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We’ve been seeing a lot of Andrew Garfield lately, and I’m here for it. The Oscar-nominated star has been doing the rounds to talk about his performance as Jonathan Larson in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tick, Tick... Boom. It’s a cracking film, and he’s wonderful in it. You really should check it out.
But that’s not the only reason we keep seeing his name in headlines lately. The poor bastard has spent the last few months fending off questions about whether or not he’s reprising his role as Spider-Man in next month’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. He often manages to do this eloquently and with good humour, especially considering these questions so often come when he’s trying to talk about his other projects.
In the last week you will have no doubt seen Garfield’s appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on which he spoke, rather beautifully, about his perspective on grief and how he sees it as the measure of how much love we have for the people in our lives. You may also have heard his recent account of his time as Spider-Man, and how it ultimately crushed him. He explained that, as a huge fan of the character, discovering superhero blockbusters are driven by a faceless capitalist machine first and a passion for the source material second broke his heart.
Yep, we’ve been seeing a lot of Andrew Garfield lately. And it’s left me with no doubt in my mind whatsoever: his Spider-Man deserved so, so much better.
This is, to be clear, an opinion I have long held. While I acknowledge 2011’s The Amazing Spider-Man is far from a perfect film (and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is hot stinky garbage), Garfield was one of few undeniable bright spots in Sony’s short-lived reboot of the franchise.
His charm and swagger made him the perfect wisecracking webhead. His chemistry with the equally excellent Emma Stone helped to ground the iconic characters in a way the Sami Raimi movies never quite did. And while I fully understand many of the detractors that suggest Garfield’s Peter Parker was a little too cocky to be the relatable everyman in the same way as Tobey Maguire or Tom Holland, I don’t entirely agree.
This angst-ridden, chocolate milk-drinking version of Peter might not be the one we’re most familiar with, but Garfield committed to it fully and, crucially, made him likeable. That’s an especially impressive skill given the way the character was straight up written as a bit of a selfish jerk in both his movies, presumably because some faceless Sony execs decided it was more important to have an edgier Peter Parker that could skateboard and had daddy issues for spinoff purposes. There are a million reasons not to like this version of Peter, but Garfield has never been one of them. He found the heart beneath a deeply flawed take on a beloved character.
Every single flash of brilliance in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 comes as a result of either Garfield, Stone, or some combination of the two. One of my favourite scenes in the first movie is watching Peter awkwardly fumble his way through a dinner with Gwen Stacy and her parents, one of whom happens to be the police captain tasked with tracking down Spider-Man. Just wonderfully tense, and genuinely funny. Garfield is a talented comic actor, and that shone through in both instalments. I also need to remind you that his physical comedy is outstanding. Seriously, go rewatch those early scenes where he’s slowly discovering his powers. Garfield wrecking his bathroom in a completely befuddled state is top-notch stuff.
But he could also break your heart. Watching him break down over Gwen’s body is an obvious showcase for his talent, yes, but there are subtler showcases of his depth, too. In the first movie there’s a wonderful moment where Peter takes his mask off in public to make a frightened little boy feel a little bit safer.
Similarly, the final scene in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Our hero, despite having lost everything, gets back up and starts fighting again because he knows people need him. Garfield plays both moments beautifully. There’s a quiet resignation behind his eyes. An acceptance that he chose this and will always have to keep going. There’s a heartbreaking defiance, too - a refusal to ever let any kid feel the way he felt when he lost his parents.
So I say again: Andrew Garfield deserved better. Watching his performances in pretty much every damn movie he’s done since being replaced by Tom Holland, including Tick, Tick… Boom! Hearing him share his take on grief and his passion for performance. Listening to how his genuine love of Spider-Man was ground down by Sony’s need to churn out a money-spinning cinematic universe to rival the MCU. All of these things just serve to remind me that Sony had at their disposal one of the finest and most insightful actors of a generation, one who knew, loved, and understood the source material. And what happened? They pissed it up the wall because they were too busy trying to get a dozen or so spinoff movies off the ground to appreciate what they had in front of them.
I don’t know if Garfield will be in Spider-Man: No Way Home this December, but I truly hope he is. If nothing else, he deserves one last shot at playing a character he truly loves.