Sony is now three movies into is shared universe of Marvel Characters, and for the most part, they’ve all been pretty much the same thing. In Venom, the title character learns to control his abilities and accept his destiny while doing battle with a more sinister version of himself. In Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the title character once again learns to control his abilities and accept his destiny while doing battle with a more sinister version of himself. Finally, in Morbius, the title character learns to control his abilities and accept his destiny while doing battle with a more sinister version of himself. After spending several full minutes studying this pattern and dissecting what may come to be known as “The Sony Formula,” only a single conclusion could be truly reached. In Kraven the Hunter, the title character will likely learn to control his abilities and accept his destiny while doing battle with a more sinister version of himself.
The real question surrounding the next big Marvel-Sony project is who that “more sinister version” of the anti-hero Kraven will be to fight the titular character. Aside from the Venom sequel’s inevitable use of Carnage, the SonyVerse has had to make a couple deep pulls to materialize antagonists for its solo Spider-Villain movies. The symbiote-heavy stories at least have a handful of “Venom but worse” baddies to choose from, but Morbius literally had to create it’s own original character in order to satisfy the “Sony Formula” developed in the studio’s screenplay labs. As if further proof is needed of the plot recipe’s existence, Matt Smith was originally announced as playing the very minor comic malefactor Hunger before his role was morphed into something that more closely resembled Jared Leto‘s protagonist. So, if one were to try a guess at who the currently-unrevealed villain of Kraven is, they would probably be best off looking for an obscure Spider-Man criminal with a power that reflects the lead’s own skill set. Enter: Grim Hunter.
In the comics, Sergei Kravinoff is somewhat of a family man. He spawned four children with his lover Sasha, all of whom grew up to be problems for either Spider-Man or Kraven himself. The oldest son and firstborn child, Vladimir, aspired to be as good of a hunter as his renowned father, and eventually dabbled with an experimental elixir enough to make it almost all the way there. Once at full power, he named himself the “Grim Hunter” after a legendary warrior he was told stories about as a boy, and went after Spider-Man. He would ultimately be killed in battle by Peter Parker’s clone Kaine, revived decades later by his mother in the form of a humanoid lion-like creature, and then be killed again by his father for not living up to the family name. It’s a lot to take in, but it’s probably just enough for Sony to use as the basis for a solo Kraven film.
The problem is that story doesn’t make Sony’s “bad guy who’s also sort of good” come off in the best light, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson seems a little young to be a guy with a fully grown son. This is where Russell Crowe comes in. Back in February, the famed actor was cast in a mystery role for Kraven the Hunter that The Illuminerdi claimed would be Nikolai Kravinoff. Though whether or not this is true remains to be seen, having Crowe as the father of the eponymous Hunter would help to fill in a few blanks where the movie’s antagonist is concerned. While he was never a major player in any specific comic book stories, Nikolai was instrumental in shaping who Sergei would become. He was an abusive dad, who tormented Sergei and his half-brother Dmitri (a.k.a. Chameleon, set to be played by Fred Hechinger in the movie) before dying and leaving the boys orphaned. This life aspect seems like an easy inclusion for the writers trying to make their hero sympathetic, and the recent casting of Levi Miller, who looks an awful lot like a young Taylor-Johnson, suggests that fans might be treated to some flashbacks over the course of the film.
Of course, Sony wouldn’t get someone as talented as Crowe for a few simple flashbacks, which indicates Nikolai could potentially have a bigger role in the plot than comic book history implies. In fact, it seems likely that Sony could take the comic relationship between Sergei and Vladimir and flip it on its head, casting Nikolai as the legendary “Grim Hunter” and Sergei as the firstborn son trying to live up to his father’s legacy. Doing this would give Taylor-Johnson‘s Kraven a reasonable motive to become the world’s greatest hunter, and the unavoidable climax in which Kraven defeats his crazed poppa and vows to be a Hunter with more honor than him would do wonders in portraying the titular character as more anti-hero than a straight villain.
The one broken cog in this theory is Christopher Abbott‘s The Foreigner. Recently announced as a villain in the film, the character fits the bill of “wildly obscure Spider-Man villain with abilities similar to the protagonist.” He’s a master assassin in peak physical condition and an expert martial artist. And unless that character is also dramatically altered, there isn’t much there in the way of emotional conflict between him and Sergei. Perhaps they are both after the same target, but even that seems like a weak central conflict. Imagine instead that Crowe‘s Nikolai is pulling the strings in the background, using Foreigner as a test of his son’s might before using the elixir Vladimir used in the comics and taking the stage himself for a grand final duel. Maybe Foreigner is even reimagined as another child of Nikolai, alongside Sergei and Dmitri, dramatically revealed to the audience just before the Grim Hunter coldly kills him for failing to outdo Sergei.
Obviously, absolutely none of this is confirmed and is almost entirely fun conjecture. It’s a theory that’s been stewing in my brain for a while that I thought would be fun to get out there. It’s very possible none of this comes to fruition, but it would be very entertaining if even an ounce of it turns out to be true. In the spirit of this article, I’ll leave off on one more little theory nugget, throwing out what seems like an entirely plausible post-credits scene based on what we’ve seen Sony do in the past. Chameleon is already confirmed for the movie, and in the comics, is the one who tells Sergei about Spider-Man’s existence in the first place. It feels like this would be something Sony might want to capitalize on. Probably.