Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (4 stars)

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Empowering and entertaining story about the creator of Wonder Woman, from Angela Robinson

Combining a modern thematic sensibility with old-fashioned filmmaking charm, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is both a fascinating slice of cultural history and an involving character study. In exploring the genesis of iconic female superhero Wonder Woman, writer-director Angela Robinson has crafted a film that is as empowering as it is entertaining.

In the 1920s, Harvard professor William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) embarks on a research project with wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), a fellow academic, centred on their fascination with the psychological effects of dominance and submission. Volunteer student Olive (Bella Heathcote) stirs up uncontrollable passions in them both, and the trio's sexual and emotional experimentations result in Marston's eventual creation of Wonder Woman.

The film is fuelled by a trio of excellent performances, with Hall being the standout as the sharp-edged, sharp-witted Elizabeth; the outspoken embodiment of the feminist ideals that form the backbone of Marston's whip-cracking heroine. For her part, Olive is the inspiration for Wonder Woman's striking beauty and integrity but, crucially, Robinson's astute screenplay ensures that these women are also well-rounded characters in their own right, powerful masters of their own ambitions and desires.

Robinson also deftly handles the story's inherent kink, careful never to stray into the arena of overt eroticism. Indeed, a heavy hand here could have overwhelmed the film's dramatic identity and, worse, undermined the values Marston instils into his character; she will, he hopes, impart his forward-thinking message of gender equality to America's young readers.

Instead, the threesome's free sexuality, seen in a couple of soft-focus sex scenes, is born of genuine love and respect; the trio lived together, after all, and raised children. This unconventional relationship is effectively contrasted with the buttoned-up conservatism of the day, highlighting a growing cultural tension that proved to be fertile breeding ground for renewed post-war women's lib efforts and the movement's most famous poster child: Wonder Woman herself.

General release from Fri 10 Nov.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 48min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Angela Robinson
  • Cast: Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote
  • UK release: 10 November 2017

The story of how, in the 1920s, the polyamorous relationship between Harvard professor William Moulton Marston (Evans), his sharp-witted wife Elizabeth (Hall) and their lover Olive (Heathcote) led to the creation of Wonder Woman. The inherent kink is sensitively handled and the trio’s genuine love for each other is shown…