WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Sony’s Venom , in theaters now.
Sony’s Venom doesn’t follow Eddie Brock’s traditional path from the comics as a villain, but instead depicts the investigative reporter as a reluctant hero. As such, without the involvement of Spider-Man, who’s now at home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or the evil symbiote Carnage, who’s held in reserve for a sequel, the studio had to find another adversary for the title character.
Enter Riot, another symbiote who’s (literally) larger than life. However, director Ruben Fleischer doesn’t stick to the original depiction of Riot, so let’s look at some changes made to the character in his journey from the comics to the big screen.
Riot debuted in 1993 in Marvel Comics’ Venom: Lethal Protector #4 as one of the offspring extracted from Venom by the Life Foundation and Carlton Drake. It was engineered along with three other symbiotes — Phage, Agony and Scream — as part of Drake’s plan to weaponize the amorphous aliens to create obedient super-soldiers to protect the world’s elite in the event of a doomsday scenario.
In the film, Riot isn’t manufactured by Drake (played by Riz Ahmed), but is instead one of four symbiotes that arrives on Earth and forcibly bonds to human hosts to makes its way from Malaysia to the United States and the Life Foundation. Riot also isn’t some mindless weapon; this vicious symbiote seeks out its own species, used in experiments by Drake, to fulfill sinister mission they all traveled across space to carry out.
In Lethal Protector, Riot was bonded to a soldier called Trevor Cole and used with its other siblings to take down Venom. After surviving Eddie Brock’s wrath, Riot was then involved in the 1994-1995 miniseries Venom: Separation Anxiety, working with its siblings to kidnap Eddie to learn about bonding properly with humans. Cole died in that title, but Riot later merged with another soldier named Howard Ogden (in 2012’s Carnage, U.S.A.) and with Deadpool (in 2014’s Deadpool vs. Carnage) to kill Carnage. Basically, Riot has always been a hunter, tracking its prey.
Fleischer, however, takes a more cerebral approach to the character. Riot doesn’t bond with Cole and become a mindless soldier, but is instead the symbiote leader who merges with Drake to further his species’ invasion plans. Riot is the brutish leader of a first wave of symbiotes, who are assessing what’s require to conquer Earth. Riot eventually realizes Drake has the technology, namely a spaceship, that would allow the symbiote to traverse the galaxy and bring back others to carry out an invasion. As such, the symbiote uses Drake as a pawn, and not the other way around.
Riot’s Killer Instinct
Riot has never really been a leader in the comics. In Lethal Protector and Separation Anxiety, it blindly followed Scream’s orders, highlighting that, despite its brutish appearance, it was merely was a soldier. Riot also wasn’t the strongest of the symbiotes, sparingly using weapons such as axes and swords created from its suit. In fact, despite Fleischer using Riot because of the cool-looking aesthetic and huge size, the director knew he had to power the villain up for the movie.
Superficially, Riot looks the same, in terms of color and design, but on screen, Riot/Drake has a Hulk-like size and is more dominant in battle. Here, Riot is also seen killing humans whenever it can, in contrast to the comics, where it’s shown some restraint. Riot’s power-up comes full-circle in the finale, when we see the entity unleashing giant axes, and killing Drake’s lab staff, as well as when it manhandles Eddie, painting more of an unforgiving general than a soldier carrying out orders.
In theaters nationwide, director Ruben Fleischer’s Venom stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate,Woody Harrelson, Sope Aluko, Scott Deckert, Marcella Bragio and Michelle Lee.
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