In Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, writer-director Angela Robinson brings the fascinating — and provocative — life of the titular Harvard psychologist and creator of the superhero Wonder Woman, Dr. William Moulton Marston to the big screen. Amidst the bells and whistles of CG-laden, fantastical Hollywood blockbusters and fanfare at Comic-Con, Robinson’s film brings a different side to the hero experience that strips away the flash and cuts deep into the social psyche of the creation of an icon by a controversial man who worked out his relationship issues by creating a superhero.
The film, which is slated to open in theaters on October 27, centers on Dr. Marston (Luke Evans) and the events in his life that led to the the creation of DC comics’ Amazonian princess in 1941. Marston was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and fellow psychologist Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and Olivia Byrne (Bella Heathcote), a former student. These two women in his life and their feminist ideas influenced the creation of Wonder Woman — and in the ’40s, that was controversial. His lifestyle was deemed as perverted and his progressive comic book received backlash from the community — all of which piqued Robinson’s interest. She shared her views about Marston’s story and Wonder Woman at a special event at Comic-Con.
“I got interested after making my first feature with Jordana Brewster and she knew I was a crazy Wonder Woman fan, and she gave me this book on her,” said Robinson, who has worked on How To Get Away With Murder, True Blood, and The L Word. “There was a chapter about the Marstons and the story went on and on and lodged in my brain and I became obsessed with it.”
The story is not unlike any superhero origin story. In fact, it isn’t even necessarily a superhero story at all. It’s a love story between William, Elizabeth, and Olivia, but a character study of Marston, a man who was, in essence, a feminist with a very specific — and some may say controversial — slant. Robinson said that Marston had a theory about men, women and submission that runs through the veins of the film.
“Men were violent and anachronistic, while women were nurturing and caring,” she said. “[Marston] said that if women ruled the world it would be better — and he was on to something.” From this came the story of the Amazonian princess we know as Wonder Woman.
Marston fueled a narrative of domination and submission within the subtext of the Wonder Woman narrative, but not in that “kinky” way that one might think. Robinson said that Wonder Woman was created to make boys and men respect powerful women and it was shown through imagery of bondage and even Wonder Woman’s general appearance. The director aims to respect and tell the overlooked story of the Marstons and the origin of Wonder Woman.
Andrea Sperling, Amy Redford, and Terry Leonard produced the film, while Transparent creator Jill Soloway has exec produces alongside Clare Munn.