Review: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

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Numbers obtained from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes on October 22, 2017.

2017 has been a year of many movies discussing the origin or “behind the story” of many books/characters. For example, Rebel in the Rye (about J.D. Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye), Goodbye Christopher Robin (about the beloved children’s character Winnie-the-Pooh), and, later in the year, The Man Who Invented Christmas, about the creation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

The most interesting one so far, however, is Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, specially due to its fantastic timing: Wonder Woman was one of the most successful movies of the year and the interest about the character has grown. Moreover, the book The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore, remains in the bestseller list even after a couple of years of its release.

Written and directed by Angela Robinson, the film follows the true story of Professor William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), a Harvard psychologist and inventor who helped invent the modern lie detector test with the help of his wife Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall) in the late 1920s. Elizabeth assists her husband as she is denied a Ph.D. from Harvard because she is a woman.

Prof. Marston develops the DISC theory to describe relationships, according to which the following elements would be present: Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance. All of these elements appear in the movie, especially during a new type of relationship: Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), a student in one of Prof. Marston’s classes, gets closer to him and his wife. She also happens to be the niece of Margaret Sanger, one of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century.

It’s not long before the three of them realize they are in a polyamorous relationship and decide to live together. That, of course, doesn’t come easy: he’s fired from Harvard and, in order to keep providing for the family, has an idea of writing a feminist comic book character based on the two women in his life. Wonder Woman is, thus, the combination of Mrs. Marston, Olive Byrne, and the DISC theory – not to mention the lie detector, which is also featured in her stories as the “Lasso of Truth”.

The story is interesting per se, but the cast just makes it brilliant. The three main actors give extraordinary performances. Rebecca Hall shines as Mrs. Marston, with witty comebacks and always being the most intelligent in the room. Luke Evans is perfect as the charming and philanderer Prof. Marston, while Becca Heathcote is able to transmit the initial naiveté, and later maturity, of Olive Byrne.

The songs chosen to accompany the movie are also perfect, especially those during the love scenes involving all three of them, such as Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”. It also has to be said that such scenes, as sensual as they are, are portrayed in a lighter way than I imagined they would, which makes them easier to watch and not that discomforting.

The structure of the narrative is also engaging, as we see Professor Marston having to defend Wonder Woman before Josette Frank (Connie Britton), the director of the Child Study Association of America, along with flashbacks telling the audience how his relationship with Olive Byrne began and where he got his ideas for Wonder Woman. He specially has to defend all the violence and bondage in his stories, which he connects to his DISC theory from before.

With an interesting source material, as well as with great execution, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is one of the most entertaining movies of the year and it leaves the audience curious to know more about what really happened before Wonder Woman.


Brazilian lawyer that has more passion for movies, theater and music than for the law.

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