Red Sparrow Trailer Makes It Look Like a Blatant Black Widow Rip-Off

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Oh hey! We’re finally getting a Black Widow movie! Only it stars Jennifer Lawrence as an elite Russian assassin and it’s called Red Sparrow instead of Black Widow and Scarlett Johansson should be calling her agent and maybe her lawyers.

Somehow I missed this trailer’s debut in September, but when I saw it shared on social media last night it took me a while to scrape my jaw off the floor. I know I’m hardly the only one to make this observation about Red Sparrow, because somewhere in between rolling my eyes so far back into my head that I examined my own brain, I was able to read some of the YouTube comments. Here’s a smattering:

“Black Widow finally got a film.”

“Yeah, it’s an art house version of Black Widow. Marvel dropped the ball on this one.”

“So we can do Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence playing at femme fatales but Scarlett Johansen still doesn’t get her own movie? Someone’s being duped.”

“So this is Marvel’s Black Widow – only with a loose police angle.”

“looks like mystique trying to be blackwidow”

“Sooo Black Widow?????”


This goes on and on and on through hundreds of comments, because, let’s be real here, what we see in the trailer of Red Sparrow seems to be Black Widow fanfic—an alternate universe where instead she’s played by Jennifer Lawrence and maybe there are no aliens or Hulks or serum-enhanced supersoldiers (although I wouldn’t put it past them). Here’s the voiceover from a guy as Jennifer Lawrence stalks around in a variety of slinky outfits and kills people:

“When I was in Moscow, I heard about a program. Young officers, trained to seduce and manipulate. To use their bodies. To use everything. Call them sparrows. That’s what she is.”

Ooookay I’m gonna take a deep breath here. Beyond the now-tired trope of a sexy manipulative female assassin who uses sexy sex so that she can lure men away and murder them, do you know who else was the product of a special secret Russian program to fashion young people into killing machines?? That’s right, freaking Natalia Alianovna Romanova. Natasha Romanofff was pirouetting her way towards deadly international spy games while this sparrow was a squalling chick in the nest.

Natasha’s backstory:

This Sparrow thing:

Cool. Cool. Cool. Cool.

Am I angry? Yeah, I’m angry. And I’m mostly angry at Marvel. If we’d gotten the Black Widow movie that we all so richly deserved and desired years ago, I really doubt Red Sparrow could have made it to the screen in this form. And even if Red Sparrow emerges looking like something other than a Black Widow origin carbon copy, it feels like this old trope of the lady spy written by a man—Lawrence’s character is described as “forced to use her body as a weapon”—could use a rest.

Also, hey, Marvel: Red Sparrow author Jason Matthews sold the film rights to his book for seven figures before it was even published in 2013. Sounds like the idea was hot property! If only someone had come up with the concept for a movie starring a highly trained deadly Russian ballerina spy before. Seems like that could’ve been a winner.

(images: Marvel, 20th Century Fox, screengrab)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.