Red Sparrow's Violence And Sex Hide A Confused Story
One of Red Sparrow's most talked about scenes is Jennifer Lawrence's career-first nude scene which, as critics have debated, happens without warning or real context. She strips down in order to take power back from a sexually abusive classmate, something vaguely set-up but of debatable necessit. Lawrence recently said that getting nude in the movie helped her get over the photos of her that were stolen during 2014's photo hack:
“My biggest fear was that people would say, ‘Oh, how can you complain about the hack if you’re going to get nude anyway?’” she said to Vanity Fair. “One is my choice, I got something back that was taken from me, and it also felt normal.”
Related: WILL THERE BE A RED SPARROW 2?
This power that Lawrence felt while making the film is rarely displayed in the actual movie. Unlike other recent female-led action films like Wonder Woman or Atomic Blonde, there's no sense of twisting a traditionally male gaze element into something empowering. What there is is an intensity that's pure and undiluted. When people die, they die horribly. When people are assaulted, they're assaulted brutally. There are scenes that Black Widow can never show, including one dealing with a skin grafter that's unlikely to be forgotten soon.
However, the film works best when it's not trying to shock. Indeed, the only break from the run of viciousness comes from the duplicitous but vulnerable chief of staff to an American senator, played by a wonderful Mary-Louise Parker - and it's a standout sequence. Although only on screen for minutes, her character - tricked and seduced into a situation she doesn't fully understand and eager for a quick payout and boiling over with a rage that may not fully be deserved - brings life to the film.
It's that feeling of intrigue which Parker has that also makes Black Widow such a great character. It doesn't matter what she does, you want more of it. It's also what Red Sparrow is missing. All the film's brutality becomes so overwhelming the audience begins to grow numb to anything these characters do, including a muddled love story mixed in the middle between Lawrence and Joel Edgerton's Nathaniel Nash. By the time the Red Sparrow's ending finally arrives and Dominika is redeemed with a solidly unexpected turn, it's hard to actually care what is going on, despite the surprise.
Red Sparrow Needed More Of What Makes Black Widow Great
The high on brutality, low on character development arc is exactly why this isn't - and can't be - the Black Widow movie audiences are craving. What makes Black Widow such a fantastic character is the levels that are only beginning to peel back throughout the films.
The outward assassin, cool, collected, violent, but calm when danger appears, was interesting. What makes Natasha Romanov such a wonder of a character, though, is the vulnerability that still exists beneath, especially in scenes with Banner/Hulk and with Hawkeye. The outer confident appearance that is the entirety of her personality in her first inclusions in the Marvel universe begins to crack, until we begin to see a little bit more of who she really is. Sadly, Red Sparrow does not have that same level of humanity, as there is little subtle about the film.
While this isn't good for Red Sparrow, it does further highlight the case for a Black Widow film. That project is currently in early development, with Marvel working on a script, and fans are hoping to finally discover about the red on her ledger. Now we've seen how not to do it, let's hope the House of Ideas can get it right.
- Red Sparrow (2018) release date: Mar 02, 2018