In a span of almost two decades, there have been three actors who played Marvel superhero Spider-Man (Peter Parker) on the silver screen. Here is why Courageous Nerd believes that Tom Holland, the most recent star to take on the role, is also the best fit.

In the age of remakes and different creative interpretations, multiple actors playing the same character in different films or shows over a short period of time is nothing new. This seems to be especially prevalent with superheroes. During the last fifteen years alone, there have been multiple onscreen iterations of fan favourites including Batman, Superman, The Flash and the Fantastic Four. However, perhaps the most significant instance of this is with Marvel Comics’ flagship character, Spider-Man/Peter Parker.

Between 2002 and 2020, there have been three live-action, feature film “Spider-Men”: Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland. Each of their respective contributions to the character exist in different universes. In the case of the latter two, each actor’s work is unaffected by who came before.

Maguire, then 27 years of age, portrayed a teenage Peter Parker in Sam Raimi’s 2002 film Spider-Man. He reprised the role in two sequels, Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007), with the third depicting a slightly older Peter. A fourth film was planned but ended up not going ahead. Maguire was supported in his films by a cast including James Franco, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Defoe, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, Bryce Dallas Howard, Thomas Haden Church, and Topher Grace.

In my personal opinion, Maguire did a better job of playing normal human Peter Parker than the costumed hero Spider-Man, when compared to his successors. In particular, he had good chemistry with Kirsten Dunst, who played Mary-Jane “MJ” Watson, Peter’s love interest. Maguire was nearly 30 when he first played Peter and 35 when he last played the character, perhaps consciously bringing some of the maturity and life experiences to Peter’s troubled circumstances.

Tom Holland
Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Andrew Garfield first played the role of Spider-Man in 2012 with Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, ten years after Maguire’s first appearance in the role. Rather than retreading old ground with MJ, Peter’s love interest this time was Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) with the first film’s cast also featuring Martin Sheen, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field, Denis Leary, and the late Irrfan Khan. Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, and Colm Feore came on board for The Amazing Spider-Man-2, Garfield’s final time playing the character.

Interestingly, Garfield had almost the exact opposite situation to Maguire, where his Spider-Man was better than his Peter Parker. I believe that the second Spider-Man was visually more appealing than the first. At the time of the 2012 film’s release, the actor was 29, two years older than his predecessor had been and over a decade older than Peter Parker. Of course, Garfield’s Peter had good chemistry with Gwen Stacy, which makes sense considering their actors were in a real-life relationship for years. It could be that whereas Maguire had been a convincing enough teenager, Garfield was not.

Tom Holland
Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Tom Holland, the third and current actor to hold the role in recent years, was first announced in June 2015. Unlike Maguire and Garfield, this iteration is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Holland made his first appearance as Spider-Man in 2016 with Captain America: Civil War, reprising the role in a further four films to date. This includes two where Holland, as Spider-Man, was headlining the cast. Actors such as Robert Downey Jr, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, and Samuel L Jackson have appeared in Spider-Man’s standalone films in the MCU.

Since Tom Holland was born in 1996, he was 19 when first announced as Spider-Man and 20 by the release of Civil War. This makes him much younger than either Maguire or Garfield had been. As a result, Peter’s youthful side comes more naturally to Holland, especially in his first two appearances, as the actor had been a teenager more recently. This different kind of energy is also beneficial to the Spider-Man aspect of the character and another reason, in my opinion, why Tom Holland is above the other two actors.

The overall storyline of the MCU has also given Holland leniency in his performance – Peter was one of those who disappeared at the hands of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Although he has aged five years biologically, Peter still looks as he had upon vanishing in “The Snap”. This allows Holland to balance playing younger than he actually is while not having to worry about coming across as being older, a problem faced by both his predecessors.

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