Inception blatantly invites comparisons. The zero-g simulation and the center room of the dream heist evoke the mystery of 2001, the cityscape of Limbo wants to look like Brazil, and the gimmicky plot screams “this is what Matrix 2 and 3 should have been like”. Failed ambition.
If I were in want of stunning visuals lacking in emotional and logical depth, Avatar would be a much better fit than this and do the job much more nicely and honestly, without leaving the tinny taste of being taken for a sucker in the mouth. For all its technical glory, Inception makes almost no sense as story or metaphor, and it’s sad to imagine the movie this could have been, in the hands of a writer/director taking the mind seriously. Diving down into somebodies subconscious ought to be unsettling and intense, but instead there is just stuff being blown up and secret agents shooting blanks: mind as submachine gun. Yawn.
Additionally, the only way Inception can keep you from falling through the cracks in the plot is by keeping everything in frenzied motion. But once the action stops, everything crumbles. The crumbling is pretty to look at, no doubt, but what remains in the end is still only technorubble.