Rather than performing a stand-up routine while countless civilians are mowed down by a monster truck Rhinoceros, the comedy of Holland’s Spider-Man surfaces from his naivety, inexperience and criminals making fun of his girly voice. However, while Holland’s Spider-Man is better than Garfield’s due to being less of an obnoxious clown, the boy behind the mask is a lot flatter.
Re-enacting the origin story rather than telling the “untold” tale that Sony promised its audiences, Garfield’s Peter Parker had a sympathetic motivation for becoming Spider-Man: to capture/potentially kill Uncle Ben’s grunge-looking killer. It’s only after Peter encountered the Lizard and rescued the passengers from the bridge that he truly understood Uncle Ben’s lecture about responsibility as he begrudgingly abandoned his personal quest for revenge to protect New York from the giant reptilian.
The motivation for Holland’s Peter Parker being Spider-Man is to impress Tony Stark. He’s not driven to help Aunt May like in the comics, and he’s not compelled to protect citizens due to his old man’s final words. His reason for donning the suit is shallow and superficial, meaning audiences can only have a shallow and superficial emotional response to him.
Unlike a round character who is sympathetic and capable of surprising, Holland's Peter Parker is predictable and flat. He's fun to watch, but nothing more. The determination, maturity, and concluding moment of selfishness made Garfield's portrayal unpredictable and more interesting. He was a complex hero with more pressing matters than impressing a billionaire playboy.