The villain of Sony’s Venom movie has been confirmed to be a little-known symbiote known as “Riot” – but is it possible this being is destined to become the far more famous Spider-Man villain, Carnage? A sociopathic serial killer, Carnage is Venom’s most powerful nemesis. The monstrous creature was created when a symbiote bonded with a man who’s addicted to death and bloodshed.
When Sony first announced the Venom movie, viewers assumed that Carnage would be the main villain. Superhero films tend to use “mirror image” bad guys, and Carnage seemed a natural choice. Where Eddie Brock tries to keep his bloodlust in check – the trailers have shown him battling with the symbiote, trying to insist that it should only harm criminals – Cletus Kasady revels in it. The feud between Venom and Carnage is deeply personal, and the stakes are high – when Carnage is around, anyone and everyone is in danger.
However, while Woody Harrelson is rumored to appear as Kasady in Venom, that’s said to be more of a cameo tease; it appears that Sony is saving Carnage for a sequel of some kind, possibly even setting up a Maximum Carnage-inspired crossover event that pits their various antiheroes against the ruthless murderer. But could the studio actually be playing a bait-and-switch, subtly changing Riot so that he actually becomes Carnage? Let’s look at the evidence.
- This Page: How Riot and Carnage Fit Into Venom
- Next Page: Could Riot Actually Become Carnage?
The Changes Made to Riot for the Venom Movie
Riot is a character lifted straight from the comics, although Sony appear to have taken great liberties with the concept and design. In part that’s to fit with the new origin story presented in Venom and make Riot a credible threat for Eddie Brock. After all, in the comics Riot is usually accompanied by four sibling symbiotes, and Venom has handily defeated all five of them at once. However, the changes that Sony have made are a little too significant for these two arguments to account for all of them.
The comic book version of Riot was introduced in the Venom: Lethal Protector miniseries, one of five symbiotes created by the Life Foundation after they forcibly extracted symbiote “seeds” from Venom himself. Each symbiote was bonded to one of the Life Foundation’s security officers; in the case of Riot, the creature was bonded to the brutal mercenary named Trevor Cole. Unlike Venom, the Riot symbiote was initially unable to influence its host; it was too young, and thus lacked the symbiote’s typically formidable mental resources.
The Five Symbiotes all had their own distinctive color, with Riot’s being dark blue. Influenced by Cole, Riot developed a preference for forming the symbiote into blunt-edged, brutal weapons like maces and hammers. After Cole’s death, the Riot symbiote spent some time jumping from host to host. It was most recently seen working for the US Government, bonded with Petty Officer Howard Ogden.
Venom‘s take on Riot is very different. In the film, the symbiote is one of several found by the Life Foundation, who believe that bonding with a symbiote may give humans the evolutionary edge to survive an imminent ecological catastrophe. At San Diego Comic-Con, we learned that the cinematic version of Riot will be unique in that it jumps from host to host; you can never see it coming because it could have bonded with anyone. What’s more, given the symbiote was discovered rather than “hatched,” it’s unlikely to be as young; thus it could conceivably control any of its hosts. The Venom trailer confirmed that Riot will ultimately bond with Carlton Drake. Visually, the Riot symbiote of Venom is also different to the comics. Rather than deep blue in color, it’s silver with red veins. What’s more, it appears to prefer forming sharp, ax-like weapons rather than the typical blunt instruments of the comics.
It’s important to note that, in Venom, the symbiotes themselves appear to have an agenda; in the trailer, Eddie Brock asks his symbiote what it wants; it’s response it to assure him that he will find out. Whatever Riot’s goals may be, though, they seem to involve a lot of death and destruction. It’s also opposed by the Venom symbiote, which is significant given that Venom seems to have a rather pronounced bloodlust too.
Carnage’s Role in the Venom Movie
Sony CEO Tom Rothman confirmed that Carnage would appear in Venom back in June last year, but his role appears to be little more than a cameo. It’s generally believed that Woody Harrelson is playing the part of Cletus Kasady, the maniac who becomes Carnage. Harrelson himself has noted that he’s “in a little fraction of the movie,” but promised viewers that will be setup for “the next one.“
It seems that Sony is in no hurry to use Carnage. They know he’s a popular character and an ideal villain, but seem uncharacteristically reserved in how they plan to tease him out. Venom is really the origin of Eddie Brock, only setting the scene for Carnage for Venom 2 or some crossover event movie (this was originally mooted in the Sony email leaks). Some comic book readers have been disappointed at this, eager to see Venom and Carnage duke it out on the big screen, although they may not have to wait as long as expected…
Page 2 of 2: Could Riot Become Carnage?
Theory: Riot Becomes Carnage
Could Sony have played something of a bait-and-switch, with their version of Riot destined to become Carnage? Certainly, almost all of the changes Sony has made to Riot make the creature much more like the Carnage symbiote: the deep red veins upon its surface are obviously more like Carnage than its comic-book counterpart: Riot’s ax-like weapons are atypical of the comic version but standard for Carnage (or Riot’s “brother” symbiote in the comics, Phage); and, importantly, the symbiote is clearly reveling in the destruction it causes, another character-trait typically associated with Carnage.
All of this leads to the suggestion that Venom‘s Riot is really the proto-Carnage symbiote, ready to become the sequel’s villain once it connects with a truly ruthless host. It’s definitely not difficult to envision a situation for the symbiote to get from Dr. Carlton Drake to serial killer Cletus Kasady; if Venom defeats Riot (all but guaranteed to be the case) and Drake survives, the bad doctor is sure to wind up in prison, putting him and any surviving symbiote fragment in close proximity of Kasady. That’s exactly the sort of cameo that Harrelson has teased.
Crucially, there’s some key comic book precedent for multiple aspects of this theory. It’s Kasady’s bloodlust that makes Carnage so dangerous, meaning Riot would evolve somewhat by its new host into a new form. And the Carnage symbiote has bonded to other hosts before, including villains like the Wizard, Karl Malus, and Carla Unger. In one What If? story, it even wound up possessing the Silver Surfer. Why not Carlton Drake?
How This Theory Makes Venom 2 Even Better
This revelation would instantly transform Venom. Rather than just being an origin story for the titular tongue-slavering antihero, it would also become an origin story for Carnage. There’d actually be something of a character arc for the symbiote; viewers would see its already-terrifying bloodlust demonstrated in Venom, only to watch as the symbiote bonded to a serial killer. When Riot returned as Carnage, the insanity of Cletus Kasady would have infected the symbiote itself; all trace of the logic that drives Riot in Venom would be gone, replaced by nothing more than a desire to kill and maim.
The Carnage of the Venom movies would become a true “mirror image” villain. The two symbiotes would be “brothers,” both arriving on Earth in the same crashed spaceship, both victims of the Life Foundation, and both dealing with the same bloodlust. After all, as the Venom trailer demonstrates, Venom himself has no qualms about threatened to chow down on humans – he just chooses to keep that dark part of himself under control, sating it by attacking criminals. In contrast, Carnage is what you get when the bloodlust is unrestrained and all-consuming, overriding all other motives and desires. Carnage would be the personification of everything Eddie Brock fears he could become. And their shared origin would make that all the more terrifying to Venom.
You can get that with Carnage in general, of course, but transforming the Riot symbiote into Carnage would provide a clear narrative throughline from Venom to the next film – whether Venom 2 or a Maximum Carnage event. Venom would truly lay the foundations for what is to come and the apparent absence of Carnage would be transformed from a disappointment to comic book fans to a promising declaration that great things are in store.