Spoilers ahead for Venom.
Not a lot about Venom makes any sense. Why did it take the Riot symbiote six months to get to an airport? Why does Venom resemble Spider-Man when the symbiote was never attached to Spider-Man? How did Riot know to look for Carlton Drake? Why is symbiosis so hard to achieve for the other symbiotes, but not a problem for Riot, who can merge with anyone without a problem?
But the question that really got to me was why Venom chooses to sacrifice himself for humanity. The Venom we know for most of the movie views humanity as a food source. Even his host, Eddie Brock, is both an excellent match and an excellent snack (also what was Venom’s plan after he finished eating Eddie from the inside out?). Then, as the movie approaches its third act, Venom has a change of heart. He confesses that on his home planet, he’s a “loser” like Eddie, and that since he now likes Earth, he’s willing to fight with Eddie to save it from a pending invasion led by Riot.
However, in the battle against Riot, Venom basically is willing to sacrifice his life to stop the bad guy. Venom puts his life in mortal peril to where he could easily die, and goes out of his way to save Eddie and humanity as a whole from Riot. It even reaches the point where everyone (except Eddie) thinks Venom died so that Anne has to say a line like, “Hey…Sorry about Venom.” Venom did such a brave and heroic thing, that people (or at least Anne) thought he died doing it.
But why? It’s one thing for Venom to say, “I’d like to stay here on this planet because I like it here, and also I’m not particularly popular among my own species.” But it’s another for Venom, who for most of the story has viewed humanity as more of a food source than individuals with hopes and dream, to show he’s willing to die to save everyone because…he’s a good guy? But he still wants to eat people as the film concludes?
The “Hero Sacrifices Himself to Save the World” is a familiar plot trope in superhero stories, and especially modern superhero movies. But when the hero makes that choice, it’s because it’s the natural evolution of their arc or an expression of their character. When Thor risks his life to stop the Destroyer in Thor, it’s because his character arc has taken him from someone who fights for personal glory to learning to fight for other people, especially the humans he’s grown to love. When Captain America sacrifices himself at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, we have no trouble believing it because we’ve been shown that this is a guy who would dive on a grenade if it meant saving others. The action follows either the story or the character’s personality.
But in the case of Venom, the action follows nothing. There’s no reason for Venom to risk his life because he doesn’t seem to care about people, and it’s never been his arc to learn about why caring for humanity is important. Venom is not about an alien symbiote coming to Earth and learning that people are worth saving. It’s about a cannibalistic, violent force who merges with a hapless shmuck and decides to stick around. Venom’s sacrifice means nothing because even if you buy that he’d be willing to save Earth, that’s different than being willing to die to save it.
For all its bravado about being different than traditional superhero movies, Venom eventually follows one of the most common tropes of the genre. The problem is that Venom never does anything to make us believe the character’s climactic actions. I don’t really mind that Venom is a violent anti-hero. I mind that his heroism is completely unearned.