Players: A.O. Scott, The New York Times' chief movie reviewer who wasn't quite a fan of The Avengers; Samuel L. Jackson, actor in The Avengers, who isn't quite a fan of A.O. Scott
The Opening Serve: Truth be told, A.O. Scott wasn't that mean to The Avengers. We've seen his previous work, skewering movies like The 300 and flat out giving up on Bucky Larson. But still, the takeaway--that The Avengers' action scenes don't zip and burn they he wanted them to, that Joss Whedon was maybe a bit too muted, and that some of the best parts of the movie are when the actors get to play off one another. (Scott even drops a Rat Pack reference.) He even favorably compares it to Rio Bravo. That said, Jackson took umbrage with the review and unleashed it via Twitter:
#Avengers fans,NY Times critic AO Scott needs a new job! Let's help him find one! One he can ACTUALLY do!— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) May 3, 2012
Avengers Assemble! Or something ...
The Return Volley: Jackson didn't stop there, tweeting "That is My Opinion! @TheFilmNest & what's irrational about it? They aren't going to fire his jaundiced ass & You & I Know It!" To which Scott playfully countered:
In between Jackson's barbs and Scott's clever deflections, both did re-tweet and respond to their fans, possibly stoking the flames of friction even more. Scott did respond in an interview E!: "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." Adding, "If I'm going to dish out criticism, I should be able to take it... As usual with Twitter, there was a mixture of silliness and insight that made for a fun afternoon."
What They Say They're Fighting About: How good(or not) The Avengers is.
What They're Really Fighting About: Critics, fans, fan boys—all that goodness. You have to look beyond the weird personal attacks (jaundiced???) to see that what they're fighting about is something people have questioned for some time now (and hey, we've done it, too): What do we pay critics to do? It sounds like Jackson is looking to Scott for a quick judgment and is judging (and not agreeing with) Scott's taste. Scott's supporters would argue that, well, it's just that--that Scott is paid for his taste in movies, but that he also make a cogent argument backing up those judgments, those statements--and that it's completely fine to disagree with Scott's taste and still see the perspective where he's coming from.
Who's Winning Now: Scott. C'mon the review wasn't even that bad. There are worse things than to be compared to The Rat Pack, especially when you were in Snakes on a Plane. But seriously though, if you're going to take Scott down, it needs to be more than just "it's my opinion and I'm sticking with it." What did Jackson think of the action scenes Scott didn't like? Does he know there's a difference between popularity and something actually great? What does he think of Whedon's influence in the movie? Perhaps it's the nature of the beast when we deal with hashing things out over Twitter, but we never got to hear those answers. And in case you were wondering, The Avengers currently has a 93 percent positive Rotten Tomato rating.