Though he apparently felt as if he was completely done with superhero films after his incarnation of Quicksilver was unceremoniously killed off in Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, actor Aaron-Taylor Johnson has revealed that he only agreed to return to the fold in Kraven the Hunter after researching the villain’s storied comic book history.
The actor, who comic book fans may also remember as having the titular hero in both Kick-Ass films, opened up about his personal feelings while speaking with Esquire for their magazine’s September 2023 cover story.
Reflecting on his superhero career to the outlet’s Alex Pappademas, Johnson opined that after appearing in Age of Ultron, “I mean, quite honestly, I thought I’d actually been done with these sorts of movies.”
Though Johnson did not specify what aspect of his role in the Marvel crossover had burned him out on the entire idea of superhero films, he then admitted that everything changed when the Kraven the Hunter script came across his desk – but not because of the script’s contents itself.
According to the actor, his initial read of the script left him skeptical towards the idea of portraying the Spider-Man villain, but also feeling as if it had the makings of an interesting project.
It was not until he began delving into and engaging with Kraven’s comic book past – most notably J.M. DeMatteis’ seminal 1987 story Kraven’s Last Hunt – that the actor felt the urge to actually take the role – and not just take the role, but also honor the character’s history.
“When you say stuff like ‘I’m the greatest hunter of all time,’ you’ve got to know deep within your being that it’s coming from a place of reality and depth, and feels like it’s possible and plausible,” reflected the actor on his approach to the character.
“You can’t step into this role, you can’t step into what this franchise is, with a f–king half-assed, Let’s see how it goes attitude,” he later added. “You have to be mentally prepared for what could come with that. I think I’m secure in my life now to know that I’m happy to deal with that. I don’t think I was probably ready to invite that into my life earlier on.”
Curiously, despite Johnson’s decision to join the film being swayed by his interest in Marvel’s original depiction of Kraven, Kraven the Hunter will be making two major changes to its titular protagonist.
First and perhaps most noticeable amongst these alterations is the fact that unlike his 616 counterpart, whose “undreamed-of strength and speed” were the temporary result of his consuming a potion “stolen from the witch-doctor of a hidden African tribe”, Johnson’s cinematic Kraven will possess actual superpowers that bestow him with a supernatural connection to animals (think The Falcon’s link to birds).
The second major change to Kraven’s character will see his original comic book motivation of proving himself as the world’s most apex predator replaced with his more updated motivation – as revealed in 2016’s Howard the Duck Vol.6 #6 – of serving as a ‘noble ecowarrior’ who seeks to fight back against humanity’s mistreatment of wild life.
Given these changes, while Johnson’s enthusiasm is a welcome breath of fresh air amidst an etertainment ecosystem rife with people who view comic books as ‘below them’, one is left to wonder just how ‘true to form’ Kraven the Hunter will actually be.
Ultimately, audiences will get the chance to find out when the film roars into theaters on October 6th.