Marvel’s superhero supergroup blockbuster The Avengers hasn’t even opened in the U.S. yet, and has already made enough money to fund every horrible business idea of every adult on the planet (I’m starting a supermarket chain that only sells Cheddar cheese). But that’s not enough to satisfy Samuel L. Jackson, a.k.a. Nick Fury, the superspy that assembles The Avengers, and who has appeared in all of the flicks building up to this here magic moment. Or maybe it’s quite the opposite: Perhaps, drunk with power on The Avengers‘ bonkers commercial success, Jackson is launching a Soviet Russia–style witch hunt to track down and eliminate any and all perceived enemies? Whatever the motivation, Jackson yesterday ended up with venerable New York Times movie critic A.O. Scott in his crosshairs. Taking offense at Scott’s non-ass-kissing review of The Avengers, Jackson fired off this tweet: “#Avengers fans, NY Times critic AO Scott needs a new job! Let’s help him find one! One he can ACTUALLY do!”
So what did Scott do to earn the attention? Not that much, really. His review doesn’t really go in in the manner that one would expect if it is going to be met with a brazen celebrity counterattack. Like, how dare A.O. say that “The secret of ‘The Avengers’ is that it is a snappy little dialogue comedy dressed up as something else,” or that Samuel L. “is more master of ceremonies than mission commander”? Ahhhh! [Shakes clenched fist.] Later, Jackson would elaborate on his point via Twitter responses. As E! points out:
In response to one Scott defender who reminded Jackson that just because a movie makes money doesn’t mean it’s any good, the biggest box-office star of all time tweeted, “Actually, sometimes IT DOES!” … The Film Nest tweeted that they were “disappointed” by Jackson “responding irrationally” to Scott’s opinion, to which Jackson retorted, “That is My Opinion! @TheFilmNest & what’s irrational about it? They aren’t going to fire his jaundiced ass & You & I Know It!”
E! also got A.O. Scott to weigh in on the controversy. Rightly, he seems pretty psyched on it:
“I don’t think Mr. Jackson is actually trying to get me fired,” Scott said. “Actors and filmmakers sometimes respond angrily to negative reviews — I can’t say I blame them — and Twitter is a relatively new and very public forum for that. Rallying ‘fans’ against skeptical critics is a time-honored tactic, and I don’t take it personally … If I’m going to dish out criticism, I should be able to take it. But I must say that I was touched at how many people on Twitter had my back, and more importantly how many were eager to defend the idea that honest and independent criticism has a place, even when the targets are superhero blockbusters and big movie stars. As usual with Twitter, there was a mixture of silliness and insight that made for a fun afternoon.”
Besides the obvious — that a critic should be allowed to write whatever the hell he wants — there are three other reasons why I have to side with A.O. Scott on this one: (1) The Times just ran a giant, glowing feature on Jackson’s entire career, so you’d think he’d be able to let one non-terrific review go. (2) Arbitrary mid-sentence capitalizations? Really? (3) Thanks to that iPhone commercial, the next time I’m eating delicious gazpacho I’m just going to be thinking about Samuel L. Jackson having sex.