Avatar: The Way Of The Water, James Cameron’s years-in-the-making Avatar sequel, only arrived in theaters about two weeks ago, yet it’s already become the second highest-grossing movie of the year, with a global box office of about $1.2 billion (less than $300 million shy of Top Gun: Maverick’s nearly $1.5 billion). While critical reviews of the film have been mixed, audiences have readily reimmersed themselves in the plight of the Na’vi, a.k.a. those Blue People. But there’s one plot point in particular that has caused some discord and anger amongst fans: Spider’s (Jack Champion) decision to save his father, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang).
While fans of the original 2009 film undoubtedly remember Quaritch as the villainous chief of security for Earth’s Resources Development Administration (RDA), Spider — Quaritch’s human son, who was abandoned on Pandora and taken in by Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) — is a new character in the film.
Though he has spent his life living among the Na’vi, Spider is forced to work against them when he is kidnapped by his father’s unit to act as a guide and translator. Ultimately, this complicated familial dynamic causes problems for both men, which leads to a life-or-death moment where Quaritch is drowning and his son is forced to choose whether to save his tormentous pops or let him die. After some deliberation, he opts for the former — a decision that has angered many viewers. In an interview with Variety, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, The Way of the Water’s husband-and-wife screenwriting team, explained why they love that the moment had such an emotional impact on viewers — even if they disagreed with their decision.
“The movie allows Spider to explore these ambivalent feelings he’s having,” Silver told Variety of the moment where he must decide whether to let his father live. “I mean, I think it’s fine that the audience is like, ‘Don’t rescue him!’”
Still, both writers stand by their decision from a storytelling perspective. “[T]he idea that Spider is compelled to rescue Quaritch is interesting from a character point of view,” said Silver.
“It’s this father-son theme that we dive so deeply into,” added Jaffa, “no pun intended.”