Hey everyone! I'm Joe and for anyone who started following me after my last post in January on Kylo Ren, I apologize for not writing anything new lately. It came down to a combination of work, school and writer's block and I wanted to write about something that I feel very personal and passionate about. But I recognize that this article could very likely get a lot of hate by those who disagree with me and I'm not trying to change everyone's mind, nor am I trying to make you feel like an idiot for feeling the opposite on this topic so I'd ask that you do the same in return. I could talk about "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and the varying reactions from critics, audiences and fans or I could talk about Star Wars: The Force Awakens since it's released on Bluray but with Captain America: Civil War being about 1 month away being not only a sequel to Captain America but a debut of a new incarnation of Spider-Man by Tom Holland, I thought I'd give you all my thoughts on Tobey Maguire and why I still think he remains the definitive Peter Parker/Spider-Man in live action form.
Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy is a series of movies that has stayed in my imagination for a long time ever since I saw the original film from 2002 when I was 12 years old. Not only did it make me a fan of Sam Raimi who I believe is an extremely talented filmmaker who's passion for the character of Peter Parker shows, but it also got me into the character of Spider-Man due to me not really caring about the character before I saw this movie and it eventually led me to getting more into superheroes in general as I got older like Batman, Captain America, Daredevil and even some of the X-Men. But a big thing for me with all of this, it made me a fan of the lead actor who played Spider-Man: Tobey Maguire who I still believe remains the best live action interpretation of the character despite having seen Andrew Garfield's performance. Now I know what some of you are probably thinking, "Are you completely insane??" "Have you seen the dancing scenes in Spider-Man 3?! He was terrible! He's the worst!" etc. etc. etc. Believe me, I've heard these complaints a million times over in the last few years and while you and I may disagree, you trying to convince me that I'm wrong is not going to change my mind. But as I said earlier, it's completely fine by me if you like Andrew's portrayal of the character because I'm not one of those people who will hate you for it. And to save myself from going on a tirade, I'm not going to talk much about Andrew Garfield's portrayal because if you want to know how I feel about his interpretation, watch Sam's Channel's video on Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield because it's pretty much how I feel and I don't want to repeat some of the same points he made. But I think Andrew Garfield is a really good actor to be honest after seeing him in other movies like 99 Homes and The Social Network so not to worry, I've forgiven him. So here are some of my general thoughts on Tobey Maguire's portrayal of the character and why I think his interpretation. Let's start with the Peter Parker side of his character:
Peter Parker in the early comics of the "Amazing Spider-Man" series was introduced as the school nerd with no friends, bullied by Flash Thompson and tried to get the attention of girls like Liz Allen but to no avail. He also lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben who have raised him since he was a young boy and have instilled good values into him which plays a huge role in him being a very kind hearted individual at his core despite being stomped all over by nearly everyone else in the world. Then when he gets bitten by the spider and discovers his newfound abilities, he's not only astounded but becomes very confident in himself which is something he was really lacking in his social skills and decides to use his powers to make lots of money by entering a wrestling contest that he sees an advertisement for. He wins the contest and becomes a local celebrity by appearing on a television show in his classic Spider-Man costume but later on when he's backstage and a thief runs right by him, he's grown too full of himself that he decides that it's not his problem and let's him pass.
Some days later, Peter comes home and learns from a policeman that a burglar has killed his Uncle Ben, and that he police have the man cornered at a warehouse. Parker dons his costume and swings to the scene looking for revenge.
Once inside, he frightens the man by crawling down the wall toward him. Peter then covers his gun hand with web fluid and defeats him. But when he sees the man's face he recognizes him as the thief who got away at the studio. He wraps the burglar in webbing and leaves him for the police to find. Shocked, Peter realizes that if he had caught the burglar, his Uncle Ben would still be alive. He eventually learns that with great power comes great responsibility.
