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How Similar Is Red Sparrow to Marvel's Black Widow?

WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Red Sparrow, in theaters now.

Ever since the first trailer for Jennifer Lawrence's Red Sparrow was released, Marvel fans were quick to point out that the spy thriller looked like a facsimile of Black Widow. The broad strokes were all there: a young Russian woman, a deadly spy school, ballerinas, national intrigue. Even the title of the film, a codename-y combination of a color and an animal, sounded familiar; red instead of black, a sparrow instead of a spider.

However, it's important to note that Lawrence's new film is inspired by the 2013 novel of the same name, written by author Jason Matthews, a former CIA operative, who no doubt brought a great deal of expertise and real-world inspiration into his spy story. This is a fact Red Sparrow director Francis Lawrence was quick to point out, when asked to comment on the perceived similarities between his film and Marvel's Black Widow. "This is not pulled from BW, this is pulled from Red Sparrow," the director said. "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."

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Now that the film has been released, audiences are learning whether Lawrence was right. Is the movie truly different from Marvel's Black Widow? Or do both the Sparrow and the Widow walk a very fine line where the two easily intersect?

While the two can look the same from the outside, the short answer is that they are incredibly different from one another. Perhaps the initial confusion stems from Red Sparrow's marketing, which featured trailers that played up the similarities between Marvel's foremost spy and Matthews' book. But once you sit down and watch the film you see, from the start, that while Red Sparrow may be the film that was advertised, it's also much more. Point A and B might sound familiar, but from C to Z, we find ourselves in uncharted territory, far away from Marvel's wheelhouse.

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