Remember how “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” explained the mysteries behind Kris Kringle?
One quick example? The same magic corn that helped Santa’s reindeer bust him out of jail now powers Santa’s sleigh each Christmas eve.
Something similar happens with “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” regarding the DC Comics superstar. Only the reveals are hardly G-rated. Case in point: Wonder Woman uses a lasso … because her creator was kinky to the core.
And so it goes for a story that arrives at the perfect time in pop culture but may shock causal comic fans.
Luke Evans plays Dr. William Moulton Marston, a professor obsessed with his four-point overview of the human experience. It’s unconventional, to say the least.
So is his idea of marriage, at least after laying eyes on a student named Olive (Bella Heathcote). Yes, the professor is happily married to uber-feminist Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), but he can’t help himself.
His impulses won’t necessarily end his marriage, though.
That hints at the mission behind “Professor Marston.” Yes, it’s the story of how Marston went on to create Wonder Woman, a heroine who changed the face of pop culture. That part follows the Santa Claus formula mentioned above – with a R-rated twist.
That isn’t the movie’s sole purpose.
FAST FACT: Wonder Woman’s first official appearance came courtesy of All-Star Comics No. 8 in 1941.
We’re not only introduced to Marston’s unlikely love triangle. We’re told we cannot judge his relationship choices. To do so would make audiences as villainous as any Wonder Woman adversary.
Consider the moist-eyed moments about the love triangle in play. Norman Rockwell might reject them as too wholesome, too sappy.
The execution meshes beautifully with Marston’s plan for Wonder Woman: to bend the culture to his way of thinking. He embedded his preferred narratives into every panel, a shocking array of spankings and other S&M flourishes.
He made no bones about it. He used his comic book creation to alter the way we think. Does that sound familiar when you consider how modern Hollywood operates?
Cough-cough “Miss Sloane.”
That tactic may honestly evoke Marston’s life mission, but it also undercuts the film in profound ways. The William-Olive-Elizabeth triangle would be far richer if depicted with the raw truths of any relationship.
Bumps. Fights. Misunderstandings. Jealousy on steroids.
More importantly, the film skims over how Marston was able to inject mature themes into his creation without blowback. This was the 1940s, mind you. A decade later TV would force married couple Lucy and Ricky Ricardo to sleep in separate beds. Shouldn’t the movie reveal how Marston got away with what he did?
As is, “Professor Marston” is often engaging. Hall excels as the thoroughly modern woman dealing with her husband’s expansive views on love. Her dialogue is too 21st century at times, but Hall’s delivery is so on target you’ll accept it. Director Angela Robinson keeps the pacing crisp and the humor taut. Evans and Heathcote are equally solid, giving the critical triangle its strength.
Fans of this year’s “Wonder Woman” may flock to “Professor Marston.” It’s understandable. The former ditched lectures for pure entertainment. These “Wonder Women” have something else in mind.
HiT or Miss: “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” is engaging and full of not-so-hidden messages.