Marvel Films has finally put a "Black Widow" movie on its schedule, tentatively for 2020. Some would argue that 20th Century Fox has beaten them to it.
Fox's movie is "Red Sparrow," which opens Friday and features Jennifer Lawrence. J-Law plays Dominka Egorova, a ballerina who is recruited by Russian intelligence into Sparrow School to learn how to seduce Western men. But the purpose of the Sparrow program isn't sex, it's gathering intelligence from Western sources. So Sparrows are assigned to seduce men who are trained to spot agents just like them, and fool those men into thinking the women aren't agents, and then seduce them.
In the movie, her target is CIA agent Nathaniel Nash (Joel Edgerton), who tries to break her conditioning and convince her he's the only one she can trust. Spy-jinks ensue. (Which include enough torture and graphic nudity to be assigned an R rating, so leave the kids at home.) At first blush, this summary does bear more than a little resemblance to Marvel's Black Widow. I don't just mean the nomenclature (color + creature = headliner).
Natalia Alianovna Romanova first appeared in Marvel Comics as international jet-setter Natasha Romanoff in a 1964 "Iron Man" story. Something that was obvious to everyone but Tony Stark (one of those Western men), she had come to A) assassinate a defector, and B) seduce Stark and learn all she could about the Iron Man armor for her Soviet masters. Romanoff failed with Stark, but hooked up with a supervillain: Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye. As Clint moved closer and closer to the side of the angels — eventually becoming an Avenger — he dragged Natasha with him. Their romance didn't last. But her defection did. She became a superhero, and later an Avenger.
And when Marvel eventually got around to giving her an origin, it turned out she was — wait for it — a ballerina. But that's not all! In the 2004 miniseries "Black Widow: Homecoming," we learned that Natasha had been trained from a very young age in the Red Room. This was an espionage school for girls, and from all indications, a pretty vicious one that resembles the cinematic Sparrow School. At Marvel Films, Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) described her Red Room torture to Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in "Avengers: Age of Ultron."
So yes, there are some similarities between Red Sparrow and Marvel's Black Widow. But both are simply sampling from the same wellspring. "Black Widow" arose from the depictions of Cold War espionage in books and movies by the likes of John le Carré and Ian Fleming. So "Red Sparrow" and "Black Widow" will have some similarities, as they are both products of the same genre roots. What it will come to, then, is execution. Fortunately, both of them are really good at that.