Like many others, I have been revisiting the different cinematic interpretations of Peter Parker in preparation for “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” The famed web-slinger has had his fair share of franchises and sequels, and now seems like the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast these actors’ portrayals before Tom Holland’s third outing.
In my honest opinion, Tobey Maguire stands as the most comic-accurate depiction of Spider-Man. In short, he’s a downtrodden nerd who faces countless struggles because of his choice to be the masked vigilante. His life is a nightmare, and he consistently deals with criticism from his friends and Aunt May. This is the responsibility that comes with his “great power.” Sam Raimi, the director of the first trilogy, imbues each of these films with a “camp” tone that fits the Spider-Man mythos so well. Of course, there are a few aspects of these films that don’t necessarily age well. Webs literally come out of Maguire’s wrists.
The next incarnation of the hero is Andrew Garfield from the “Amazing Spider-Man” films. Garfield is an incredibly talented performer (just watch “Tick, Tick… BOOM!”), but it’s pretty clear he wasn’t given much to work within this series. The first film is mediocre, with the one bright spot being Garfield’s noticeable chemistry with co-star Emma Stone. Where “The Amazing Spider-Man” franchise truly fails is in its sequel. Sony, the studio responsible, was so dead set on this film leading to spinoffs and other sequels that they introduced way too many storylines and characters for one film. It’s so focused on future storylines that the actual film just feels under-developed.
In contrast to Garfield, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man series is the only one to successfully pull off an interconnected franchise. For the first time, audiences were able to see their favorite wall-crawler team up with the Avengers and deal with events inside the well-known Marvel Cinematic Universe. The director, Jon Watts, took steps in the story process to make sure the narrative felt fresh and different from the other two incarnations. He doesn’t show Spider-Man’s origin because he assumes the audience is already familiar with it. However, it’s not all good. The main issue with Holland’s films is that they are a little too dependent on the character of Tony Stark for a lot of Parker’s characterization. He creates Spider-Man’s suit and is the driving narrative force for both “Homecoming” and “Far From Home.”
Despite their differences, these portrayals of Spider-Man all have their own strengths and fanbases. Hopefully “No Way Home” will take the web-slinger’s cinematic legacy in a new direction.