As comic book movie fans worldwide explode with glee at the confirmation that Spider-Man will at last join the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s easy to overlook the one rather sad note in the midst of all this - Andrew Garfield’s apparent dismissal from the role.
There had long been murmurs that if the exciting deal between Marvel and Sony came to fruition, it would also mean another reboot of sorts - most likely abandoning the story thread of Marc Webb’s two ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ movies, and, as such, abandoning their leading man along with it.
Though neither Sony nor Marvel have officially declared that the British-American actor will not reprise the role again, The Wrap’s Linda Ge has stated on Twitter that this is the case, and thus far no one in the know appears to have said otherwise:
If this indeed accurate, is Garfield taking the heat for what is now being widely accepted as a misguided direction taken by the ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ films - and does the actor deserve to be written off in such a way?
To my mind, Andrew Garfield is to Spider-Man as Timothy Dalton was to James Bond. Both men were ideal candidates for the role, who had the misfortune of being cast at a less than ideal time.
Coming so soon after Tobey Maguire made such a huge impact in the role, the franchise needed an actor who would do something completely distinct - and, whatever you think of the film overall, 2011’s ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ showed that Garfield had the skills to do this.
Whereas Maguire’s more awkward, stereotypically nerdy take on Peter Parker seemed to come right out of the character’s earliest stories in the 1960s (which director Sam Raimi always admitted were his main inspiration), Garfield’s more street-smart Gen Y interpretation felt considerably more up-to-date.
We could absolutely accept Garfield as someone who could be vulnerable, yet strong and confident at the same time. Indeed, Garfield’s more overtly cocky, wise-cracking take on Spider-Man was arguably a lot closer to the character as written in the comics than Maguire’s interpretation had ever been.
Had ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ taken more of a soft reboot approach, along the lines of Marvel’s own ‘The Incredible Hulk’ - continuing with a new actor and a slightly modified storyline, without going straight back to square one - then perhaps Garfield might have been more widely accepted straight away. Unfortunately, the film opted to retell Spider-Man’s origins again, and as such couldn’t help but feel a bit stale and overfamiliar.
Then came last year’s much-maligned ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2,’ which most fans and critics seem to agree was a very messy sequel - and Garfield himself openly acknowledged this, in comments that may well have done little to endear him to his superiors at Sony.
The actor told the Daily Beast in September 2014 that the film was heavily reworked in post-production at Sony’s behest: “Certain people at the studio had problems with certain parts of it, and ultimately the studio is the final say in those movies because they’re the tentpoles, so you have to answer to those people.” Still, he also stressed, “I’m proud of a lot of it and had a good time, and was a bit taken aback by the response.”
Assuming Garfield is indeed done as Spidey, it would be easy to assume the actor all but signed his expulsion papers with those remarks. And yet, it may simply be that a fresh start all around is what the filmmakers are after - much as was the case when ‘Superman Returns’ actor Brandon Routh was not invited back for ‘Man of Steel,’ or indeed when Timothy Dalton opted not to return as Bond in ‘Goldeneye.’
Under those circumstances, it may well be understandable if Garfield does not return - and it’s certainly intriguing to imagine which actors might stand a chance of succeeding him in the role of the character who arguably remains the best-loved superhero in the whole Marvel pantheon.
Still, it does seem a shame for someone who had the potential for such great things in the role to have to pass it on before he really showed all that he was capable of. But perhaps that’s the old ‘great power/great responsibility’ thing in action…
Picture credit: Sony, Twitter/Linda Ge