Kraven the Hunter Movie Is Stealing Joker's Best Trick

Sony's first R-rated Marvel film represents a turning point for their supervillain franchise.

Kraven the Hunter in Daredevil: Woman Without Fear #2
Marvel Comics

An R-rated comic book adaptation is a rare beast, and for good reason. While superhero films can certainly dabble in blood, gore, nudity, and sex, that doesn’t always guarantee the massive box office payday most studios want. Marvel’s Cinematic Universe generated mass appeal by catering to the widest demographic possible; their films aren’t always completely family-friendly, but they have a lock on the generic PG-13 superhero flick, which has forced other studios to carve out their own niche in a Marvel-saturated market.

Things are still complicated between Marvel Studios and its on-and-off collaborator, Sony Pictures. While the two studios have partnered to bring Spider-Man into the MCU, Sony has been building its own Marvel Universe from Spidey’s bountiful rogue’s gallery. 2018’s Venom laid the groundwork for a loosely-connected franchise, one that can dip into darker subject matter because its protagonists are villains. Venom, its sequel, and the less-than-memorable Morbius each pushed the limits of the PG-13 rating, but Sony seems ready to go even further with the upcoming Kraven the Hunter.

Kraven the Hunter is one of Marvel’s most bloodthirsty villains, making him a perfect fit for an R-rated flick.

Marvel Comics

Kraven the Hunter will be the first R-rated film in Sony’s Spidey-adjacent universe. It’s not the first Marvel property to earn the rating — that honor went to Blade in 1998 — but it is rare. That said, it’s still a smart move for the studio. Sony could be picking up on what DC discovered with Joker, or what Fox achieved before they merged with Disney.

The MCU is its own thing, and very rarely does it fully commit to the adult themes woven throughout the comics. That’s been frustrating for fans of Marvel’s grittier storylines, but Deadpool and Logan picked up the slack. Both films demonstrated the demand for comic adaptations that cater to an adult audience, and both proved there’s money to be made when you let a franchise’s wildest characters exist on their own terms.

Sony’s new universe is still fairly young, and it’s been hit-or-miss. But Sony has come a long way in establishing a darker antithesis to the MCU. Kraven could be just the project Sony needs to flesh out its own identity, separate from Marvel but still close enough to support future crossovers. This won’t solve the weird multiversal rules that have plagued films like Morbius, but if Sony wants to survive in the hero-dominated landscape, they’re going to have to focus on fixing up their own sandbox first.

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