By Susan Wloszczyna | Thompson on Hollywood May 5, 2014 at 7:00AM
Critics are less enthused about “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” than they were about 2012’s reboot of the comic-book franchise. The Chicago Tribune review headline declaring the sequel as “just adequate, too long” pretty much nails it. What is amazing, however, is the praise being heaped upon the more intimate moments shared by the cast members over the web-slinging action sequences. Much of that is due to the edgy yet playful performance by Andrew Garfield in the title role, perceived by many as an upgrade over earnestly boyish Tobey Maguire, Hollywood’s original Spider-Man. Rogerebert.com’s Christy Lemire extols Garfield’s “innate rebelliousness” and notes how he has grown into “the cheeky, wisecracking superhero of Marvel Comic lore … Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.”
Signature line: “Five, four, three, two, one... Ready or not, here I come.” – As Peter Parker in “The Amazing Spider-Man” (2012)
Career peaks: Born 30 years ago in Los Angeles and raised in England, this talented offspring of a British mom and an American father maintains a dual citizenship. He appeared in a youth theater production of “Bugsy Malone” at 12, but didn’t truly get bitten by the acting bug until he was 16. After graduating from the University of London’s Central School of Speech and Drama in 2004, he won an outstanding newcomer award for his work with Manchester’s Royal Theatre Exchange before making the leap to British TV.
His career went into high gear after a small part as a Southerner during the Great Depression in two episodes of the cult sci-fi series “Doctor Who” in 2007. That same year, he also found himself holding his own opposite Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise and Robert Redford on the big screen as an American college student in 2007’s little-seen “Lions for Lambs” and displayed his range in the British TV drama “Boy A” as an accused killer just released from prison. He later took supporting roles in such features as 2008’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” and Terry Gilliam’s 2009 release “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”
His breakout arrived in 2010, with major parts in two standout film dramas: As a boarding-school student in the dystopian tale “Never Let Me Go,” and as Eduardo Saverin, one of the founders of Facebook and the vulnerable moral center of “The Social Network.” That same year, he was announced as the new Spider-Man.
“He is one of these young people who have this gift," explains his “Never Let Me Go" director Mark Romanek. "The degree to which they apply themselves and the professionalism and the deep thought they put into their work is amazing.”
Biggest assets: Unlike established stars who have stepped into a superhero suit – think Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Hugh Jackman as Wolverine -- Garfield is still in the process of being discovered by mainstream moviegoers, allowing for a welcome degree of mystery that benefits his transformation into his characters. The actor, who has been compared to the young Anthony Perkins, puts his bi-cultural background to good use, combining gangly boy-next-door appeal with intelligence and rueful humor. His humble attitude in interviews also doesn’t hurt. The lifelong Spidey fan has said about winning the part of his favorite superhero, “I was excited like a child is excited,” while vowing to represent “kids who feel stronger on the inside than they look on the outside.”