Director Francis Lawrence has responded to comments that his new movie, Red Sparrow, is in some way indebted to Marvel’s Black Widow. The Jennifer Lawrence-starring thriller about a ballet-dancer-turned-assassin has earned a lot of attention thanks to its star power in front of and behind the camera, as well as some eye-catching trailers.
Although what’s dominated the discussion has been comparisons to Black Widow; Natasha Romanoff (played by Scarlett Johansson in the MCU) and Lawrence’s Dominika Egorova share similar brain-washing backstories and a general ambiguity to their allegiances and motives. Now, the director has responded.
Screen Rant recently sat down with Francis Lawrence during a visit to a scoring session for Red Sparrow at Air Studios in London where we discussed this comparison. Lawrence explained how he understands the observation but that there’s fundamentally little overlap beyond superficial elements:
“There’s people who think it’s very similar to the Black Widow story. This is not pulled from BW, this is pulled from Red Sparrow, you know, it’s just like written by a guy who was in the CIA. It’s like, his references are coming from a very very different place from that. But there’ll always be that. People like to put things in boxes, and I think is a really unique film. This is a thriller, it’s not action, again it’s not gadgety. It’s a hard-R. There’s violence, it’s a bit perverse, it’s suspenseful, a lot of intrigue. It ‘s a very different kind of spy film.”
Red Sparrow is based on the novel of the same name by former CIA operative Jason Matthews, who pulled from his real-life experiences to create a more grounded spy adventure. As Lawrence alludes to, while the resulting story has some parallels to Black Widow, those appear to be are more a product of Natasha’s origins likewise being lifted from typical espionage ideas – but without the same grounded approach. Indeed, the way Lawrence sells the film suggests something different and decidedly more adult than what fans can expect from a Black Widow film (which recently reported to be in early development).
Crucially, Lawrence went on to reveal that one of the key points linking Dominika and Natasha will be a background presence in the film: ballet. The origins are where most comparisons come from, and while that is a part of Red Sparrow, the film will focus on what happens after Egorova’s dancing days:
“Most of the movie takes place after she’s injured. There’s a big sequence up front where we have a big ballet, choreographed piece that we worked quite hard on and Jen did a bunch of training for and we had great dance doubles and all that great stuff. Which is very cool, but no that’s almost right away.”
In our chat, Lawrence also addressed persistent Atomic Blonde comparisons centering on the shared Eastern European focus and, less tangibly, comparable hairstyle. He said he immediately saw the similarities when the trailer for Charlize Theron’s Cold War actioner dropped during Red Sparrow‘s production, but felt confident everything else in the film was unique, adding “some people aren’t that aware of Atomic Blonde that won’t see those comparisons right up front, at least in terms of some of the imagery.”
The director definitely feels like he’s created something unique, and the trailers line up with his repeated statement of Red Sparrow being a hard-R thriller that’s more than just a simple riff on what we’ve seen before. Whether that’s enough to quell the Black Widow comparisons, we’ll have to wait and see.
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