Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kraven the Hunter movie has potential to be interesting, and fans should at least wait for a trailer before writing it off.
Kraven the Hunter is my favorite Marvel villain. I’m the proud owner of a pretty beat up copy of his first appearance in Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s The Amazing Spider-Man #15. I find myself rereading J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck’s Kraven’s Last Hunt annually, and my local comic shop, Final Boss Comics & Games, knows that I shamelessly want every new appearance of Kraven on my pull list. So its a bit of a bummer to watch so many comic book movie fans preemptively writing off Sony Pictures’ upcoming Kraven the Hunter film, even if I do understand where the doubt is coming from.
When written properly, Sergei Kravinoff, a.k.a. Kraven the Hunter, is a fascinating villain. Sure, there’s the surface appeal of the unique character design combined with his fighting abilities and cunning tactics, but there’s much more to Kraven than that. There’s a commentary on ego and an unhealthy focus on valuing work and reputation over everything else. Sergei’s constantly needing to prove to himself that he’s the best. There’s a commentary on mental health. I won’t elaborate on that one because it’s never too late to experience Kraven’s Last Hunt for the very first time. There’s a commentary on nature vs. nurture. Sergei was born into a wealthy Russian aristocratic family, yet he craved the simplicity and unwritten rules of the natural world. And there’s even a commentary on instilling the wrong values in a family dynamic. Sergei’s family history and relationship with his children is complicated, twisted, violent, and driven by arrogance.
As someone from wealth who fled during the Russian Revolution in 1917 and traveled the world to face new challenges, Sergei Kravinoff built up his reputation as Kraven the Hunter before he made his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #15 and met the wall-crawler. There’s a story to be told there that has nothing to do with Spider-Man — a globetrotting, character-driven adventure that delves into his family history, challenging his own limitations, and experimenting with the potions that would slow his aging and boost his physical abilities. With Russell Crowe cast as Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s father in the upcoming film, there’s also the potential of a legacy story. Sergei Kravinoff has had multiple children — Vladimir, Alyosha, Ana, and most recently, a clone that took his father’s name — and each one attempted to follow in their father’s footsteps in their own unique ways.
So when people argue you “can’t” make a Kraven movie without Spider-Man, I disagree. Obviously, I would love to see the two share the big screen together, but the argument that Kraven cannot exist without Spider-Man simply isn’t true. There’s the potential for an interesting Kraven the Hunter movie in Sony’s Venom-verse if the themes are handled well, and they draw the right inspiration from the source material. So, why does it feel like a majority of vocal comic book fans have already written off this movie?
First and foremost, Sony’s plan for the Venom-verse is still unclear to the general audience, and that uncertainty generates an enormous amount of doubt amongst comic book fans. It makes every new announcement without Spider-Man appear like an attempt to grab whatever intellectual property is available and capitalize on the growing interest in comic book properties instead of actually trying to do something fresh and exciting with a cinematic universe. I know making money is always the objective — it’s a business, after all — but the lack of a plan, or at least mysterious nature of the plan, is seriously hindering the way these films are being received. With the current trend, I doubt most comic fans will go into Kraven the Hunter with an open mind, assuming they even see it at all.
Based on the post-credits Morbius scene and previous plans the studio had, it’s clear Sony wants to build a Sinister Six… But why? It has yet to be confirmed that a Spider-Man exists in the Venom-verse. If a version of the web-slinger does exist there, why hold on to that news instead of getting people excited about the future of this cinematic universe? I’m confident that the conversation about these films would change significantly if fans knew Andrew Garfield was reprising his role to take on the likes of Tom Hardy’s Venom, Jared Leto’s Morbius, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kraven the Hunter, and more. Instead, we get announcements of more Spider-Man related characters, but Spider-Man’s absence and no clear vision for the bigger picture continues to cast a shadow over everything the studio is doing.
Will Venom be the target of the Sinister Six? If so, the dynamic is totally different when the “hero” is willing to bite off a bad guy’s head, but there’s no denying that a clash between these characters has the potential for a lot of popcorn fun. If that is where the studio is heading they really need to let audiences know. There’s already such an impressive amount of comic book related media options for people to enjoy, whether it’s from the comfort of their own home or in the theaters. Sony needs to be crystal clear about how the Venom-verse stands apart, otherwise most fans will remain skeptical.
