Tobey Maguire turns 46 today. The actor is best known for playing the role of Marvel superhero Spider-Man and his alter-ego Peter Parker in Sam Raimi’s trilogy of movies.
To celebrate his big day, here’s briefly exploring his take on the iconic wallcrawler and how influential it was for superhero films.
When 2002’s Spider-Man burst into the cinematic scene, superhero movies were rare, the good ones even rarer. Only notable recent film in the genre was 2000’s X-Men. Directed by Sam Raimi, then known for the Evil Dead films, it told the origin story of one of the most popular comic-book characters in the world.
The film had its titular character being bitten by a genetically engineered spider that gives him superpowers like superhuman strength, the ability to shoot webs (that, unlike in comics, came from his own wrist and not from a gadget) and swing using webbing to move quickly between buildings.
The film was both sincere and innocent. It also had the perfect balance of humour and darkness. Raimi had envisioned the character as being in “the transition that occurs between him being a young man going through puberty and being a superhero,” and the character turned out exactly that.
It is not a coincidence that MCU’s Spider-Man, starring Tom Holland, skipped the character’s origin story altogether. It was because Spider-Man had done it so well. It would have felt redundant.
A big reason why the film, and the franchise, worked was Maguire’s earnest performance as a young superhero figuring out not just new powers, but also the responsibility that comes with it. Maguire, then a 27-year-old, nevertheless played the role of a high school kid with perfection. His transition from a pretty uncaring and dorky teen to an able, self-less, crime-fighter superhero was credible largely due to his performance.
Maguire’s performance became the blueprint for every cinematic Spider-Man, whether it is live-action films, animation or even video-games — no take on the character is untouched by its influence.