Syfy Wire explains why Anakin’s sand speech in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones is great
From Syfy Wire:
“[…] I fully expect to be yelled at for this, but I’m gonna say it anyway: Anakin and Padme’s exchange about sand in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is better than you think it is. In fact, it’s great. I am not the first person to ever defend it, nor will I be the last, but our numbers are not legion, so I am going to make this argument.
Admittedly, the majority of people who seem most comfortable defending the Star Wars prequels are all on the younger side — they’re the people who always liked them. I definitely always liked them. On long car rides growing up, my younger brother and I would watch and rewatch all the Star Wars movies (original and prequel trilogies) on a small television with a VCR attached and, later, on a portable DVD player.
Inevitably, I’d bully him into watching the special features. There was one in particular from Attack of the Clones, subtitled “Trying to Do My Thing,” about Christensen’s casting process that I always really liked.
If you think Christensen looked young in Attack of the Clones, just wait until you see him in his audition tapes. He is a child — an infant. Up until being cast in Attack of the Clones, Christensen had been playing one-off roles in various television shows and soap operas. And then, because George Lucas liked the way the kid’s eyes looked when he was brooding, he became the face of the new Star Wars trilogy at 19.
I bring all this up because thinking about these factors — Christensen’s age and relative inexperience, as well as Lucas’ casting process — tends to make people more sympathetic toward, well, a lot of things about Anakin in Attack of the Clones. I was always sympathetic because these movies were made for me (and everyone else around my age); Lucas made them for kids. And while it’s relatively easy to skewer the film’s dialogue and its plot and the performances and a lot of other things, it’s much more fun to enjoy those things.
Stay with me here. What’s the first scene you think of when considering Attack of the Clones’ less-excellent elements? I don’t know about you, but Anakin’s sand monologue is the very first thing that comes to my mind.
You know the one I’m talking about. Anakin and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman trying her best, dammit) arrive at Varykino in Naboo’s Lake Country and take a stroll near the very same place they’d be married not that long after. Padme waxes poetic about the times she spent at Varykino as a girl, about how she’d lie in the sand after swimming.
And that’s when Anakin responds with these iconic lines:
“I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating — and it gets everywhere.”
Then he runs his hand up Padme’s back and compliments her by basically telling her she’s the opposite of sand.
A lot of people read this scene as an ultra-cringey combination of bad acting and bad dialogue. I, however, invite you to think about it this way: How good were you at flirting when you were a teenager? Were you smooth? Did you know how to talk to someone you thought was hot? Let alone someone you’d thought was hot for 10 years?
Sure, Anakin is a Jedi-in-training and one of the most powerful Force users the galaxy has ever seen. But c’mon; the kid was raised by a single mom and a group of freakin’ space wizard-monks who preach control and stamping down emotions. You know what teenagers lack? Control. You know what they have a lot of? Emotions. So you know what he’s not going to be good at? Flirting.
Watch this scene again with all this in your mind, and I guarantee you’ll see what I do in this scene: An awkward kid who thinks he’s being smooth and who failing oh-so-miserably.
I argue that this is the best scene in Star Wars because it’s one of the few times in live-action we see a teenager act like a teenager in the Star Wars galaxy, and because we are still talking about it after all this time. This scene, as awkward as it can be to watch (and, yes, it is so very awkward), is masterful because it’s awkward. What you’re feeling there, my friends, is second-hand embarrassment. Embrace it.”
As I’ve said before, and I’ll likely say again, Anakin spent his teens being trained as a Jedi. How to pick up girls with smooth talk is not part of their curriculum.
Oh, and “You’re not like sand” is indeed a terrible line. So I’m glad Anakin NEVER SAID IT. However, his “sand” line is very commonly misquoted that way. In fact, it’s misquoted almost as often as “I am your father, Luke” or “Luke, I am your father.” The correct line is (and there’s a little wiggle room for punctuation: “No…I am your father.”
The romantic dialogue is corny. Lucas never said otherwise. But if one hates it so much (while bafflingly having no trouble with the equally eye-rolling romantic dialogue in allegedly “superior” genre movies and series that were constantly glorified over the prequels) one can always FF through it.
