Ever since the first trailer dropped, Red Sparrow has been dogged by comparisons to Marvel's Black Widow. Now the movie's here, it's clear they have very little in common - which only makes the problems all the more pointed.
A film about a young Russian girl, trained in ballet who enrolls in spy school and learns how to use her mind and body to infiltrate the enemy, especially to help take down the United States: in a perfect world, this would be Black Widow's origin story. It would be done with grace, intrigue, and yes, the right amount of sexuality that empowers the character instead of crushing her.
Instead, this is the story of Red Sparrow, another film about a female Russian spy that taps down humanity in lieu of shocking scenes and violent brutality. And those comparisons tell an interesting story.
This Page: Red Sparrow Is Nothing Like Black Widow
Red Sparrow Is Nothing Like Black Widow
In Red Sparrow - directed by Francis Lawrence from a script by Justin Haythe based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Jason Matthews - Lawrence's Dominika Egorova is an injured national ballet dancer who is forced to go to spy school to learn to become a "Sparrow", a spy trained to seduce targets and bring back information to Russia. That basic summary is a beat-for-beat Black Widow parallel.
In the films, Natasha Romanov (AKA Black Widow) is a Russian agent turned American turncoat. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, it was revealed that she also had ballet training and attended an intense spy school for children to turn her into a living weapon. In the comics, Black Widow's origin story had her kidnapped by Baron Von Strucker and trained to be a Russian assassin and world-famous ballerina. This was then changed in Richard K. Morgan’s Black Widow run, where she was trained with other children to become a spy in the secret "Red Room" facility.
These comparisons are not lost on the film's director. In an interview with ScreenRant, Francis Lawrence said:
“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.”
That's something of an understatement. Red Sparrow pushes the hard-R rating with graphic scenes of sex and violence. The aforementioned "spy school" isn't just about training to shoot a gun; these young adults are taught to do whatever it takes to get information, using sexuality and perversions to their advantage. Dominika even calls it a "whore school".
Clearly, there really isn't much to link the two properties. However, Red Sparrow's distinction - trying to create a world of danger and intrigue - ends up highlighting its problems.
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