Responsibility and Choice: Andrew Garfield’s Portrayal of Peter Parker

I love Tom Holland as Spider-Man. I really do. Now, having gotten that out of the way — since I don’t want any Hollanders hounding me — I’m going to give you all of my reasons for why I think Andrew Garfield was the most relatable and amazing Spider-Man. Ever.

Lemme just state up front that this isn’t about comparing the new to the old. It’s just little ol’ me gushing about how well Andrew Garfield embodied the webhead. Or, more specifically, how he embodied Peter Parker, since we all know that Spider-Man has really been driven by the vulnerable and virtuous portrayal of the man under the mask by Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and now Tom Holland.

When you think of it in those terms, it’s pretty clear that Andrew Garfield is the best Peter Parker. But if you’re not convinced yet, lemme give you my 2 cents on the subject and hopefully my opinions will sway you!

REASON # 1: Peter Parker — The Character

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There are a myriad of ways an artist can interpret another’s work. As I’m sure my fellow geeks are aware, film companies often mass-produce and hash out storyboards for their movies without any consideration of the source material. Luckily, this hasn’t been the case for any of the Spider-Man films — in part because Sam Raimi is, himself, a fellow geek and fan of the source material.

In my opinion, we pretty much got a film trilogy that — although not a period piece — adhered to the 1960s aesthetic of the comic book. I felt as though we barely got to see Peter Parker, the relatable geek. Instead, our experience of Peter Parker was largely through his period of transition into the friendly neighborhood Spidey, and then his consequent attempts at dealing with his role as a superhero — neither of which are concerns we ordinary non-super folks can relate to personally.

The Amazing Spider-Man rectified that. For example, let me recap the moment when he first tries to ask Gwen on a date:

PETER: We could, uh, or we could do…

GWEN: Sure

PETER: Really?

GWEN: Yeah, either one.

Awkward: Hell yeah!

True to the character? Absolutely! These are moments and experiences that all underdogs — perhaps all humans ever — can relate to on some level. And so when this super-awkward yet super-relatable teenager becomes a superhero, we’re right there with him! Moments like these allowed us to spend time with the man under the mask. Or, more accurately, the boy under the mask. And that brings me to my next point…

REASON #2: Peter Parker — The Teenager

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From the very beginning of the series, in August, 1962, Peter Parker represented the ultimate fantasy of a bullied teenage boy (or girl) — a scrawny bespectacled teenager with no power and importance, who suddenly acquires both of those things.

His daily mission: Go to school, save the city, save the girl, be home by dinner time or Aunt May will make you eat her “Famous meat loaf, UGH!” You take Peter Parker out of high school and out of Aunt May’s house, and you take a little bit of yourself out of the movie as well. He’s just not very relatable without those anchors to common human experiences.

REASON #3: Power and Responsibility

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“With Great Power comes Great Responsibility.” The 2012 version put an interesting spin on that mantra — Not Choice, Responsibility. However, its core message would really have the greatest impact on younger people — when they are still learning what responsibility really means. Growing up means taking responsibility even if it’s too hard. For all the new opportunities young adulthood brings, you have that much more responsibility. Of course, responsibility is something humans have to grapple with regardless of age, but the idea of the parental unit still permeates high school (in loco parenti or not) and is therefore more applicable to Peter’s situation.

To sum it up, I believe Andrew Garfield to be the quintessential Peter Parker/Spider-Man. From the geeky teen to the witty superhero (“You found my weakness: It’s small knives”), I believe Andrew Garfield perfectly embodied one of the most iconic superheroes of all time, and helped make THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN one of the greatest superhero films of the decade.

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Author: bstevens12

I'm a writer, cinephile, and aspiring Jedi Knight. Under the name Brett Stevens, I have published 'The Cynic's Rhapsody' in the Tokyo Yakuza Anthology from Oriental Press Co. I will be co-hosting a podcast entitled Jersey Movie Munchers. We Will go to various restaurants throughout New Jersey while discussing the latest in film and television. My twitter handle is @BreWritestuff12

One thought

  1. No one nails the awkward geekiness of Peter Parker like Andrew Garfield does. He’s so stellar, I love him as Peter Parker SO much. I do like that Holland is actually young enough to feel like a high schooler though. Neither Tobey or Andrew really conveyed that for me, so it’s nice to have someone in the right age bracket this time around.

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