I’ve seen this sentiment before, mostly recently expressed here:
Now, yes, it’s James Cameron. You’re not there for stellar dialogue, intricate storytelling, or nuance. And you’re not going to get it.
But this is exactly why Avatar disappoints so on this score: because James Cameron movies traditionally have all of those things. I mean, The Abyss is one of the most ambitious and intelligent science fiction/action movies ever, the Terminator films started a franchise precisely because they were intelligently realized works in addition to being exciting, and Aliens is the best hybrid sci-fi/war/action movie thingy that it could possibly be. Even a lighter work like True Lies is still a pretty clever and smart movie despite having a truly ludicrous premise. All of these films are well-written and, for action movies, willing to be at least somewhat contemplative when it doesn’t harm the pace of the film.
When did this “James Cameron makes dumb films” meme start? Was it Titanic? Because Titanic and Avatar are not endemic of his work: they’re outliers.