A movie that portrays a father as the protective head of his household???
Avatar: The Way of Water has a lot of things to criticize. From a technical perspective, the three-hour movie is about a full hour too long. There were many long scenes of the dazzling underwater world of an alien world, and for these two parents who had comfy recliner chairs at the theater, the drawn-out immersive experience was enough to make us sleepy at times (you never want to lull your audience to sleep, folks).
The movie itself gave into the pantheism and nature worship of the last film: That Disney-Pocahontas vibe where the evil civilized man comes to destroy the spiritual and noble primitive with his magic firesticks.
In leftist circles, this simplistic commentary on colonialism and conquest is all the rage. But the new Avatar, like its predecessor, doesn't focus on Critical-Race-Theory derivatives or other neo-Marxist tropes. It tells a story of how a family navigates the havoc that greed is wreaking on their world, with an emphasis on the importance of tradition and faith in a higher power.
Jake Sully, the former human Marine who became one of the blue Na'vi aliens and led them to victory in the first film, is now a father of four, with three children of his own and an adopted Na'vi daughter. He also watches out for a human teenager nicknamed "Spider" who has lived with the aliens his whole life.
In the opening minutes of the film, we see his kids being born and growing up. Jake talks about how fast time goes as we see his firstborn child being dedicated, then moments later catching his first fish. His children wrestle as Jake tells them to knock it off. Jake and his wife, Neytiri, have a date night away from the kids by flying their winged mounts through the magical floating mountains.
But then, everything changes. A small fleet of human spaceships returns with the goal of terraforming the alien planet for human habitation and eliminating the Na'vi "insurgency" led by Jake.
This film is centered entirely around Jake, Neytiri, and their family. It is the movie's greatest strength, although it sadly means the plot line doesn't advance as much as you'd hope for a THREE-HOUR FILM. But that gripe aside, the movie portrays a healthy model of marriage, parenting, and the nuclear family that I haven't seen from Hollywood in countless years.
Let me give you some examples:
- In one scene, Jake scolds his sons for doing something reckless, then tells his wife that it is his job as their father to be hard on them sometimes. I couldn't believe I was hearing this in 2022 in a Hollywood movie! A father who understands his role in disciplining and teaching his children???
- In another scene, Jake and Neytiri argue as they consider leaving their forest to protect their tribe since the humans are hunting for them specifically. Their children listen from outside their tent as the couple hashes out their disagreement. In the end, however, Neytiri submits herself to her husband's leadership. I was flabbergasted! A big-budget film that shows husbands learning to be servant leaders who fiercely love their families, and strong wives learning to help and respect their husbands?? Neytiri isn't some pushover, either! She has a bigger body count in both movies than her husband. She is fierce beyond measure, but she knows how to encourage and guide – the exact type of woman a man wants to be with!
- At several points of the movie, Jake says this: "A father protects. It's what gives him meaning." I could practically hear the triggered snowflakes seething. People with a working brain understand this truth in their bones. It's why so many men are obsessed with EDC (every day carry). It's why I keep buying guns that get lost in tragic boating accidents. It's why I install locks and security cameras, check the tire pressure on our van before a roadtrip, and constantly have my head on a swivel in public. It is my role to protect my family. I will die without hesitation to do so. Avatar depicts fatherhood in a strong and beautiful light. Jake isn't perfect, and you see some of his failures as a father as well. But Jake is the leader and protector of his family, and he embraces that responsibility. He is the exact opposite of the soyboy man child that seems to be everywhere in culture today.
- In one sad moment, Neytiri finds herself at the end of her rope, overcome with emotion. Jake helps her focus and find her center in the midst of her internal chaos. There is no trite joke here about how women are more emotional or hysterical than men. Neytiri's emotion and passion is her strength, but also her greatest weakness. As a loving husband, Jake covers that weakness with his own personal strengths, helping her channel those emotions into something powerful and productive. I'm not going to spoil the scene, but DANG does she do something powerful and productive. This male-female dynamic in marriage is something modern society wants to ignore instead of embracing it for the beautiful design that it is.
- Jake also has moments with each of his children in the movie, showing how a dad learns to relate with all of his kids corporately and individually. As any parent knows, sometimes a certain child is harder to get along with (it's often the ones that are the most like us). His adopted child, Kiri, has a special connection with the planet and its creatures. Others think she's weird, but Jake embraces and encourages her.
We see many more examples of healthy family elements in this movie. Having many children is seen as a blessing, not a curse or a burden. Babies are celebrated, society is ordered around the family, children listen to their parents, and traditions are respected and upheld.
All in all, there's a lot of, well, Christian ideology in this movie about pantheistic aliens that combines Pocahontas, Free Willy, Rambo, Dances With Wolves, and Titanic into one giant package.
Sure, it's not as thrilling as Top Gun: Maverick.