I haven’t gone to see Far From Home yet, but the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming is benefitting from being that first Marvel movie after the latest Avengers blockbuster film. Far From Home has experienced the largest six-day opening ever for a film released on a Tuesday. The final Phase Three film has already made an estimated $580 million, almost four times its production budget.
My nephews watch Into The Spider-Verse every time they come to visit while the health-conscious adults chug Diet Dr. Pepper cans advertising Far From Home so clearly. It’s safe to say that the public is experiencing a bit of Spider Fever at the moment.
To celebrate Tom Holland’s fifth live-action movie as the delightfully energetic Wall Crawler, here is a brief list ranking all of the men who have played a version of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s iconic character. These two not only defined a new era of four-color storytelling and cemented the validation of a genre of film, but is “totally cool” (according to the kids).
3. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield (TIE)
A tie? What in fresh cop-out is this?
Trust me, it makes sense to combine these two actors because together they make the consummate live-action version of Lee/Ditko’s Peter Parker.
The Tobey Maguire Spider-Trilogy, if you ignore all of the casting/plot choices made in the third installment (that I’ve only seen once to this day), is the closest we will ever see to the original comic from the sixties in this era or ever again. Aunt May looks just like her comic counterpart and there are no surprises in the storyline for anyone who was familiar with the Marvel Masterworks reprints from the nineties.
The film was lifted with surprising accuracy from Ditko’s tiny square canvasses. Even traces of Stan Lee’s energetic dialogue made their way into the scripts and there will never be a better J. Jonah Jameson than that guy who used to do State Farm commercials a few years back. The storylines (again, forgetting the third one) were the purest of homages to some of the classics. It was delightful.
And Tobey was the best Peter Parker hands down, from his constant worry over Aunt May being able to pay the bills and get her medication to being bullied by Flash to dealing with all the normal things Spidey dealt with that the Avengers never had to worry about for a single comic panel of their lives.
He could mope with the best of them, and no one can ever take that scene where he stopped the errant train with a lot of webbing and even more willpower.
But where his existential crisis was always on point, his humor was severely lacking. His jokes fell flatter than the Spider-Man cans of Dr. Pepper from the 2002 movie that I just found in my dad’s basement.
You can’t have a depressed Peter Parker without a neurotic wise-cracking Spider-Man to make you laugh in between the soap-operatic storylines Lee wrote each and every month. They are two sides of the same coin. The tragedy and the punchline.
Enter Andrew Garfield.
He was Tobey’s opposite, his Spider-Man was energetic and certifiably HILARIOUS. His quips were a mile a minute and they served to annoy and distract the villains while he figured out a way to web them up for New York’s Finest.
The Garfield Spider-Man movies are sorely underrated, which I believe is due to the fact that they started to take creative liberties with the property that Sam Raimi just didn’t want to or couldn’t do during his films. And the chemistry between Garfield and Emma Stone was just adorable. She was everything I ever wanted out of a live interpretation of Gwen Stacy AKA the girl Stan always wanted Peter to get married to in the comics.
And dang it, Jamie Foxx was a great Electro.
Even without the supporting cast, Garfield could carry the franchise on his acting chops alone, but there was just one problem with his Peter Parker.
He was a skater boi.
Gwen said see you later boi (sad)…
Peter Parker is a science nerd/freelance photographer who never did anything cool in his civilian identity, much less skateboarding. I was intimidated by the skater kids and their Airwalks back in the mid-90s. Parker shouldn’t intimidate anyone, not to mention the bullies he stood up to. And while I appreciated Flash making peace with Parker in high school, it definitely wasn’t true to the comic narrative.
So I really believe that, while Maguire and Garfield both did a good job entertaining me for a decade on the silver screen as the Daily Bugle’s least favorite superhero, neither of them fully encapsulated everything the character was supposed to be.
If you spliced Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker with Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man, you would have a pitch-perfect rendition of Uncle Ben’s favorite nephew at the box office.
Which is why they both belong on the number three spot.
2. Tom Holland
Don’t judge me, fellow nerds.
You read it correctly, I think Tom Holland did a better job than Maguire and Garfield.
Civil War and Homecoming provided us with a fresh and updated take on America’s favorite Web-Slinger. He’s a kid from Queens who grabbed the shield of a kid from Brooklyn and swung into our hearts the very instant his presence lit up the screen with a Peter Parker updated to fit the smartphone/meme generation.
After Maguire and Garfield provided nostalgic old farts like me the Peter Parker we’d been reading for decades, Holland came along to translate the character to fit into the current Marvel Cinematic Universe and pay homage to the recent Stark/Parker storylines from the Civil War era in the comics.
In a time period where being a nerd is not only more acceptable but seen as cool, Flash Thompson is reimagined as a toxic nerd (but still a nerd nonetheless) who gives Peter a hard time while “MJ” informs her teacher she will not go inside the Washington Monument because it was built by slaves.
This Peter is still a reclusive geeky insecure kid, but he also has a job working for Tony Stark, the most attractive version of Aunt May yet, and a friend whose name suggests he might play the Hobgoblin in the future whom he puts together Lego Death Star sets with. Extra points for Disney brand synergy right there, eh?
And the number one Spidey is…
1. Shameik Moore
Shameik is the voice of Miles Morales, the main character in last year’s surprise hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Based on the recent comic book run written by Dan Slott, Into the Spider-Verse went from being the comic book film I was looking forward to the least to becoming my all-time favorite Spider-Man film.
Basing a Marvel film around a webbed hero whose first name wasn’t “Peter” was a daunting task, but Shameik was up to the challenge. Even though I’m bummed that the role didn’t go to Donald Glover, who was given the consolation prize as Morales’ Uncle Aaron in the MCU, Shameik quickly won me over with how well his vocals sold all the onscreen drama.
Whereas the early movies were almost exact panel for panel adaptations and the MCU movies eschewed origin to tell wacky stories like Peter taking a former Batman’s daughter on a date, Into the Spider-Verse re-imagined the beginning of the hero’s journey, giving it a technicolor Hip-Hop remix with a bright sheen and healthy dose of heart and soul.
Miles struggled with fitting into the Spider legacy and even with how his powers worked, all while we were being introduced to a colorful cast of alternate universe Spider-Men and Women who all deserve a movie of their own.
While the special effects in the film are revelatory, the film wouldn’t have risen above blockbuster sugar high superficiality without the way Miles interacted with his father, Spider-Gwen, and Sweatpants Spider-Man with a gut making cosplay realistic for the rest of us. And not to mention it was nice seeing the cartoonishly large Kingpin from the comics finally faithfully represented on the big screen.
Into the Spider-Verse was a breath of fresh air in a genre that is starting to feel formulaic, much like issue number fifteen of Amazing Fantasy was way back in the sixties in a genre flooded with chiseled and perfect supermen without any inner or outer flaws.
If Stan Lee and Steve Ditko were raised on the five elements of Hip-Hop, the religion of Bronx block parties, breakdancing, graffiti, and Biggie Smalls, they would’ve written a story just like this one. A tale that paid homage to the superhero comics before them but forged a new path in the medium that would never be the same again.
And besides, that soundtrack is bangin’.
Far From Home is in theaters now, go check it out!
What are your thoughts on this list? Who is your favorite cinematic Spider-Man? Let us know in the comments below!