Andrew Garfield’s Performance in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Reminds Us He Was Never a “Bad” Spider-Man 

Behold: the Andrew Garfield renaissance is upon us—and it’s long overdue. After his brilliant cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home, there has been a boom in Andrew Garfield admiration from fans on social media. All of which is refreshing considering in previous conversations surrounding Garfield’s relationship to the Spider-Man character, fan appreciation wasn’t always the case.

Namely, after Tom Holland’s full debut as Peter Parker in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, fan comparisons inevitably ensued now that audiences had witnessed three similar yet distinct live-action, on-screen creations of the same beloved character: Peter Parker as portrayed by Toby McGuire in the early ‘00s, Garfield in 2012, and finally Holland in 2017.

For a long time, the general fan consensus almost always ranked Garfield’s depiction of Parker last, treating his Spider-Man as the “middle child” of the three adaptations. Most likely because Garfield wasn’t the “first” Spider-Man who evokes many fans’ childhood nostalgia, he never fought elevated, other-worldly villains as his predecessor and successor have, and his Spider-Man isn’t a part of a major franchise like the MCU.

The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2 didn’t exactly have critics’ favor at the time either as the movies were mildly received. Because of this, coupled with the infamous Sony hack in 2014, The Amazing Spider-Man series never became a trilogy (which fans are now calling for after viewing No Way Home).

Not to mention, Holland’s Peter Parker received a co-sign from Marvel comics creator Stan Lee himself, who, in 2016, said “It’s as if we created a living being to be Spider-Man, and it turned out to be Tom.” Of course, this was great (maybe even career-defining) for Holland, but it didn’t help the overall perception of Garfield’s Spider-Man.

Thankfully, however, fans’ lukewarm opinion of Garfield as Peter Parker is potentially gone for good and the reception of The Amazing Spider-Man didn’t put a strain on his career. In fact, his career has been fruitful because let’s face it, the guy is talented! Notably, Garfield was nominated for an Academy Award in 2017 for his lead role in Hacksaw Ridge and is generating Oscar buzz again for his role in the musical Tick, Tick… Boom!.

A Thrillist article concedes—Garfield is “a bonafide movie star: he can act, he can sing, and he’s a heartthrob superhero again.” Although, perhaps it shouldn’t have taken hindsight to realize—Andrew Garfield was never a “bad” Spider-Man. He not only played his role how it was intended but his depth of emotion as Peter Parker was heartfelt and moving.

Andrew Garfield Emma Stone
Courtesy of Sony

What’s more, The Amazing Spider-Man series has many redeeming qualities. Firstly, the 2012 and 2014 films have all the charm of a romantic comedy. We’re introduced to this version of Peter first as a young boy sent off to live with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Then as a teenager in his latter years of high school.

Garfield’s Peter Parker has a combination of intelligence, awkwardness, sarcasm, and charm that feels true to character and authentic. So does his relationship with Gwen Stacey, played by Emma Stone, another socially awkward yet cute genius prodigy who’s one of Peter’s classmates.

Garfield and Stone’s onscreen chemistry feels so natural and comfortable. Most importantly, their character’s companionship doesn’t feel like an afterthought (which is often the case for superhero movies), giving The Amazing Spider-Man the kind of enamor the other Spider-Man series either don’t have or don’t develop until later.

These components of The Amazing Spider-Man movies make Gwen’s later death a hard one to endure as a viewer. And, comparatively, 2012 Peter experiences loss that is twice as heavy as Toby’s or Tom’s. Because Garfield’s Peter not only loses Gwen (his MJ), he also loses his Uncle Ben in the first film.

This sets him apart from his spidey peers as Uncle Ben’s murder breeds an immediate grittiness to this version of Peter Parker that I appreciate. Whereas Toby and Tom’s Peters go through their respective dark phases in their later films.

Another important feat of The Amazing Spider-Man 1 is the way in which the community of  Queen’s, New York loves and supports this Peter.

A notable aspect of Peter Parker’s canon from the comics is that his community uplifts him and relishes assisting their hero when he needs them as a sign of their gratitude. So in this regard, The Amazing Spider-Man aligns with the intended narrative of Spider-Man: the friendly neighborhood hero whose neighborhood loves him back.

Andrew Garfield
Courtesy of Sony

Therefore, if you’ve never watched The Amazing Spider-Man films, I implore you to do so. Or if your previous conception of Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man was poor, I urge you to revisit his character with fresh eyes.

Because based on theatres’ reaction to Garfield’s first appearance onscreen in No Way Home as well as his notable scene with Zendaya’s MJ (if you know, you know), his Spider-Man character clearly meant a lot to a lot of people for a reason. Ultimately, Andrew Garfield was and always will be an amazing Spider-Man.

Fortunately, for Garfield and long-time admirers of his Spider-Man rendition, this sentiment may finally become solidified in the general public’s hivemind even if almost a decade later. But hey, it’s better late than never, and it’s never too late to give Andrew Garfield his well-deserved shine.

Ebony Purks is a graduate student at the University of Incarnate Word working toward getting her Master’s degree in communications. She is also a freelance writer, interested in writing about pop culture, social justice, and health; especially examining the many intersections between those subjects.