It’s no secret that my least favorite Star Wars movie is Attack of the Clones. It’s been part of my DNA and history of Star Wars since the movie came out. But recently challenged by My Comic Relief to write about WHY I dislike it so much, left me in a bit of an awkward place. (You can read his post about why it’s such a great movie here)
Why do I dislike the movie so much? I can’t even remember. There are obvious reasons but I felt like there had to be something else that really did not sit well with me for it to grow and evolve over time to a point that I rarely watch the movie.
I loved The Phantom Menace. I still do. It always surprises and disappoints me when people talk about how much they loathe the movie and how people want to cut it out of the viewing order entirely as they think it unnecessary to Anakin’s storyline. TPM changed my life. It helped me become a stronger person, more self-assured and less likely to be affected by what others thought of me. I love Qui-Gon Jinn and thought he was the most exemplary Jedi. The movie came out at just the right time in my life to shape the rest of my existence – it turned me into an obsessed Star Wars fan. I wrote a letter to George Lucas asking him how he was going to connect the dots between the Prequels and the Original Trilogy (I remember having a specific question on if mouse droids would be part of the later Prequel movies…I had my priorities) and though he didn’t return my letter – the fan club did send me a copy of the Star Wars Insider. I still have that copy and it’s so beat up because I read it so many times. Through Insider, I found out about something called Star Wars Celebration – the huge convention just for Star Wars fans where the actors, actresses, authors and more show up along with so much Star Wars cosplay – that I convinced my dad to take me to Celebration II for my birthday. We drove all the way from Massachusetts to Indiana in one day.
While at Celebration II, I got to sit in on many panels and the lines were not half as long as they are now! I only had to stay in line to see Hayden Christensen for 2.5 hours (unheard of nowadays). Not only did I see Christensen, I also got to see Anthony Daniels, Daniel Logan, Temuera Morrison…all these panels where we were the first to see some new AOTC footage. I loved everything I saw! Jango Fett was so cool. We got to see almost the entire Zam Wesell chase scene through Coruscant. Keep in mind – this was pre-YouTube and streaming so it was a big deal to see these scenes before other people. It was like you were let in on a Star Wars secret that everyone else had to wait an entire month to see.
I was insanely excited for the movie came out. Since I couldn’t drive and my parents were not about to go to a midnight showing, I remember having to see it opening day and that was such a travesty. Yet, I went in with such excitement, and I remember leaving disappointed.
Over the next week at school, so many people were talking about how it was WAY better than TPM and I was on the fence. Why did I not have the same love for AOTC that I did for TPM? Everyone else was feeling it, why wasn’t I?
At that age, I chalked it up to the script writing. I mean, it was pretty terrible and I knew that even at age 15. Over the next 16 years of my life, I found other reasons to dislike it:
- The love story was embarrassing and unbelievable (that scene about sand getting everywhere…smh)
- There isn’t good chemistry between Portman and Christensen.
- The storyline is not straightforward.
- The acting can be hard to watch.
- The humor is non-existent or too forced, other than some horrible puns by Threepio.
- There are scenes that are uncomfortable to watch because they are so bad like the droid factory scene, the picnic scene, the first half of the gladiator scene until the Jedi show up, etc.
- Count Dooku is the worst nemesis to pick after Darth Maul – he doesn’t incite any fear and frankly is a downright bore.
- There is no real emotional connection or stakes in the characters.
At the end of it all, I do not want to show this movie to friends. It is not Star Wars to me. In fact, it’s this awkward chapter that does not excite my imagination and it does not leave me wanting to know more about the universe – which is essentially how I rate/rank how good the Star Wars movie is.
But while all this is interesting, it does not really get to the core of why I dislike AOTC so much. This is what I have spent the last month thinking about. There are many reasons, but like a psychiatrist digging into a patient’s past, where does it all come from?
The answer surprised me and is somewhat two-fold.
The reason I dislike AOTC to the point that I do is because of Hayden Christensen. I believe my original reason for disliking AOTC at age 15, by acknowledging the horrible script, is heightened by Hayden Christensen’s bad acting.
I have never thought about this before but when I started thinking about the bad script, I realized that though there are awkward lines, Hayden seems to be the faulty screw. Now – I know that this is a VERY obvious point and that many people have criticized his acting before – but I was always steadfastly loyal to him. I continuously blamed it on the script and bad dialogue. I would say, “No one can act well with a script like that!” and I defended him over and over again. But now I realize that I was in denial and that the problem at the core of the movie lies with Christensen.
