J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck's Kraven's Last Hunt is without question one of the most compelling Spider-Man story arcs. It's a dark and twisted character study that's totally engrossing. It's all about Kraven's search for happiness and the toll it takes on Peter Parker. DeMatteis and Zeck's narrative is a brilliant ride and honestly, we think The Amazing Spider-Man 3 should be inspired by it.
*Contains Kraven's Last Hunt and The Amazing Spider-Man 1 & 2 spoilers*
Spider-Man's cinematic future with Sony is still unclear, but we do know they're interested in releasing Sinister Six before The Amazing Spider-Man 3. There's no final word yet on the story they'd use in the villainous team's movie or how involved Andrew Garfield will be, but we do know one thing: they're likely going to use Sergei Kravinoff, a.k.a. Kraven the Hunter (this is based on The Amazing Spider-Man 2's hidden credits scene). Also, director Marc Webb told ComicBook.com that he wants to use the character and thinks Kraven's interesting. Now, there's obviously plenty of ways to use Kraven in a story and he's had his fair share of encounters with Spider-Man, but if your objective is to wow audiences with a great movie, you should draw inspiration from the best source material available. In Kraven's case, that's Kraven's Last Hunt.
In case you haven't read the story, we'll give you a quick recap. That said, we stongly encourage reading it for yourself at some point. Seriously, do it. Anyway, Kraven the Hunter is a man who loves challenging hunts. He's conquered every obstacle he's faced, but one keeps eluding him: Spider-Man. No matter how much he stacks the odds in his favor, Spider-Man's raw physical might always overcomes Sergei's skill and tactics. Sergei has even dared to go strike for strike with the wall-crawler, but eventually, Peter's sheer strength and speed proved to be too much for Sergei's own level of durability. Oh, and in case you didn't know, Sergei isn't simply a human wearing crazy clothing. Thanks to herbs and potions, his strength, agility, speed, and durability has been boosted. He also ages much slower than an ordinary human and he's been hunting for decades. He's not on Spider-Man's level in any of these physical attributes, but it's just enough to make a brawl between the two amusing enough.
Sergei is determined to overcome this final challenge and, thanks to Spider-Man making a critical mistake, the villain tags Spider-Man in the neck with a dart. Now that he's drugged, Spidey stands no chance and, after being captured in a net, Kraven aims a rifle at Peter and pulls the trigger. Now, you all probably know Spider-Man wasn't really killed (the projectile drugged Parker and put him in a state simulating death), but this allowed Kraven to bury the hero and then pose as him for two weeks.
Why pose as Spidey, you ask? So he can prove to himself that he's superior to Spider-Man. That's right, it looks like Sergei beat Doctor Octopus to the title! After slipping into a black Spider-Man costume, Kraven locates Vermin and defeats him in an absolutely savage brawl. This was important to Sergei because the web-slinger previously required Captain America's help to defeat Vermin, but Sergei did it on his own.
Motivated by his love for Mary Jane, Spider-Man eventually breaks out of his coffin, makes it back to the surface and confronts Sergei. However, Kraven refuses to fight back because he already won and, to him, there's no topping this victory. He set up a scenario that kept Spider-Man occupied and this gave Sergei some alone time to reflect on his victory and what it means. Having finally found true happiness and feeling complete, Sergei gazes at a picture of his family, puts a gun in his mouth and then pulls the trigger.
Sounds a little too dark for a Spider-Man movie that's trying to win over a wide range of fans, doesn't it? Well, let's keep in mind we watched Gwen Stacy's horrific death in the last movie and, in the first one, her father was stabbed by the Lizard (the Spidey movie universe is a rough place for that family, isn't it?). Just because a movie is inspired by an overwhelming dark story arc obviously doesn't mean it needs to follow it scene-for-scene. They're more than capable of working in some of the signature Spidey banter and comedy before taking a more serious turn. The truly important part is giving Kraven and Spider-Man depth and making us experience and understand what it is they hold near and dear in this life. This would mean giving the two more depth than we've any of the characters in the movie universe receive so far. Even as a fan of both movies, it's easy to see this is something they need more of. Not only will it place these character front and center, but the hallucinations both experience hold the potential for some very clever and seriously cool scenes.