While there have been a variety of great comic book movies over the decades, Marvel Studios’ success with the Marvel Cinematic Universe has raised expectations for many moviegoers. With a focus on spectacle, comedy, and a connective tissue that slowly moves the universe forward, the MCU has undeniably been a success in terms of box office and overall reactions from critics and fans. Love it or loathe it, the MCU has raised the general moviegoing audiences expectations for a cinematic universe, and that’s undoubtedly playing a role in how the Venom-verse and its lack of transparency with planning is being received. Throw in the fact that they allegedly cannot offer the biggest thing fans want — Spider-Man fighting and/or teaming up with these villains and anti-heroes — and that just adds to the skepticism.
A logo hasn’t even been revealed yet for Kraven the Hunter, yet people are already bashing the film. Information is extremely limited about the upcoming movie, but Aaron Taylor-Johnson recently spoke about the role. While he tried to explain what helps the film stand apart and what makes Kraven interesting, he, unfortunately, instilled even more doubt and mockery from fans when he called Kraven an “animal lover.” When the character’s name has “the hunter” in it and he’s wearing a lion’s vest and cheetah pants, it’s easy for people to jump to conclusions and assume Sony’s not delivering on expectations of what the character should be. I understand why people jumped on that quote, but I’m actually willing to give Taylor-Johnson the benefit of the doubt and assume he chose his words a little poorly there. In the comics, Kraven firmly believes he respects nature and has his own code of honor. While I would never call Kraven an “animal lover” I would argue he prefers the natural world over modern civilization, and perhaps that’s what Taylor-Johnson was trying to express.
The actor also called Kraven an anti-hero. Kraven is, first and foremost, recognized as a villain, so that’s another comment that makes it easy for fans to say the studio is straying too far from the source material and doesn’t understand the characters it has the rights to. However, I’d argue that with Kraven’s own sense of honor, he is absolutely capable of walking the thin line between being a hero and villain and has even done so in the past. Yes, he’s undoubtedly done some truly terrible things, but the potential exists for an adaptation that steers him in a slightly more “heroic” direction. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl helped steer Sergei on a path to redemption, and personally, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to see Kraven start targeting other villains. It’s also worth noting that Kraven was not a villain in 1994’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series, so an adaptation of Kraven that feels a little more like an anti-hero is totally doable while staying true to the classic character’s values.
While the mockery of Morbius (and its rushed attempt to tease the Sinister Six) is generating even more doubt about Kraven the Hunter, I would encourage my fellow comic book fans and moviegoers to try to keep an open mind until we at least have a trailer. It’s an entirely different cast and crew on this film, and shouldn’t you get at least a little more context about how the character and story will be handled before completely writing off a movie? Maybe Kraven the Hunter will be bad. Maybe, it’ll be great. Maybe, it’ll be divisive. Or maybe, it’ll simply be fun. We barely have any details and, again, there isn’t even a logo yet, so how about we wait for a little more context before jumping to conclusions?
Regardless, the widespread doubt and confusion is understandable because the big issue here is that Sony doesn’t seem to have a grand plan for this Venom-verse outside of building a Sinister Six. And if they do have a plan, it would be wise for them to make some big reveals sooner rather than later, otherwise, I’m betting a lot of the comic book community won’t be willing to check out Kraven the Hunter or give it a fair shot when it opens in theaters next year. I do hope this editorial changes a few minds and encourages people to give the movie a fair chance, but hey, maybe deep down, I’m really rooting for Sony and the Venom-verse because I’d also love to see a Cardiac movie one day. That guy is way overdue for some time in the spotlight.
Gregg Katzman is CBR’s Exclusive Content & PR Manager, responsible for coordinating the site’s interviews, reviews, and new initiatives. He has more than of a decade of experience in the industry, previously working for Comic Vine, Screen Rant, IGN Entertainment, Midtown Comics, and Valiant Entertainment.