Here I’ll quote a hateboy who declared he hated AOTC worse even than the “dreadful, unendurable” TPM…but saw it 10 times in the theaters (and overheard people trashing the romantic dialogue afterwards each time, of course) when I told him that if he found the romantic dialogue so offensive, he could just FF through it: “I have to see the whole movie, or I feel cheated.” My reply: “But you hate the whole movie.” (He saw it 10 times in the theaters “before he knew he hated it.” That’s another quote.) I received no answer.
“Anakin spent his teens being trained as a Jedi. How to pick up girls with smooth talk is not part of their curriculum.”
Anakin is behaving like most teenagers in a similar situation. That he was raised as a Jedi had no (negative) effect on his social skills. On the contrary. Jedi should have excellent social skills to serve as negotiators and ambassadors.
Good point, but romancing a young woman is a tad different from negotiating and being an ambassador. And yes, he is behaving like most teenagers in a similar situation. Those who scoff at the romantic dialogue conveniently forget that they themselves weren’t exactly silver-tongued seducers when they were teenagers. Insofar as love letters are still written (maybe love e-mails), such people would do well to look back at their own, and see how corny and sappy their declarations of love and devotion were to their significant others.
We can’t all be full of effortless wit and snark, especially when we’re in love, or lust, or a combination of both. And it’s not like, “Who is she? She’s beautiful!”, or the cut scene from ESB which almost results in a blatantly romantic kiss between Luke and Leia — I know, I know, yuck! But bear with me; at the time the movie was written, the sibling twist hadn’t come about yet and Lucas was still considering the love triangle rute — is so fantastic.
For that matter, Han/Leia’s romantic dialogue isn’t all that spectacular either. Most of the time they’re fighting, and then there’s a kiss that is preceded by Leia telling Han to “stop that” (twice), which he ignores (twice), then he tells her she likes him because he’s a scoundrel, there aren’t enough scoundrels in her life, she says she happens to like nice men, and he replies, “I’m nice men.” (sic) Not exactly Shakespeare. I might add, especially for those who screech that Anakin is a “stalker” (more on that below), there are those who are distinctly uncomfortable with Han’s aggression — that he uses his height to back her into a corner, and as I pointed out above, ignores her when she tells him to stop what he’s doing, twice. I’m not bashing the scene, which is one of my faves — I’m just pointing out what could be seen as a double standard, and is, by a surprising number of people.
As for Anakin being a stalker, that’s just silly, and insulting to real victims of stalking. Anakin does perhaps stare too intently at Padme and hover a bit too close a time or two, although I might point out that he’s been assigned to guard her. But after the much-maligned fireplace scene, where he declares his love and she tells him it cannot be, what do you know? He backs off ENTIRELY. He keeps his eyes and hands — except for taking her hand to help her off a transport on Tatooine — completely to himself, until SHE declares her love for HIM (and his shocked reaction is priceless), just before they’re sent into the Geonosian arena. They kiss, which if I recall correctly is something SHE initiates.
Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t sound like the behavior of a stalker.
I meant to say “love triangle route,” not “rute.”
Of course, I didn’t mean to say that it’s the same thing at all. The point was to tackle that very common argument that being raised as a Jedi is what led to this situation. That he was raised as a Jedi had no effect one way or the other on how he makes small talk with his crush. What happens in this scene is the most natural thing in the world. Most people talked like that when it happened to them.
Besides, the line is not bad at all. The fact that people need to take it out of context to mock it is a testament to that.
The article misses that another important part of the scene is that it also shows Anakin’s and Padme’s opposing world views and very different chidhoods that shaped them. Anakin clearly had a rough early childhood that helped to form his negative view of the GFFA.
Also I never got what is so bad about the sand line, or why it has become a meme. Yul Brynner says a similar line aboug desert sand in the Ten Conmanments.
Well said. “Sand” is indeed a metaphor for his troubled upbringing, which he contrasts with the happiness of being in the presence of Padmé on her home planet.
But diplomacy is completely different to love. You see it a lot in real life, where someone is excellent at applying their social skills when it comes to to their work, but are hopeless when it comes to love.
Oops sorry, this was a reply to @maychild @Alexrd
I’ve already replied to maychild, but I’ll reiterate here: my point was not to say that they are one and the same. My point was to address the fallacy that he behaved like this due to his Jedi training.