The wife and I hadn't really been looking forward to Avatar because we'd heard it was unoriginal and predicatble, etc. Well, we went yesterday and really enjoyed it. Did I think it was the greatest movie ever? No, but it hit all the right notes, and was firing on most of its cylinders most of the time. It got me involved in a great adventure. I left thinking that the criticism I'd expected to agree with had come from an ungenerous place.
I think that too often people forget that what's old hat for them is new to lots of other people. YOU may not be the target audience for Stephanie Meyer's work or for J.K. Rowling, but somebody sure is, and if some of the critics had heard (or read the essays from) the number of students over the last few years who have reported to me how Meyer or Rowling got them fired up about reading, or introduced them to fantasy, I think they might be more charitable... although they'd probably manage it with noses in the air anyway.
Here's a cliche (minus the accent mark I can't figure out how to add): there's nothing new under the sun. We keep tapping and retapping the same mythic elements for a reason -- they speak to us. Avatar was a good story, even if it has elements we'd seen before. It worked; it lifted me out of the mundane, and fired up the imaginations of my children. Any of my friends who are reading this and who were buying the word of the critics should go see it on the big screen, preferably a 3D screen, while they can.