PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN. How the famous superhero was created

If you cast a lasso of truth on me and ask me if it’s worth seeing, I will definitely agree.

Lukasz Budnik

18 June 2023

The love triangle, psychology and American comics have had a common denominator in the person of Professor William Marston for years. His story seems to be tailor-made for a biographical film, accumulating the majority of elements that make the genre attractive. Difficult love, scientific discoveries, moral dilemmas, cyclical ups and downs, and finally an ace up the sleeve in the form of the genesis of one of the most famous pop culture figures. With that background, the story writes itself.

We meet Marston in 1945, when he is held accountable for inappropriate content in his comic books. The testimonies given to justify such and no other choices become an opportunity for us to trace almost two decades of his life. We go back to the time when he worked as a university lecturer in the late 1920s, studying the types of human behavior with his wife Elizabeth and working on a lie detector prototype. One day, the Marstons invite Olive Byrne, a student, to work with them. Soon, the relationship of the three of them takes on a dimension that goes far beyond business contacts. Ahead of them is a journey of love, lust and passion that will ultimately inspire Marston to create Wonder Woman.

The film potential of the life of the title professor was noticed by the director and screenwriter Angela Robinson. Her greatest artistic success so far is the short D.E.B.S (2003), a variation on the theme of Charlie’s Angels written with lesbian characters. Robinson’s interest in women is also evident in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Although he is the leading character, the film is stolen by his partners, with particular reference to Mrs. Marston in the excellent interpretation of Rebecca Hall. The actress shines when it comes to portraying her character’s internal conflicts. Robinson, on the other hand, rightly takes his time in the plot, thanks to which we are able to get to know all sides of this love triangle very well. Differences between Elizabeth and Olive, emphasized by Marston, are reflected in the manners of both ladies, their emotions and decisions. Here the viewer becomes a vigilant observer. We look for evidence in this complicated relationship to support Marston’s theory that there are four types of behavior: dominant, inspiring, supportive, and considerate. In terms of the character of his partners, they stand in opposition to each other: Elizabeth represents the stronger side, Olive – the submissive. The plot and characters become the subject of research, and we are left looking for more leads and clues.

Those who expect a story entirely devoted to the rise of Wonder Woman will be disappointed. Her appearance on the pages of the comic book is of course an important element of the plot, but it results from this complicated, long relationship of three lovers. For Marston, Wonder Woman is a combination of two women with whom he shares his life and bed. The attributes of the heroic Amazon – bracelets, a lasso of truth, a diadem or even a costume – are the result of years spent together and experiences. Science and bed experiments. What Diana Prince is like is largely due to the experiences, also negative ones, of Marston and his wonderful women. Domination, sexuality, BDSM – the elements present in the first comic books with Wonder Woman came directly from their private lives and its erotic sphere. So it is useless to look for scenes of creating a comic strip in the strict sense, this is not what the film is about – here the cause is important and the effect is important.

Emotions and exploration of characters go hand in hand with form. Sexual tension is emphasized by close-ups of angelic faces, loving looks and trembling bodies driven by excitement and desire. Robinson found a happy medium for the sex scenes, which are so important in the face of the whole story. Literalness and bluntness in showing the nude go hand in hand with sensuality, sparks flying in the air and magnetism, thanks to which the actors, bathed in dimly lit rooms, create a beautiful love spectacle, even if morally dubious.

There are no doubts when it comes to recommending the film Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. The story leading to the creation of Wonder Woman is attractive not only to Americans, but also to everyone who at this moment associates the heroine with the ever-smiling face of Gal Gadot. Interestingly, Robinson’s vision did not appeal to Marston’s granddaughter, who in October last year denied on Twitter that the story presented was true. The director explained herself with her own interpretation of the facts – and I accept this justification, because it works perfectly within its framework. It is a pity that Professor Marston and the Wonder Women passed without much attention – it is a concert of great acting, well-drawn characters and an interesting analysis of the characters’ personalities. If you cast a lasso of truth on me and ask me if it’s worth seeing, I will definitely agree.

Łukasz Budnik

Lukasz Budnik

He loves both silent cinema and contemporary blockbusters based on comic books. He looks forward to watching movie with his growing son.

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