John, I did get that your post was tongue-in-cheek. But I also got that you hated the film, because, well, you said it outright. Perhaps I should be glad that you hated it, as opposed to being indifferent about it, because at least I know Nolan got under your skin.
As far as your comments regarding "psychic rape"- shock value notwithstanding- I would agree with you that the film doesn't address the moral implications of the extractors' behavior. We do get the sense that they are rogue but en vogue and we are rooting for them. But we were also rooting for Clooney and his gang in Ocean's 11, even though the money they are stealing constitutes the livelihood of many an addicted gambler. There are no Robin Hoods in that bunch to be sure. My point is that sometimes a film needs to be amoral so as not to distract the audience. It's a story, right or wrong, and I don't always want to be preached at. Samson wasn't exactly a good guy, but we love reading about him. The consequences of his actions caught up with him, but we are never told specifically by the narrator that his actions are sinful (I don't think- it's been a while). Besides that, we are not certain by the end of Inception that Cobb isn't stuck in his own unreality, and maybe he never will be either. That's a pretty heavy consequence if you ask me.
I would agree with your notion (though not necessarily the framing of it :)) that we are led to believe that Fischer, Jr. ultimately benefits from being mindbanged. I took issue with this as well- I mean, they're being hired after all to eliminate the competition. Saito goes from being victim to collaborator to martyr, Fischer finds himself and decides to forge his own path out from under his father's shadow, Cobb learns to let go of his dead wife... it's a freakin' after school special! And people are saying it has no heart? Hence my use of the pacemaker analogy- it feels a little forced. Nolan is massaging the heart of the film and is seems a little overwrought. However, we have to relate to Fischer and Cobb and the whole bunch because if we don't, we get distracted from Nolan's Big Idea- what if you could steal something from someone's mind through a dream? How could that work, and how would it screw you up? We'd be too busy worrying about morality and good guys and bad guys- there aren't really good guys and bad guys in this film. The real antihero, the real nemesis, is Reality itself.
I would say that of the big three (idea, character, effects) idea is most important to me. Not that I only can enjoy films with a Big Idea- I'm just more forgiving if I like the Big Idea in a film but other elements are out of place. I need more, however, than just well-developed characters or great special effects to carry me through a film- generally speaking. But I get excited by ideas, and Inception has more than a few exciting ones. This is why I love The Happening. I'll try not to go on a "why does everyone hate M. Night" rant at the present moment, but I love that he had the audacity to try to turn a B-movie sci-fi premise (Nature Strikes Back!) into a serious movie. And I've loved pretty much everything he's put out because of it. He's sticking his middle finger up at the movie industry, and often it's messy, and not all the pieces are in place, but he's getting a reaction out of his audience. Nolan, in a less extreme way, is trying to do something similar. I have often noted that I could watch ten crappy sci-fi/horror films before I'd watch one sappy rom-com, or 5 snobby arthouse films. Give me a good idea to think about and I'll be on it for days.
I appreciate, Brandon, your comment about critics writing off SFX. The Day After Tomorrow is one of my favorite recently made films. Is it because it's got a great plot and well-developed characters? Or even a logically sound central idea? No- it's because I believe that that's what New York City would look like frozen and half underwater. And I think, How awesome would it be to walk around in that? I get a kick out of all those big-budget disaster movies for the same reason. I, too, watch movies to escape sometimes. It's fun to lose myself in an otherworldly setting. Inception gave me that, and I'm not complaining. Maybe my standards are too low :).