Now let's take a look at Tobey Maguire's interpretation. I know a lot of people will rip him apart because of Spider-Man 3 (we'll get to that later) and some of the ways his face looks in certain scenes (which I find those complaints to be pretty childish and shallow), but having read some of the comics from the Lee/Ditko era and having watched the Spectacular Spider-Man series I think he's the perfect embodiment of Peter Parker. When you're introduced to him in the first film, you immediately learn that he's the school nerd, he's not very popular with his peers, has only one friend Harry Osborn who isn't that well liked either and has a crush on his classmate and neighbor Mary Jane Watson who's lived next door to him since they were 6 years old. Tobey brought a sense of warmth and wholesomness to the character that you wouldn't normally see in a movie like this because a lot of superhero movies nowadays tend to go for the more angst and brooding type of hero in a superhero movie like Man of Steel, Fant4stic and Amazing Spider-Man 1 (Yep I said it, come and get me!). I bought him as a nerdy everyman kind of character who definitely comes of as a dork and doesn't have a great life, and while that easily could have had him come off as a whiny brat you can't help but like the guy when Maguire is playing him. He's also really good at balancing his more confident side but yet caring personality of Parker when he's finally got the courage to talk to Mary Jane and show his support for her dream of being an actress on Broadway. Plus in the fight with Flash, he says to him right before the fight: "I don't wanna fight you Flash." Some may call him a wuss for saying that, but I like that because it shows that he's still a compassionate person who does care about other people and doesn't want to hurt anyone especially if it's the school bully. Call me crazy, but I think Tobey did an exceptional job of balancing all the character traits laid out for him in the script and direction.
One of the major negatives I hear about his portrayal is that he's not that smart because he doesn't have mechanical web-shooters, which I get their point but I think it makes sense for him to have the ability to spin his own webs and especially since he's a high school kid with no job or money. Plus he's also shown to be intelligent through subtle dialogue exchanges between him and Norman Osborn and even in Spider-Man 2 when he and Otto Octavius are talking about Otto's fusion project. Even in Spider-Man 3 he's talking to Mary Jane about sound diffusion.... whatever that is. And I think his overall transition while yes it plays out differently from the original comic, is handled very well and it felt very believable as well seeing him go through the similar beats as it happened originally with the thief and him discovering he was indirectly responsible for Uncle Ben's death (I don't count Sandman killing Ben because it completely devalues the whole thing).
But one thing I appreciate with the original trilogy is that we see the effect of Uncle Ben's death on Peter Parker which is a major influence for the character's reasons for being a hero. Uncle Ben tries to calmly talk to Peter about being careful with what he's able to do giving the "with great power comes great responsibility" speech which comes off as very natural and necessary thanks to the late Cliff Robertson (RIP), but Peter rejects him saying "Stop pretending to be my father!" Now yes, Peter was kind of a jerk in that scene but let's face it, teenagers act like that sometimes. And he does say to Ben that he wants to figure out his problem on his own, which I personally understand despite him coming off as a bit of a jerk. Then later on after he catches Uncle Ben's killer, he shows a deep sense of regret for scolding Uncle Ben by saying to Aunt May "I can't help thinking about the last thing I said to him. He tried to tell me something important and I threw it in his face". And by the end of the film, he's accepted Uncle Ben as his father when Norman tries to extend his hand to Peter as a father figure to him and when Peter has the opportunity to be with Mary Jane who's confessed her love for him because of how he made her feel like she could be herself, he turns her down telling her that he'll always be her friend. It's a sad but very noble decision on his part because the whole situation with the Green Goblin taught him that as long as he's Spider-Man he can't have the normal life he wants to live and cant bear the thought of Mary Jane or anyone else he cares for being put at risk. Raimi and the writers clearly had an understanding of this character, and all the decisions Peter makes in the 2002 film are done with skill and care and not done in a way that feels contrived.
