to the library to order my copy of The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore, in order to read more about Marston, his wife, and their lover.
I suspect one of the criticisms of this movie will be that the drama is low stakes. Things work our for OT3. There are smattering of “hardship” scenes in which the triad faces prejudice and bigotry, but those feel a bit like a rock skimming over water—they’re brief and unexamined. Nothing goes very deep, the pain feels very surface level, and there’s far more attention given to the good times and fun sex play.
All of that is true, but I was too busy grinning like a fool every time the threesome weathered a new storm to care much. No doubt this is an example of how a starving person will feel as though the most mundane food is gourmet quality, simply because it exists and is available for consumption. Therefore, mileage may vary. However, I feel like the geek community is far more ripe for a kinky polyamorous romance with comic books thrown into the background than the average American movie goer may be. I say this is not one to miss.
For me, that pesky vowel made all the difference.