2002 was a great year for movies. In that 12-month span alone we got such classics as 8 Mile, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Gangs of New York, Chicago, Catch Me If You Can, Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, The Hours, and 40 Days and 40 Nights.
It's also the year that Tobey Maguire made his debut as our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Kirsten Dunst, who played Mary Jane Watson in the original franchise, recently made news when she shaded the upcoming Spider-Man reboot, telling Variety: “Everyone likes our Spider-Man. C’mon, am I right or what? Listen, I’d rather be in the first ones than the new ones.”
Disclaimer: I have not yet seen Spider-Man: Homecoming. I am (almost) certain it is delightful — what Tom Holland movie wouldn't be? It also promises much more diversity in its cast than the Sam Raimi franchise, which is definitely a step forward. But still, I kind of agree with Kirsten Dunst.
Let's travel back to a time before Marvel had a ginormous film franchise with 18,000 parallel universes; a time when it was fully acceptable for 27-year-old men to play high school students; a time when Tobey Maguire was considered a bigger heartthrob than James Franco; a simpler time.
Because, really, what makes Spider-Man so great is simple: it was the first major superhero movie for our generation, and the plot was straightforward. Nerdy boy gets bitten by radioactive spider, gains superpowers. Uncle's sudden violent death gives boy conscience. Boy fights bad guy and seduces girl. Boy becomes man. Have you seen Avengers: Age of Ultron? I once tried describing the plot to a friend, but lost them at: "and then they go to this fake country called Sokovia..."
True, the later Spider-Man installments may have suffered from Marvel bloat (and outrageous emo haircuts), but the first one was as pure as James Franco's white smile. It's the perfect example of an early aughts film, right down to Kirsten Dunst's jean skirt and flowered top, paired with mid-calf boots.
And the casting! Pussy posse or no, I wholeheartedly believed, and still do, that people would bully Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker in school. Have you seen Andrew Garfield? That boy has never been the butt of a jock joke. And Tom Holland? That kid is friends with Tony Stark, for god's sake!
Also, I didn't realize this until I moved to New York, but Spider-Man is the only movie that truly takes place in a city that I recognize. After all, Peter Parker is from Queens, and glaring lack of diversity aside, his high school and home look like Queens. The same principle applies, when he moves to Manhattan. It's not Gotham, it's Times Square — Stuart Weitzman ads and all. Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker was supposed to be from Brighton Beach, yet somehow managed to get to Manhattan in under 10 minutes, ready to fight crime. Let me tell you: that is IMPOSSIBLE.
And guys, I don't know if you remember, but there is a Macy Gray performance smack dab in the middle of this film. If that doesn't make it superior to all others, I don't know what does.
This isn't to say you shouldn't go see the reboot. I know I will. But before you do, maybe just give the original a watch. Joe Manganiello's surprise appearance won't be the only pleasant surprise.
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