Now since I brought up Uncle Ben dying, I've heard countless people talk about Tobey's face whenever he's crying or stopping the train saying that he looks like he's got diarrhea. I can't tell you how much that drives me up the wall because nobody, and I mean NOBODY looks like a model when they cry. The naysayers have also accused Peter of "crying 10 to 15 times" or something along those lines but by my count: he cries twice in Spider-Man 1, once in Spider-Man 2 and 3 times in Spider-Man 3. Now I could talk about how many times Andrew cried but I'm not going to bother, but if you were that close to your Uncle Ben who raised you since you were a boy and were cruel to him earlier on, would you REALLY be just a poker faced bore as you watched your Uncle die right in front of you? As for him crying after his graduation, it was his high school graduation which was a big day for him and something that Ben would have attended had he not gotten killed. And when we see him crying he literally says to Aunt May, "I missed him a lot today" ...... HOW could you not sympathize with this character and the regret he feels? And put yourself in his position trying to stop a subway train: obviously it's a heavy train and you'd be using all of your strength to stop it wouldn't you? I've had to lift a few heavy things in certain situations and I could tell that my face was getting all scrunched up and not nice to look at. I'd more than likely have the same look on my face too if I were trying to stop that train also. In fact, this video by Sam's Channel called "Tobey Maguire, The Perfect Spider-Man" says it all:
With Spider-Man 2, Peter's life has gotten really out of hand. He's failing in school, he loses his job as a pizza delivery guy, he's always behind on his rent, he keeps getting fired and rehired by J. Jonah Jameson (by the way, J.K. Simmons was PERFECT as that character!), he can't make it to Mary Jane's play even though he promised her that he would come, his Aunt May is about to lose her home and he still feels guilty over not telling her the truth about Uncle Ben and Harry has grown even more upset with Peter due to Peter taking Spider-Man's pictures and Harry believes Spider-Man killed his father Norman Osborn. On top of that, Mary Jane has become engaged at this point to John Jameson since she's grown tired of Peter constantly breaking his promise. Peter is shown to be depressed and frustrated with the way things are going which I find to be realistic because we've all been there at least one point in our lives. No matter how hard we try to do some good, we never get anything out of it. It then gets to the point where we just go "Forget it! I'm outta here!" With all the stuff I mentioned earlier with Peter's personal life, he's also continuously branded as a menace by the Daily Bugle and in similar fashion to the "Spider-Man: No More!" storyline which served as a huge inspiration for Spider-Man 2, Peter has realized that he's gained nothing from all of his actions as a heroic figure. After an emotionally powerful inner monologue with Uncle Ben, he gives it up because he just can't handle the stress anymore. Some people like a YouTuber named "NeoGameSpark" have claimed that Peter gave up JUST so he could be with Mary Jane (or as he put it in his own words, "to get into Mary Jane's pants.... Ughh..). I completely disagree and I wonder if that guy was even watching the movie because Peter says to Uncle Ben in the dream sequence, "I want a life of my own!" The filmmakers clearly showed there was more to him giving up being Spider-Man than just Mary Jane as I said earlier with school, his job, etc.
And even though things start to get better for him in general, he still feels unsatisfied because when he tries to prove to Mary Jane that he's changed she still turns him down. And whenever he turns the other cheek every time he sees police cars with their sirens zoom by and sees some random person getting mugged he walks away with a big feeling of guilt. After seeing a burning building and hearing of a young child trapped inside, he finally decides to act on the drive inside of him that wants to help others which leads to a great scene of him saving the girl from the fire. Unfortunately he overhears the firefighters talking about how someone got trapped on one of the other floors and never made it out. It's not as impacting as Uncle Ben but it still leads him to realize along with Aunt May's "there's a hero in all of us" speech that Spider-Man is too important to give up. Since I mentioned Aunt May giving that speech which is one of the best scenes in that film, the scene where Peter confesses to Aunt May what happened the night Uncle Ben died is riveting and heart-wrenching. I can remember vividly being blown away in the theater that he was actually confessing to her in detail and crying when he say "I held his hand when he died." I've watched many of Tobey's other movies over the years like Brothers, Seabiscuit and most recently Pawn Sacrifice which he's terrific in, and with this movie and this scene in particular it's some of the best acting I think he's ever done. Even if you're not a huge fan of his portrayal, I don't see how you could not have at least some kind of an emotional attachment to his character in that scene. Spider-Man 2 in a nutshell is a wonderful character study of Peter Parker and how he ultimately has to accept being Spider-Man in order to be happy and is rewarded with having Mary Jane in the end who is willing to go on the ride with him despite whatever dangers may lie ahead and Tobey I think really nails the character in that movie. He gives a very subtle and nuanced performance as Peter in that film which a lot of other actors might be tempted to go over the top with the crying and the screaming. I don't want to put a ton of pressure on Tom Holland, but in my book he's got some big shoes to fill.
