The life stories being told in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women are truly radical. William Marston (Luke Evans) was a psychologist and university professor who helped invent the lie detector in the 1920s and created the character of Wonder Woman for DC Comics in 1941. His wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) was a brilliant psychologist in her own right; together, they had a long and unconventional romantic partnership with their research assistant Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), who was credited as the visual inspiration for Wonder Woman (among other things, she sported a pair of gold bracelets).
The strange arc of Marston’s career is fascinating, and the unusual nature of his relationship with Elizabeth and Olive even more so. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women suffers whenever it tries to tell that story in an ordinary way, boiling the details of Marston’s life down into a typical biopic format that makes sure to check off all of his eclectic achievements. Still, the romance being explored here—which so rarely gets the Hollywood treatment, and which the writer/director Angela Robinson takes such care to flesh out—is enough to keep things from ever feeling too staid.
Robinson was an exciting talent of the Aughts who hasn’t made a film in 12 years (she’s worked in TV since making the lesbian action-comedy D.E.B.S. in 2004 and the Disney feature Herbie Fully Loaded in 2005). It’s exciting to have her perspective back on film, especially because Professor Marston and the Wonder Women immediately makes it clear just how uninterested it is in the “very special man” framing so many biopics adopt. Evans is charming in his careful, slightly manicured way as Marston, but Robinson is immediately much more interested in the two women in his life, and the fascinating ways their relationships intersect with both him and each other.