I really was looking forward to this movie. I mean, the real life story of the origin of Wonder Woman combined with themes of sexuality, identity, and freedom? Sounds like a winning combo right? Then why is this movie so tame (especially considering its R rating)? Not lame, this movie is anything but, but it is extremely tame in its storytelling, which made the film uneven, tiresome, and missed the mark on an emotional climax for me. The film doesn’t really truly pick up until the last third where Wonder Woman is actually being created. It also picks up on the themes mentioned above, but due to the chop-chop-choppiness of the first two thirds, I didn’t walk out of the theater feeling as I should, which should have been wonderful. Instead, I was weathered to the point of not caring.
PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN could’ve been one of those movies that truly defined that era between the 20’s to the 40’s where you had to hold yourself to a certain standard even if that truly wasn’t who you were. You had to hide or be banished. You couldn’t express yourself as freely as you do today (well, we could argue how freely you can express yourself in the Butthurt era of today, but I digress). This movie asked those questions and then asks how you deal with them when those that deem themselves normal find out and lash out. But the movie never answers them. There are some quick snippets of people being disgusted, mad, loathing, you name it, at the Marston clan, but those snippets are faster than a locomotive.
If you haven’t seen a trailer, it is mainly about a professor, his wife, and the college student that they hire as a sort of intern, and eventually all three of them invest themselves in each other emotionally and physically as a threesome of a couple. It all eventually, in a very naturalistic way, leads to the creation of Wonder Woman. But that is a footnote compared to what it is truly about. What it’s about is how are they to live in this world where the rest of it would balk and shame behavior like this? What does it mean to truly love another human being and can you love more than one person? Like I said, all of these question are fantastic to ask. But instead of looking your in the eye, answering them with a fierce determination, and telling you how it is, no holds barred, no censorship what so ever, the movie looks down at the floor, shuffles its feet and mumbles something that is almost unintelligible.
Carol is a movie with similar themes that is much, much, much better at answering those questions. In fact there are a ton of movies that answer those questions with pride and fearlessness. This movie kind of shies away from them with a costume and behind a curtain, and only peeks out very quickly once in a while but then hides again. The acting from Luke Evans (always thought he was underrated), Rebecca Hall, and Bella Heathecote are all good here, even though some of the dialogue is a little iffy. Their chemistry works in spades and it is really the only thing that is holding the movie together. That and the cool things inspired in real life that went into the pages of Wonder Woman, like the lie detector being invented that was an inspiration to the golden lasso of truth, or the dominatrix type imagery and symbolism in the comic book.
The rest of the movie is unremarkable and not so wonderful. Nothing special about any of the camera shots, way of storytelling, the screenplay is choppy (this film should’ve been about 30 minutes longer to flesh everything out), it seems as though a film student could’ve made this. Nothing remarkable whatsoever. Did they rush this to time it to the same year release as Wonder Woman? If they spent a little more time, take that R rating to heart, and show the true hardships of living a life of lies during that time, this could have been something really special. It could’ve been a true companion piece to the fantastic film we saw earlier this year. Instead, just like a superhero having a secret identity, this will get lost in the crowd.