By Dhruv Goyal
Writer-director Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman’s release seems to be both a blessing and an obstacle. The release of Patty Jenkins’ critically acclaimed and commercially successful Wonder Woman this Juneto pique some people’s interests, giving Robinson’sfilm higher footfallst. And yet the higher degree of attention also allows people to draw comparisons, reason to dismiss the smaller film as a footnote to the entertaining blockbuster. Luckily, Robinson shares a the same sense of empathy and affection for her characters as Jenkins did s, and Robinson’s film feels like a unique drama of its own.
The film attempts to chronicle the relatively unknown, origins of the “Greatest Female Superhero”.Like its title suggests, it focuses its attention on Professor William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), and his polyamorous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall) and their Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). The film follows them through their romantic relationship with each other, their tragedies, and their silent fight against the conservative societal norms that lead to the controversial creation of Wonder Woman.
For the majority of its runtime, Professor Marston succeeds thanks to Robinson and her accomplished cast. They make all three central characters feel realistic and interesting. Robinson dwells on moments of conversation that don’t particularly add to the plot, but elaborate on the characters themselves. Robinson’s focus in these scenes is on the dialogue, characters, and the performances, which create an engaging (and occasionally hilarious) drama. In fact, the film feels less like a Wonder Woman origin story, and more a tale of the lives of three people who just want to live in their fantasy. The performances make the journey of even more interesting, particularly because they share tremendous chemistry. Luke Evans lays just enough charm on his Professor Marston to make him likable, even though some of his character’s interests are dubious. Bella Heathcote does wonders with a character that could have come off as indecisive–instead, the actress imbues her with a sense of vulnerability and naivety that genuinely makes you care for her. My favorite performance, however, belonged to Rebecca Hall as Marston’s wife. Hall is given the most interesting character in the film, and her Elizabeth Marston is stubborn, smart, inappropriately expressive, highly ambitious, and pretty unlikable (her husband openly terms her “grade-A B****”). It’s a testament to Hall’s performance that the audience understands and empathizes with her frustrations; not being as successful as she thinks she deserves, or her initial jealousy over her husband’s attraction to Olive.e. Hall made me care for a character that could have come off as obnoxious and overconfident. nstead, she was a repressed victim of the era she was living in, like the other two, more likeable members of the triad..
The first two-thirds of the film explores these characters, and their relationships feel organic. However, the third act stumbles into biopic territory, which feels like an unfamiliar milieu for Robinson. The screenplay, particular this third act, feels rushed, because Robinson attempts to tackle both the character’s relationships and the controversy surrounding the Wonder Woman figure. The controversial aspects of Wonder Woman, used as a framing device , felt like an accessory. But the major problem with the third act is that this less exciting aspect of the story undercuts the emotional impact of the more rewarding character dynamics the film had built upon. The pivotal sex scene in the final act of the film protagonists feels so flippant and inorganic as a plot progression that it dilutes the film’s emotional impact in the final scenes.
Despite its shortcomings, Robinson’s film offers fascinating characters and great dialogue that always kept me entertained. It may not be an box office game changer like its sister film.But as anan opportunity to explore the psyche of three captivating characters way ahead of their time, Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman is well worthy of yours.