I don't know what reaction Sony were hoping to elicit with the first trailer for Kraven the Hunter, but I can tell you what mine was: I laughed and laughed and laughed. The dodgy CGI! Russell Crowe's vaguely Eastern European accent! Aaron-Taylor Johnson's bafflingly flat line delivery! All hilarious. And yet, the film is trying so hard to look like a grown-up action movie, complete with nose-chewing, gruesome man traps, and crossbow deaths, that it slides into camp.
Let's be honest here, this movie is not looking promising and absolutely nobody who has been paying attention to this thing, or who saw Morbius last year, should be at all surprised by that. Sony's ongoing attempts to create a Spider-Man-adjacent cinematic universe have always felt like a slightly desperate folly, and as rumors about the direction the R-rated project is taking have seeped out, so too has a sense that this Kraven has very little to do with his comic book counterpart.
Let's take a look at some of the ways the two differ. We've only got a trailer so far to go on, and it might yet be good! But still, I'm very confused...
Kraven is nice to animals now?
In the comics, Kraven tracks, cages, and kills animals - I mean, the clue is right there in the "the Hunter" part of his name. And yet here we see a young Sergei Kravinoff (as played by Levi Miller) take aim at a lion, but then falter, leading his father to reject him for being too weak. This follows on from star Aaron Taylor-Johnson's previous comments at the CineEurope conference (reported on by Variety) about his character being: "A human with conviction. An animal lover and a protector of the natural world."
Look, we get it. Movies based around villains are a tough sell, and making your protagonist somebody who takes joy in the death of innocent creatures is going to instantly make him much less sympathetic. This version of the character is playing up Kraven's anti-hero aspects, setting him up to take down unambiguously bad guys. But if, as it appears from the trailer, Sergei is now an animal lover then a big bit of what made Kraven unique has been erased.
Boring gangster bobbins
We've only got a few brief glimpses of Sergei's father, as played by Russell Crowe, doing what can only be described as a "Kenneth Branagh in Tenet" accent, to go on, but it looks like the film is setting Daddy Kravinoff up as a gangster.
Yawn! In the comics, Sergei is from an aristocratic family line that falls into ruin after the Russian revolution, forcing them to flee to the United States. That's an interesting and unique angle that also helps to explain some of his barely-concealed rage.
Of course, that background is not incompatible with his father being a crime lord, and it does look like the Kravinoffs live in a big old mansion, but playing up the gangster aspect feels more than a little tired. It's pretty much the stock comic book movie villain at this point.
I guess Kraven's powered by lion blood now
In the trailer's most eyebrow-raising moment we witness a young Sergei being mauled by a CGI lion. Injured, the creature bleeds into one of his wounds, seemingly activating his special powers.
For the avoidance of any doubt, Kraven the Hunter in the comics is not powered by animal blood. When he was first introduced in 1964's Amazing Spider-Man #15, he was just a guy, albeit one who relied on "a secret potion, stolen from the witch-doctor of a hidden African tribe" (later established to be Calypso) to give him enhanced strength, speed, and to slow his aging. Some of these powers have certain animal-like attributes - such as his enhanced sense of smell - but he didn't get them because a lion bled on him a bit.
Also, don't try this at home! If you are bitten by a rat you won't get special rat powers. You might get the Hantavirus.
Of course, not being faithful to the source material doesn't mean that Kraven The Hunter will automatically be a terrible movie. Plenty of the mainline MCU films feature heavily remixed characters and situations and have worked out just fine, while Christopher Nolan's very individual Dark Knight trilogy is still widely loved to this day. And who amongst us thought that Sony's Venom movies would turn out to be as much fun as they are?
But from where we're standing, watching Aaron Taylor-Johnson cower from some spiders (oh god, this is going to be why he hates Spider-Man, isn't it?), this is shaping up to be 2023's Morbius. I can't wait.
Kraven The Hunter is in cinemas on October 6.
You can find out about the comic book Kraven, and how he beat Spider-Man, right here.