Film: A Triad of Web-Heads – Spiderman In The 21st Century

By James

Spiderman has seen more than his fair share of face-lifts since the turn of the millennium. This Marvel favourite has been axed and recommissioned several times over the last decade and a half. He’s been thrown around like a red latex-ed rag doll. But which Spidey is better? Through creative or political disagreements, the web-slinging wonder has managed to bag himself three different interpretations for audiences to enjoy and dissect - so, in light of his most recent incarnation, I thought it was appropriate to have a look at his 3 most recent representations in live-action films to see which is the best (which has possibly been done many times, by many blogs... But mine is better... Because, reasons).

Tobey McGuire

Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Let’s not forget, this guy started it all. Sam Raimi’s blockbuster that was Spider-Man took the world by storm. Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe had been conceived, McGuire delivered a performance that paved the way for future superheroes (especially future Spider-Men). Even sharing the screen with the likes of James Franco, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, J. K. Simmons and more, McGuire holds his own and presents a memorable and very likable character.

He was geeky and awkward which perfectly encompassed the ‘fly on the wall’ aspect of Peter’s personality and whilst I admit his relationship with Mary-Jane may have seemed a bit uncomfortable at times, it was innocent enough to be endearing. Coupled with the writing, the original of the three web-slinging avengers managed to clearly present the struggles that came with juggling a job, romance, vigilantism and general life; which is very much apparent in Spider-Man 2, which is one of the best superhero films to date.

I will not be going into that peculiar, emo dance though in Spider-Man 3... No, tah...

Finally we move on to McGuire as the friendly, neighbourhood web-slinger. He fought some of the toughest villains in the Spider-Man cannon, from Doc Ock to Green Goblin and made it look stunning. He made his own suit and even had organic webbing, which made him more of a badass; and all the while, he was swinging his way through New York City, accompanied by an acclaimed soundtrack. Composed by Danny Elfman, it was supported by an array of popular songs such as ‘Hero’ making the first Spidey invoke an unshakeable sense of nostalgia for all who grew up with it.

In my opinion, Raimi and Tobey made superheroes fashionable. After the events of 2001, Spider-Man gave people a new form of escapism. Characters and people that would fight the bad-guys, defeat the bad-guys, and look good doing it. A solid point of reference to compare all future Spider-Men and, to an extent, all future superheroes.

Andrew Garfield

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Garfield and director, Mark Webb, presented a new kind of Peter Parker. He was a nerd but he was also a Hollywood dreamboat, he was attractive and not nearly as helpless as McGuire. He could turn on the charming, lady-killer persona when he wanted to - he presented a character with a lot more composure and confidence in himself... It didn’t quite sit right. As a reboot, there was a lot riding on the film working in every aspect; with the ingenuity and originality that went into making the original trilogy work, (maybe not so much Spider-Man 3...) The recommissioned character had big boots to fill.

The human side of Garfield’s Peter is what sells it for me. His performance, and largely role within the story, stems much more from a personal angle rather than that of being a hero. It’s obvious that more effort was taken in making the character funny, something that was possibly lacking from the original, and introducing more of the ‘mouthy’ elements displayed in the comics.

But that’s not all that was introduced. Whereas Peter’s intelligence was always hinted at in Raimi’s rendition, it was actively explored in Webb’s movies; constructing synthetic webbing and spending numerous hours mulling over scientific jargon and equations and then there was the romance. Garfield and Emma Stone’s on screen relationship was sizzling. I mean, to the point where we were half inclined to leave and let them get on with it... But that scene!

For those that haven’t seen it, spoiler alert (but I don’t really care because it’s so 3 years ago...)

Gwen’s death... (Oh yeah, by the way, the love interest is Gwen Stacey, rather than Mary-Jane, in these films which is arguably a better choice; being his original, comic book sweetheart, afterall) This scene was so well done - easily one of the biggest saving graces for this reboot. It still gives me shivers... It may not be as shocking as ‘The Night Gwen Stacey Died’ but it comes close. It was done poetically and heart-wrenchingly. It would seem Gwen really knows how to die…

The red and blue superhuman that we are shown with Garfield is slightly less impressive. Whilst he is amusing and comical in some of his actions, the sequences are overdone and don’t feel fraught with much danger. At least you could imagine McGuire losing and the octo-appendage nut-job taking over the world after saving his wife. It all feels too testosterone-fuelled with shouting, bright lights and an abundance of flat acting (not on Stone or Garfield’s part) but then if it’s not that, then they’re scenes heavy with exposition; with thick layers of plot layered on top of each other coming at you in weighty emotional swathes, like congealed story-treacle...

All in all, parts of Webb’s Spidey are done extremely well but the majority are underwhelming or fail to invoke any empathy from us as an audience. Obviously excluding that one scene...

Tom Holland

Captain America: Civil War (2016), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Oh, Tom Holland. What a little legend; young, charming and very funny. In my honest opinion, Holland is the closest casting to the comic-books yet. Jon Watts and Holland have come together and created the jumped-up, ambitious little teen that fans wanted from their favourite humanoid spider. He may not be as experienced as the other two, nor is he particularly great at fighting, but he is super-powered, keen and most of all, fun.

If the other two were loveable then this guy is just a bundle of fluffy love (in a super-suit with super-strong web, dangerously heightened senses and the ability to stop a bus with his bare hands). This Peter is smart but he’s not so old that he needs to depend on his brains to progress in a career or his future – this is smartly averted by making Stark the creator of all the really important stuff. He’s youthful and bubbling with potential which is what I like to see. He has a future whilst the other two were already living in a peak stage of their super heroism; at least Holland has room to grow.

His aunt is, oddly, pretty hot. Although this is far from an accurate, comic-book inclusion, it can’t help the new web-slinger’s case in upping the ‘watchability’ factor. Then there is his romance. Differing from previous incarnations, he is just a mid-teen – so there is no emotional baggage getting him down... Too much. I mean, he does have a love interest but at this point in his story arc, it’s not bogging us as an audience or Peter as a character down in a romance that requires commitment and strong feelings and awful things like that…

Actually, as Spider-Man, he is incredible - on a steep learning curve, but incredible nonetheless. His suit is basically Ironman’s but made of latex and synthetic uber-armour, plus it comes with a sassy female customer support bot, which is nothing but a bonus. Whilst his fighting is somewhat unorthodox, he has a lot of room to grow as both a character and an Avenger. He has started relatively small with the Vulture but I’m sure we will see many great things from the newest Avenger.

Webilogue (Web-epilogue? Damn, I wish I was funny...)

To be honest, I think it’s obvious. Holland takes the crown. Whilst Garfield was not particularly bad and McGuire was iconic as well as full of nostalgia for those of a certain age, Holland is the Spidey that we wanted. He combines many of the aspects we love him for in the comics and has finally been inducted into the MCU (which has been put off for far too long...)

Now I think Marvel should turn their sights to the X-Men... Specifically Wolverine... Just me? … Web-head and Shorty?

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