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Soundtrack review: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Tom Howe – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Tom Howe – 2017)

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“Professor Marston and The Wonder Women” is a 2017 drama directed by Angela Robinson. In a superhero origin tale unlike any other, the film is based on the incredible true story of what inspired Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston to create the iconic Wonder Woman character in the 1940s. While Marston’s feminist superhero was criticised by censors for her “sexual perversity”, he was keeping a secret that could have destroyed him. Marston’s muses for the Wonder Woman character were his wife Elizabeth Marston and their lover Olive Byrne, two empowered women who defied convention: working with Marston on human behaviour research – while building a hidden life with him that rivalled the greatest of superhero disguises. Tom Howe wrote the score.

The opening of this score, “Professor Marston” gives me hope as it’s a very melodic piano driven theme, short and melancholic. There is a slight period sound in the music as Tom Howe infuses the cues with a certain elegance that can be associated both with women and with times past. I always welcome the flute in a score and I like how playful the orchestra is in “Observing Olive”; a few cues in and I already sense that the piano motifs will be the back bone of this score. The first cue where I really connect with it is “The sorority spanking” because it’s both melancholic and light. A cue like “Lie detector” gives me a bit of a Thomas Newman vibe.

This score feels like a black and white painting that’s already attractive which suddenly becomes more colourful and lively when the piano starts playing. The piano gives the tone and the flute and the violin follow its tone and wake up as well and soon the entire paining has colour. I really like the way Tom Howe uses the piano in this score; there are a few motifs that are used repeatedly and they have time to fuse with the flute during a few cues.

“Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” is an emotional score; it’s not overly dramatic or exaggerated in any way and I think this is what I like best about it: that it feels natural. It’s also the kind of score that focuses on characters instead of the outside world they live in as it borders with minimalistic music. It’s really very hard to go wrong with a score like this because the music is simply beautiful and can bring joy to anybody who listens to it. A score that is orchestral, elegant and emotional like this one can bridge the gap between film music and classical music and be a pleasure for everyone. The piano and flute soloists deserve special praise for this one. The subtle tonal changes between the love moments and the more serious moments when the outside world interferes also work very well. There are also moments in the score when the music build up and flies away like the end of “Olive becoming Wonder Woman” and the “End credits”, just nice surprises that make the score even better.

A beautiful and quiet gem, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” was a very enjoyable standalone listening experience with it’s simple piano emotion and lovable motifs.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 22 / 38

Album excellence: 57%

Highlights:
The Sorority Spanking
Lie Detector
I See You in Everything
Inducement
Olive Makes Her Decision
Elizabeth is Pregnant
Olive Becoming Wonder Woman
Olive Leaves
Elizabeth Begs for Forgiveness
Love Me for All My Days
Professor Marston and The Wonder Women
End Credits

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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