WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for director Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow, in theaters now.
The focus may be on the looming release of Avengers: Infinity War, and rightfully so, but Marvel Sis also busy planning its next big steps. The studio just staked out six release dates in 2021 and 2022, one of which could be for the long-discussed — and long demanded — Black Widow movie starring Scarlett Johansson.
With her big-screen debut in 2010’s Iron Man 2, super-spy Natasha Romanoff became the female face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a status cemented by subsequent appearances in Avengers and Captain America films. Now, Black Widow is poised to set out on her own, but what direction will that take, and what type of movie will it be? Surely, a Black Widow film will more than likely focus on the character’s origin. Luckily, director Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow might offer some idea of what Marvel’s long-anticipated spy thriller could look like.
Based on the 2013 novel by ex-CIA operative Jason Matthews, Red Sparrow has of course drawn comparisons to Black Widow. Although the characters played by Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett Johansson are ultimately quite different, they inhabit similar fictional worlds.
Marvel Studios has found great success with its movies by approaching each as a different genre. For example, Guardians of the Galaxy was a space opera, Ant-Man was a heist film, and Captain America: The Winter Solider was a 1970s-style thriller. The case will likely be the same for Black Widow, which should take some cues from Red Sparrow in order to inhabit the modern thriller.
While Natasha’s origins were touched upon in 2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron, extensive flashback sequences showcasing Natasha’s formative years are something most fans would like to see. Early on in Red Sparrow, we’re shown Lawrence’s Dominika Egorova learning the tricks of the trade inside the gruesome and explicit Red Sparrow school. While we wouldn’t expect Marvel to go as far as this rated-R film does, Black Widow should at least show a bit more of the horrors that Natasha goes through to become the reformed assassin we now know her to be.
Furthermore, the life of a spy isn’t all glamorous clothes and martinis. Red Sparrow paints a much bleaker reality, filled with abuse and manipulation. There is fear-mongering and mistrust around every corner. Black Widow would undoubtedly feature more action than Red Sparrow, but it would do well to take inspiration from the film in order to dive more into the realistic aspects of the spy trade rather than the fantasy. We know from Natasha and Loki’s exchange in 2012’s The Avengers that she had a sordid past, a “red ledger” dripping with blood that haunts her. The Black Widow went on numerous missions before she was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent or an Avenger, and her solo film should focus on the darker aspects of the character.
Francis Lawrence’s film is layered, and it keeps you guessing. The characters in Red Sparrow wear masks, and every scene makes you wonder what someone is actually up to. It’s not until the movie reaches its conclusion that you finally see the whole picture and recognize that you, too, were duped. Such is the mark of a good spy film, and it’s once again something that Black Widow should feature. A spy’s work lies in deception, and the audience should participate in that as well. We know that Natasha is a master manipulator — she even managed to dupe the Asgardian god of mischief Loki — and her movie should allow those special skills shine, and entangle the audience itself.
Red Sparrow is a slow-paced film, something we know Black Widow won’t be. But it should still be slower than your average Marvel release, and definitely less humorous. Natasha is a darker character than the rest of the Avengers, and her film should showcase that. It should be quieter and infinitely more brutal.
If anything, Black Widow should push the boundaries of what audiences expect of a Marvel production. Like Red Sparrow, it should make you question the state of power in the world, and how someone, no matter which cloth they are cut from, can upset that balance.
In theaters now, Red Sparrow stars Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeremy Irons.
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