The Hard Sell | Spider-Man and His Amazing Portrayals

The Hard Sell | Spider-Man and His Amazing Portrayals

On August 10, 1962, the world was introduced to Spider-Man.

More than 50 years of comics, nine animated series, two live-action television shows, and seven solo feature films later, Spider-Man is without question a global sensation. Beloved by comic fans and children everywhere, Spider-Man is not just a pop-culture icon; he is a symbol of hope and perseverance.

In the ultimate underdog story, Spider-Man (a.k.a Peter Parker), overcomes loss, life balance, and grave danger to protect his loved ones and those in need.

Unfortunately in 2020–and especially on the Internet–even a hero as pure as Peter Parker can be a topic of divisive and truly negative energy. That got us thinking (well, really, just @marsellusdurden, but who’s counting) on the superhero’s birthday about each cinematic portrayal.

Welcome back to another edition of The Hard Sell where we discuss the evolution of Spider-Man

The Original

Spider-Man is more than one of Marvel's most important heroes; he's one of the biggest anywhere.
Sources: Marvel Comics/Columbia Pictures

In 2002, the first film adaptation of the character was brought to life by Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man. (Well, the first that counted. There was a Japanese version in 1978, but no one really counts that. Here’s why.) Directed by the visionary creator of the Evil Dead franchise, Sam Raimi, the film was a smashing success and paved the way for superheroes in the new millennium.

Although Tobey looked a little old for the part, his demeanor and sincerity captured the heart of Peter Parker. He was able to balance the awkward, geeky personality while also displaying warmth in Peter’s close relationships. Tobey’s actual Spider-Man persona left a little to be desired, but overall, we finally got to see Peter Parker on screen. And it was great.

His performance helped drive the success of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise to two more films. Accompanied by Danny Elfman‘s iconic score, the final monologue at the end of the first film is one of my favorite superhero moments ever.

Especially that final web-swing. A moment that never ceases to make my heart soar.

The Reboot

When Spider-Man got the reboot, many weren't fans of Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, but he worked for fans.
Sony Pictures

Due to conflicts with Sam Raimi and an overall disappointing reception to Spider-Man 3, Sony Pictures decided to reboot the franchise. They released The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012 with Andrew Garfield taking on the role of Peter Parker.

“Hipster” Peter Parker anyone?

While a little too “cool” and handsome for my tastes, Garfield’s Peter was a fun and modern take on the character. I especially appreciated the decision to honor the comics and allow Peter to actually design his own “web-shooters”.

Garfield is a talented actor but he shines best when displaying his witty personality as Spider-Man.

His lanky body type and sarcastic quips show us a comically accurate and overall different type of Spider-Man than we have seen previously. Coupled with brilliant fight choreography, audiences were treated with a Spider-Man nothing short of amazing.

Unfortunately, Garfield’s time as Spider-Man was cut short due to the shortcomings of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. They weren’t the strongest set of films, but Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man definitely makes it worth while.

The Future

Peter Parker as the world knows him today

On March 10, 2016, fans around the globe was feverishly giddy with anticipation when the wildly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe finally revealed a shot of Tom Holland as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War.

After months of speculation, a historic deal between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures finally allowed for the webbed hero to play in the vast MCU sandbox. Sporting incredible athletic ability and a youthful appearance to portray a teenage Peter Parker more accurately, Tom Holland is absolutely perfect for the storied role.

Appearance and acrobatics aside, Holland is the most complete Spider-Man ever to grace the screen. His scene-stealing battle with a pair of battle-hardened Avengers in Captain America: Civil War is hilarious and action-packed. As Peter Parker, he is charming, earnest and just the right amount of goofy. His scene with Tony Stark explaining why he chooses to be a hero is beautiful, heartfelt, and one of the best Spider-man moments of all-time.

With two solo feature films and three appearances in spectacular Avengers-related affairs, the future is bright for this generation’s Spider-Man. The closing chapter to his trilogy will be filming in the near future and with Holland’s youth, we are sure to see more of him.

A Few Good Spider-Men

Friendly neighborhood Spider-men

Just like the various comics he’s based on, each cinematic Peter Parker has their own flair and charisma. There truly is something to enjoy about each portrayal regardless of the quality of the film.

  • Tobey Maguire saving kids before pizza time
  • Andrew Garfield fixing a child’s science project
  • Tom Holland giving an old lady directions

Together, they have provided us all an entertaining and heartwarming journey with the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. I’m not afraid to admit it. Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. Period.

Which is why sometimes its so disheartening to see the hatred people have for each other over a work of fiction. Rather than nitpicking and bickering, I take solace in the fact that I can enjoy all versions of the character. Each actor embodied Spider-Man in different and spectacular ways. It’s comforting knowing I can look back fondly and look ahead with excitement. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store.


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Aspiring writer/director as well as a budding journalist. Been geeking out my entire life but have been analyzing film on a more serious level for nearly 18 years. Pick my brain on Twitter! @marsellusdurden
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