A Spider-Man for Every Generation

Anna Blackburn praises filmmakers for their newest Spider-Man film, and takes a closer look at the most recent success of the superhero.

In 1962, legendary author Stan Lee and illustrator Steve Ditko debuted Spider-Man, a superhero that has been adapted to fit all platforms from comics and video games to television and animations. When Sony purchased the film rights to Spider-Man from Marvel Studios in 1998, the superhero would finally see the big screen. Tobey Maguire was the first of three actors to have the chance to portray Spider-Man in a live action film, with the release of the first Spider-Man in 2002, and ending with Spider-Man 3 in 2007. These films did surprisingly well despite Marvel Studios financial struggles at the end of the 20th century. 

When the studio decided to do a Spider-Man reboot in 2012, with Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man, it continued to sell in the international box office. However, despite the incredible chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Gerfield on and off screen, Garfield’s Spider-Man didn’t get a full trilogy like Maguire.

Spider-Man made it back to the big screen again in 2016 with Tom Holland appearing as the new Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War. Holland then got his own Spider-Man film the following year in 2017 with Spider-Man: Homecoming and also appeared in the final two Avengers films. The third of Holland’s Spider-Man series, and the most popular of the Spider-Man films, Spider-Man: No Way Home, broke the box office in December 2021 and has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide in just over a month. The newest film is already eighth on Box Office Mojo’s highest grossing films of all time, and it's no secret why.

“The difference between revenge and justice is what defines a hero in today’s world.”

Lately, films that are being remade offer cameo roles to their original actors, but No Way Home had a much stronger impact in giving both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield the opportunity to return as their versions of Spider-Man in supporting roles and give the newest member some much needed guidance. Not only did fans of Maguire and Garfield get to see their favourites again, but they saw them return as adults with a lot more wisdom to share than in their villain-fighting days. 

The difference between revenge and justice is what defines a hero in today’s world; those who want punishment for what has happened versus those who want to make things right. In his darkest moment, Holland prepares to murder the Green Goblin, but its Maguire who saves him from making that mistake. The entire film was built on the premise that even villains can be saved and Holland wouldn’t have been able to keep himself from killing the Green Goblin without his fellow Spider-Men. 

Even further, Holland was not the only Spider-Man who got to redeem himself. The villains which came from different universes, and all of whom were played by their original actors, were all saved by their relative Spider-Man. It’s revealed that Maguire’s character was able to make a life for himself as Peter Parker and enjoys a moment with Doc Ock but how he’s “all grown up”. However, the most heartwarming scene in the film belongs to Garfield, because although the light-hearted banter among the three Spider-Men was hilarious and incredibly well done, the moment that he caught MJ (Zendaya) in his arms, was the moment he forgave himself for not saving his MJ, Gwen (Emma Stone), in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. 

Even superheroes make mistakes. Like us, they are propelled by their emotions and like us, sometimes they need help from others to be saved from themselves. Every generation from Baby Boomers to Generation Alpha has gotten to grow with the Spider-Man they knew and continue to experience his legacy, a legacy that will never cease to be shaped and reshaped as the hero adapts to fit their world’s needs.