In just the last 15 years, we have seen three separate actors take on the role of the beloved web-slinger, Spider-Man. First, we saw Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 from 2002 to 2007. Then we saw Andrew Garfield pick up the role in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from 2012 to 2014. Recently we’ve seen Tom Holland shooting webs, making his debut in Captain America: Civil War and returning for the stand-alone Spider-Man: Homecoming. Each these renditions had their strengths and weaknesses. Throughout this review, I’ll describe what I personally like about each of these portrayals and declare one of these three actors my favorite. I’ll mainly talk about supporting casts and character development, but we’ll also touch on how they compare to the comics and how each actor portrays the famous web-slinger
Before we get started, this post will contain huge spoilers for Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming. You have been warned.
Tobey Maguire played the part of Spider-Man from 2002 to 2007, he appeared in 3 movies and won several awards for his performance. In the first movie, we meet Peter Parker, he’s nerdy, he’s picked on, and he has a secret crush on Mary Jane Watson, who is completely out of his league. We see him get bit by the genetically engineered spider that turned him into Spider-Man. In this first installment, we’re introduced to many well know characters who are lovable and unique, and some who aren’t so great. We are introduced to Harry Osborn (James Franco), Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe) and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). Willem Dafoe plays a phenomenal Green Goblin before dying at the end of the first film. Throughout the film you can really understand his personal conflict of being the Green Goblin, and although he’s only present for the first movie, we see great and believable character development from start to finish. James Franco’s character is another one who we see undergo large character change. Convinced that Spider-Man is to blame for the death of his father, we get to see his vendetta against Spider-Man play out across all three movies, until he eventually chooses to forgive Peter. Unfortunately, Kirsten Dunst’s character, in my opinion, is one of the weakest and least interesting characters in this series. Across the whole trilogy, she has almost no character development, her character is not likable and is portrayed as moody and irrational. Some other great character portrayals were Dr. Otto Octavius and especially J. Jonah Jameson. I cannot think of any actor who could portray a better J. Jonah Jameson than J.K. Simmons, I think it’s no coincidence that Jameson hasn’t appeared in any movies since Spider-Man 3. Finally, it’s time to discuss Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire was a pretty good Peter Parker. We get to see him become become Spider-Man and make some huge decisions. In these films, Peter became Spider-Man while he was still in high school, but he graduated very early in the first movie. We see some really good character development in the first movie. We get to see Peter realize that he can’t be selfish and that his powers are a responsibility. This really helps add a lot of depth to the character. Unfortunately we don’t really see a lot of development in Peter Parker in the two latter films, but that’s okay because of the extraordinary character development by the supporting characters. As Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire has a hard time delivering his witty remarks. It’s believable that Peter Parker would be that awkward, but it doesn’t really live up to the comics. All around I felt like this was a very solid trilogy, and I was shocked when they were already rebooting the series in 2012. In the next section we’ll look at how Andrew Garfield did portraying Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man.
Honestly, this is the portrayal of Spider-Man that I am the least familiar with. Being a pretty big fan of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man, I didn’t think it was a necessary reboot. I didn’t even watch The Amazing Spider-Man until 2015. However, I am going to do my best to share an unbiased opinion on The Amazing Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield took a much different approach to portraying Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire. For starters, none of the supporting characters in The Amazing Spider-Man really stuck out as amazing characters. Also, we once again had a pretty old Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield was a strong Spider-Man, but a weak Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield did a great job of showing Spidey’s witty side. With Andrew Garfield, Spider-Man and Peter Parker had more distinct differences. Lastly, he did a better job of showing off the various web tricks that Spider-Man is known for. As Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield left a lot to be desired. His portrayal Peter Parker was not very likable, I didn’t care about what was going on in his Peter Parker life. Garfield’s Parker was not a nerdy kid, he was more of an angsty outcast. Most importantly, there isn’t any point in The Amazing Spider-Man movies that I feel like he had to make sacrifices to continue being Spider-Man. In all, I appreciated his portrayal of Spider-Man even if I felt like it was an unnecessary reboot.
Tom Holland’s first appearance as Spider-Man was in the 2016 movie Captain America: Civil War. This is the first and only Spider-Man to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is the most relatable and believable Peter Parker that we have ever seen. In Civil War we get to see Spider-Man interacting with other heroes for the first time on the big screen. The way this Spider-Man is written is different than any other Spider-Man thus far. The writers seem to go out of their way to emphasize that he is young and witty. In the airport fight sequence we see him constantly talking, so much that other other heroes even comment on it. Peter Parker is also only 15, which is still true to the comics. We see much more Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Tom Holland does a phenomenal job of of balancing Peter Parker and Spider-Man. He’s only had one stand alone movie, but we’ve already seen some really promising qualities. For starters, he’s young and awkward. We see him constantly making awkward and funny improvisations. Second, we really get to see what he has to give up in order to continuing being Spider-Man. Lastly, we get to see that even though he is a hero he’s still a teenager at heart. In the opening sequence of the movie we see Peter Parker making videos of himself as if he were going to put them on snapchat or some other social media platform.
Closing Thoughts and The Winners
As I’ve mentioned, each of these heroes have their strengths and weaknesses. Both Tobey Maguire Spider-Man and Tom Holland Spider-Man had villains that were very appropriate for the overall tone of the movie. It wouldn’t have made sense for Tom Holland’s light hearted Spider-Man to take on a huge villain like the Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus, especially after being “benched” as an avenger.
Ranking the Films
6th Place: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
5th Place: The Amazing Spider-Man
4th Place: Spider-Man 3
3rd Place: Spider-Man: Homecoming
2nd Place: Spider-Man
1st Place: Spider-Man 2
The Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy was solid. The character development and wonderful casting solidify it’s spot as the best we’ve seen. The depth and development in the Maguire trilogy is what movies should thrive to be.
Ranking Peter Parker
3rd Place: Andrew Garfield
2nd Place: Tom Holland
1st Place: Tobey Maguire
Tom Holland will probably take this category after a couple more movies. As of right now, there’s nothing that Tom Holland Peter Parker has had to give up that was more impactful than the sacrifices made by Tobey Maguire Peter Parker across his trilogy. Tom Holland Spider-Man gave up the decathlon and the homecoming dance, but Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man gave his life away. We see him start out as a straight A student, with good friends, and a loving family. He loses his Uncle Ben, Harry turns against him, his grades start to drop, and he even tells MJ that he can’t be with her, all so that he can save people as Spider-Man Maguire’s development over these three movies is very emotional, it’s a story we’ve seen play out over 5 whole years.
3rd Place: Tobey Maguire
2nd Place: Andrew Garfield
1st Place: Tom Holland
Tom Holland nails it. From witty line deliveries to thinking quickly and resourcefully, Tom Holland portrays the web-slinger in a great way. We also see some good character development, at the beginning he says he’s nothing without the suit, and at the end he understands that the suit doesn’t make him the hero. I also really like that Holland portrays a less polished Spider-Man. We can tell he’s new and still learning, we get to see him make lots of mistakes. At the end of the day, Tom Holland’s Portrayal is the most believable of the three, and to me that makes him the best Spider-Man
See Y’all soon.
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