"Before, it was just pure fantasy," Garfield, 28, explained at the premiere of
"Suddenly, I had to embody that character for a generation of kids. And I wanted to so desperately do it well and inspire kids to be better to each other and to themselves through doing that."
The new Spidey flick, which hit theaters Tuesday, takes Peter Parker back to his high school days, where audiences see the origins of how the teenage boy became a web-slinger. The story also explores Peter's first love with classmate Gwen Stacy, played by the actor's real-life girlfriend,
The two, who began dating after the film wrapped production last summer, instantly had chemistry on-set, said director Marc Webb.
"We screen-tested Andrew and Emma, and they were just alive," Webb said. "They come from very different backgrounds. Andrew had done these very intense dramatic backgrounds ... and Emma had come from this great
Their connection is evident in the movie, as many critics have highlighted the film's romantic relationship as its main strength. Times critic Kenneth Turan, for one, said of the young couple: "The times these two interact on screen are all they're supposed to be."
Stone, 23, said she is hopeful the romance will attract girls leery of seeing an action-heavy superhero film to theaters.
"One of the greatest things about the character of Gwen is that she's Peter's equal," the actress said. "It's a first love that feels palpable because it's so uncomfortable a lot of the time."