The first scene that we have with Obi-Wan and Anakin going up the elevator to see Padmé and the conversation between them two is very forced. It’s not that funny, though as I watched it closer, Ewan McGregor isn’t the problem. It’s only when Christensen responds and they have to seem like they’re having a conversation between close friends that it starts becoming painful. This seems to be the case with all their scenes together. There are very few scenes between them both that seem to flow naturally.
The same is reflected when Hayden Christensen acts with Natalie Portman. While people bemoan the love scenes and how horrible they are (which I entirely agree), when I watch them with a critical eye, I see that it’s not Portman who is the problem. In fact, she plays her part quite effortlessly. She looks at Anakin disdainfully when needed, flirts with him appropriately, and struggles against their love in a believable way. But when Christensen says Anakin’s lines, I don’t buy it. I want to roll my eyes.
I’ll never forget when I saw AOTC in the theater for the 2nd or 3rd time, when this fireside scene came on:
Anakin says, “If you’re suffering as much as I am, please tell me.”
And someone in the theater shouted out, “We’re all suffering here!” I laughed with others in the theater but also felt a little shocked that someone was belittling my revered Star Wars with such casualness. But I still hear that line in my head every time I see that scene and now, years later, I completely and whole-heartedly agree with whoever shouted that out.
Hayden Christensen is the weak link in this movie. Yes, the script writing is bad, but most of the actors and actresses in the film are still able to work with it. They give it their all and I enjoy watching their scenes. But Christensen destroys the movie and as much as it pains me to realize this – I think this is the main reason I dislike AOTC.
While I believe Christensen is the reason this movie unravels, the other reasons I listed are also glaring problems. In fact, many of the scenes can be cut or changed or shortened to make it more enjoyable. The droid factory scene could have been left out. The gladiator scene on Geonosis could have been shortened. Threepio’s puns were cringe-worthy, along with some of Obi-Wan’s jokes.
I feel like out of all the Star Wars movies, I have no emotional connection or stakes tied to any of the characters. I don’t feel really strongly one way or another about how or where they end up. I don’t even feel like there is a big stake for the galaxy. Most of the time with Star Wars movies, I feel like the small sliver we see has large consequences for the galaxy at large. This is especially true in the OT, but with AOTC, it’s all disconnected and the only glimpse we see is this stealthy meeting on Geonosis between the Separatists. Just one, tiny scene that if you’re not old enough to understand the consequences – mostly goes over your head.
Count Dooku as the main sith enemy was a poor choice. All other antagonist’s in Star Wars had been scary and intimidating. After TPM presented us with Maul, I remember wondering how they were going to top that and get an even scarier sith. I mean, we knew Vader, the Emperor and Darth Maul at that point and those villains had been worthy of making me a little frightened. And then AOTC rolls up with…Count Dooku? Ugh. Really? You “kill” off Darth Maul but keep Dooku alive at the end of AOTC?
Despite my intense dislike for AOTC, due to Christensen’s acting, poor scriptwriting, and other points, there are moments in this movie I can appreciate. It is not all hatred.
I love Obi-Wan Kenobi’s story line. It’s the only Star Wars movie where there is a legitimate mystery that we, the audience, are trying to figure out along with Obi-Wan. We go down this chase of finding out who a bounty hunter is, only to find legions of clone troopers that was made for the Republic. I only came to appreciate this recently – when I was watching AOTC again as part of my pseudo-machete theory viewing prior to The Last Jedi.
One of my favorite species in the Star Wars universe are the Geonosians. I think they are a stroke of genius and have fascinated me for a long time.
The music of AOTC is amazing. From Jango Fett’s theme to Across the Stars, I find the soundtrack to be a beautiful composition that shows the versatility of John Williams. It’s so different from TPM, which was only three years prior, and even more different from what we heard in the Original Trilogy.
There are good moments in AOTC, but now I’m wondering if they had picked a different actor, would I enjoy it more? I think Christensen does a much better job in Revenge of the Sith with his acting, than in AOTC. I’m wondering if he excels at acting in shorter scenes with numerous different characters than when having to play consistently off other (much better) actors. I’m surprised at my acknowledgement of Christensen’s poor acting sixteen years after seeing AOTC for the first time in theaters. I feel like I’ve been in denial because admitting that I think he’s the weak link therefore admits that Lucas is flawed in his choices…which is something I also struggle to accept. Though multiple people have talked to me about Christensen’s bad acting, I have always used the excuse of poor scriptwriting but now I have to realize that I need to call a spade a spade.
If you think I’m too harsh, or you enjoy AOTC a lot, please go over and check out My Comic Relief’s post on why AOTC is one of the best Star Wars movies!