Now you've probably wanted me to talk about the Emo Peter scenes, right? Well, personally I'm not the kind of guy to throw someone completely under the bus because of a scene like that unlike a lot of Spider-Man fans who still haven't forgiven him for that. Is it dumb? Oh YEAH! Do those dancing scenes have place in the movie? No. But you know what? I think it kind of works because Peter is a socially awkward kid who's never been cool in his life. Even though I'm not a fan of MovieBob Chipman, he did say that that kind of thing is supposed to look awkward because it's how someone like Peter would perceive "being cool" to be like. Although the jazz club scene is where it admittedly gets a little out of hand, I actually think Tobey's quite good at showing a dark and cruel side to Peter particularly in the second fight scene with Harry when he goes "Oh look at little Goblin Junior! You gonna cry?" Yes it could've been handled a lot better as with the majority of Spider-Man 3, but I didn't think it was all that bad as some have made it out to be. Now that we've covered my thoughts on the Peter Parker side of the character, let's talk about the Spider-Man side of his character:
In the comics Spider-Man is shown to have a sense of humor where he's constantly throwing around a ton of jokes at his enemies to the point where they get annoyed with him. And one of the major negatives I hear about Tobey's portrayal of Spider-Man is that he either didn't make enough jokes or that he didn't joke at all. First of all, I say that latter claim is a flat out lie because he does joke throughout the trilogy. Maybe not as much as fans would've wanted but even though I would've like just a tad more, I actually think they found the right balance. Because in the comics it's quite a constant thing when he's telling jokes, and I don't think it should be translated that literally because just like in Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2 it gets to the point where the jokes begin to override the story and Spider-Man starts to come off as a little unlikeable and not that concerned with helping others. Yes there are a few times where he gets carried away in the comics, but he also throws the jokes around to distract his enemies so that they don't put up much of a fight and also to keep himself (Spider-Man) from losing his mind over the fact that he's in a dangerous situation. In fact Stan Lee has said that Spider-Man wears a mask in order to hide his fear from his enemies given that he's just a kid, unlike Batman who wears a mask in order to intimidate his enemies into submission. But back to Tobey, he does make some jokes throughout the trilogy such as the wrestling scene with Randy Savage, when the Goblin attacks the Bugle, the Bank Heist and his first encounter with Sandman, and they're also done at the right time whenever the circumstances are light hearted enough to warrant them and every time he talks, he has that sense of confidence that Spider-Man is supposed to have because wearing the suit is what makes Peter feel like he can be his true self. The filmmakers understood that there has to be a degree of seriousness whenever Spider-Man is fighting his enemies and can't constantly be telling jokes which like I said, would actually start to make him a little unlikeable.
So in conclusion, I know a lot of people prefer Andrew Garfield and are more than likely going to argue with me over this and try to convince me that I'm wrong. But keep in mind that this is just my opinion and I'm not trying to make you feel bad for disagreeing with me, and I'm just asking that you do the same. Even though I have not yet seen Civil War, Tobey Maguire still remains in my mind the definitive live action Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Here's hoping Tom Holland can pull off the character as well as Tobey did!