It's not like it'll be tough to introduce Kraven to this cinematic world, either. Spider-Man's activities and accomplishments aren't top secret and, as "the world's greatest hunter," Sergei has learned about "the Spider" and traveled to New York so he can face his biggest challenge yet. As for how he can compete with the superhuman hero, the writers should stay true to the source material and justify it with potions and herbs that have enhanced his abilities. It's a simple reason and allows them to move forward with the story. The last thing we need is Kraven being the result of some Oscorp experimentation. Speaking of Oscrop, it's more than likely Harry Osborn will play a role, and he could be pulling Sergei's strings from behind the scenes. He could essentially be egging Sergei on and motivate him into thinking that there is no challenge greater than taking down Spider-Man. This way it keeps Harry as the universe's "big bad" and shows off his ability to manipulate. The dynamic between these two villains could be interesting to observe as well. And no, Kraven wouldn't need to wear just a loincloth or anything else that would look ridiculous on the big screen. As you can see below, he looked thoroughly cool in Grim Hunt (which is a great follow-up, by the way) and it would be easy to make a new design inspired by that costume.
Aside from character arcs, what else can they take from the story? That's a solid question, random reader! It seems like they could easily keep Vermin in the story and stay true to those parts (well, they'd need to tone down a few scenes so it doesn't frighten children). Seeing as Oscorp is a big fan of experiments and then attempting to cover its tracks, the possibility of them creating Vermin and losing control of it doesn't seem very far-fetched, especially when we saw a giant lizard dude attempt to turn the people of New York into lizards and Jamie Foxx zip around as pure electricity. Vermin's easy to bring into this universe and they could say he's been lurking in the sewers, occasionally going to the surface to assault people. Spider-Man could finally spot this creature and have a very public brawl as he attempts to protect people from it. It'll be televised and, through sheer luck or perhaps some help from the authorities, Vermin will be forced to retreat. By doing this, Kraven becomes aware of the creature Spider-Man could not defeat without cheating and this would serve as his inspiration when he later tries to prove he's "superior." Needless to say, this could produce one of the most gripping fight scenes in the franchise. As for the black suit, Kraven could make it and it would be his own twist on being Spider-Man. There's no need to rush Spidey into that suit just yet and doing that would draw blatant parallels to Spider-Man 3. So, black suit for just Kraven and maybe -- just maybe -- that'll one day motivate Spider-Man to step into a similar costume.
A big part of Spider-Man's journey is his love for Mary Jane and that helps him escape his coffin. It seems probable they'll bring Mary Jane into the picture, but rushing the relationship would be in poor taste -- he really shouldn't be saying "I love you" to Mary Jane before being defeated by Kraven. You know, because of what happened with Gwen. However, that doesn't mean Spider-Man's scenes while he's buried would be any less effective. At this point, he could be dating MJ and feeling conflicted over how to handle it, but the thought of being taken from this world could make him realize he does love her and it's okay to begin moving forward (this will probably be a year or more after Gwen's death). He'll never forget Gwen, but this scenario could make him put his life in perspective and he'll fight harder than ever before to get free and protect the people he loves from the evil that's in the world. He's already faced his biggest failure and you can bet he'll do everything possible to avoid letting that happen again. With him buried and out of commission, the city is open to attacks from the Sinister Six and others. Who would protect Aunt May or MJ if that happened? Clearly, the authorities are outclassed when it comes to these superhuman threats and the city needs Spider-Man. This experience could enhance his dynamic with those two and generate some more emotional and compelling scenes.
Having a story inspired by Kraven's Last Hunt means the movie will avoid an all-too-familiar, cookie cutter kind of plot and that's exactly what this franchise needs. We know they have what it takes to sprinkle plenty of comedy and spectacle into these Spider-Man movies, but this would give them an opportunity to focus on character development and a gripping narrative. Despite enjoying both of Webb's movies, it does feel like they've been playing it safe and this would be a very welcome change of pace -- one that could possibly even change many minds about Sony's handling of the property.
- Sergei Kravinoff