Based on a true story, Professor Marsten and the Wonder Women puts forward a contested-by-the-family origin story of Wonder Woman, framed by the polyamorous relationship of William Moulton Martsen, his wife and one of their students.
The film adopts the "tell it through flashbacks" approach to storytelling, hinging on a 1947 testimony William Moulton Marsten (Evans), known for creating Wonder Woman under the pseudonym Charles Moulton, gives to the Child Study Association of America over accusations about the comic's use of erotic imagery.
Through his defence of the comic, we're taken back in time to when he was a psychology professor at Harvard's Radcliffe College, where he was working with his wife Elizabeth (Hall) on the prototype for the lie detector. It was during this time that they met Olive (Heathcoate), a teaching assistant who falls in love with both William and Elizabeth, with the trio then embarking on a polyamorous relationship.
It is through the exploration of his work and his relationship with Elizabeth and Olive, that William devises Wonder Woman, combining factors from both his loves' personalities, and setting her out as a way of exposing children to feminist ideals.
The characters are well written, with all three stars displaying great chemistry, though Hall is a stand-out. She gives a stunning performance with nuance and depth; Elizabeth is brilliant, relatable and pragmatic, and it is a joy to watch her vulnerability grow as her character develops.
Weaving Wonder Woman's origins into what started out as a love story is often harshly done with the physical traits of the superhero woven in bluntly. Focus is divided and it feels as though director and writer Robinson couldn't decide which narrative should take centre stage. The concepts Williams teaches about in his classes are shoe-horned in, with the film often harking back to his classroom to further cement a point.
In a similar way that the Wonder Woman comics highlighted feminism, the film deals with the importance of people being allowed to love who they love, without society dictating what form relationships should take.
The Moulton Martsen's were pioneers in every aspect of their lives, but there is a TV movie feel about proceedings that doesn't do them justice, as watchable as it is.