Before any hardcore Spider-Man fans come for my head I would just like to make it clear that this is my opinion and you are totally free to disagree with me. The comment section is open for your essay contest. With the innumerable iterations of Spider-Man over the years, there are so many different interpretations and different opinions on what he “should” be — and I think they’re all mostly valid.
So choosing amongst Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland as the Spider-Man is really just a matter of who matches up to the Spidey you’ve built up in your head. This is why Tom is the perfect fit for mine:
As Peter, he is endearingly geeky and awkward. He shows just enough of his brilliance to remind you that Peter is a lowkey genius, but still a teenage genius who’s just figuring things out. His fumbling character and downright cringe-y moments make it entirely believable that someone that good-looking is still kind of a loser.
Compare this to Andrew Garfield’s Peter who was more of a trendy hipster type. The Amazing Spider-Man tried really hard to sell the idea that he was a loser but in a cool way and that was just an oxymoron that didn’t work for me. The attribute of Peter being an outsider has always been particularly important to me because I feel it fuels the core of his character being very grounded.
As Spider-Man, he perfects the prankster facade that the hero puts on. His quips are delivered flawlessly and he matches chemistry great with any scene partner when bantering — from cop to villain to passerby. His ability to think quick on his feet in this way when facing foes or trying to evade law enforcers makes him project an image older than his 18 years which is imperative for people both in-universe and out to buy that he’s a superhero.
Most importantly, that youthful charisma is an essential element to who Spider-Man is as a hero. Tobey’s Spider-Man, in contrast, was just…bland. I’m hard-pressed to remember any really entertaining dynamic he shared with a nemesis. I consider this a deal-breaker since Spidey’s almost-carefree attitude when battling villains has become iconic. It goes deeper than just being funny — he uses banter and jokes to distract enemies but also as a coping mechanism to calm himself down.
Tobey and Andrew both had their strong suits. Tobey was a great Peter — completely sold the shy and nerdy hero, the underdog we always want to root for. Andrew was a charming Spider-Man, someone you could crush on even with the mask and who brought new energy to hero-villain interactions. But they played their counterparts with just a bit of lackluster. Tobey was the perfect Peter, Andrew the perfect Spider-Man — Tom is the perfect combination of the two.
He’s able to perform both sides to the role and not only make us believe in them but delve into the intricacies of what it means to balance that. This is especially evident in Far From Home where (semi-spoilers!) he’s undergoing an identity crisis and questioning what it means to be both Peter and Spider-Man. Tom is able to give such a genuine performance of being torn between that regular (but lovable) teenager and the hero who knows that with great power comes great responsibility.
This is what really clinches it for me because while we feel the pain of sacrifice from other movie versions in terms of family and loved ones always being put in danger, of their personal lives suffering for the hero’s responsibilities, Tom’s conflict becomes more central. This version asks him to sacrifice parts of his own identity, shows that there is inherent conflict when it comes to being both an average person and a hero. For me, this struggle is something that Spider-Man, in any iteration or universe, has grappled with and this interpretation rings truer than the others.
Who’s your favorite Spider-Man? Let us know who and why in the comments!