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.”