As a writer, James Cameron’s Avatar is garbage. Unimaginitive naming. Generic set-piece plot elements. Film science that Gene Roddenberry would toss out.
But there’s more to the film than the writing. Spectacular visuals. Ground-breaking technology invented specifically by the director to create the film. And that’s what makes it amazing, and why writers have to look beyond only their words.
More than a century ago, another film did what Avatar did. It had a budget unheard-of for the times. It took drastically longer to film than its contemporaries. And it introduced new methods of filming that forever changed the genre.
Yes, Birth of a Nation is a problematic film historically. Blatant racism. White supremacy propaganda. The propogation of the Lost Cause myth still causing trouble in the US today.
But cinematically, its impact is invaluable. The first feature-length film. The first use of set pieces, wide-angle shots, transition cuts and legitimate story writing.
It’s the same with Avatar, and it should be the same with any writing. Nobody writes in a vaccum, but you shouldn’t do cookie-cutter copying.
Change the world with your story, and you stand out from the pack. Change the genre, and you become immortal.