The infamous line “I don’t like sand, it’s rough and irritating, and gets everywhere,” is cornball, but had it not been for Padmé’s look of intrigue, followed by a kiss so forbidden it had the ability to influence the film’s score, I’m not sure it would have been the crime against screenwriting that’s been perpetuated.
After all, Anakin is a young man, lusting after the only human woman in the series that isn’t his mom, and he’s spent almost all of his life with either his mom, a flying Jewish anteater, or a surrogate father who kind of despise him.
In short, the line could be viewed as befitting a man-boy who comes from the desert, isn’t eager to return and has no social skills what so ever. He’s just trying to make conversation and sand is probably one of the few things he knows about. He was also a mechanic and probably had to spend hours cleaning gunk out of droids. (It’s a good thing glitter doesn’t exist on Tatooine, so far as I know)
I suspect the line was meant to illustrate Anakin’s contrast between his old life and his new one, his desire to relate to those who were born high-brow, and possibly expose him as awkward and inexperienced. Though maybe George Lucas really was clueless and actually thought he was creating legitimate sexual tension.
Now, Anakin’s characterization is probably a bit off either way. A former slave is perhaps less likely to complain in a way that ‘Mad Men’s’ Pete Campbell would, all angsty and frustrated because he was promised life would be easier. After all, Anakin allegedly had never known entitlement. He’s not a creeper who works in advertising in 1960’s New York, or a Stark of Winterfell.
But the joke this line has become, good or bad, is also a genuine source of ire among fans who point to it as a clear example of what’s wrong with the movie.
Just as Han ‘shooting first’ has become short hand for Special Edition criticism, there seems to be many instances where audiences latch onto specific, perhaps symbolic, scenes or moments to bring up time and time again despite those scenes’ relatively minor role in the narrative. It’s what I like to call floodgate nitpicking.
Once a film or piece of media fails on a more substantive level, then suddenly every conceivable problem becomes part of a laundry list of complaints that consumes the final product and dominates the popular opinion. The reverse can also happen. Plot holes, however massive, can be forgiven if the movie delivers on what was promised.
I’ve seen the trend of floodgate nitpicking in other film franchises as well, from Peter Parker’s dancing scenes in ‘Spider-Man 3’, (which I’d argue were the only time that movie had any genuine life in it) to CGI gophers or the ‘nuking the fridge’ moment from ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’. One poorly judged idea gains enough momentum because of other, more significant flaws and manages to drag everything down.
Perhaps it’s just the final straw that tips the balance, or it’s blatant enough to break the immersion so badly that one can’t ever recover. Whatever the case, while it’s obviously fine to not like something, to try to treat one iffy line as representative of why a story sucks isn’t always fair. Had ‘Attack of the Clones’ somehow managed to please the fanbase as a whole, then while some would probably still groan at Anakin’s attempts to be suave, still chuckle at the feebleness of Lucas trying to write an epic romance, the line itself would be no more harmful to people’s enjoyment of the film than say, Luke wanting to pick up those power converters or Chewbacca wailing like Tarzan.
Especially since the ‘sand’ dialogue is part of one of the few scenes filmed on location, with only real actors and no digital effects – which are widely considered the pinnacle of the prequel’s problems. It’s not like poor acting and questionable dialogue ever truly called into question the merits of the original trilogy.
It’s too bad this was all played with a straight face, then again, Parker’s strut was played for laughs and it was still booed – because it wasn’t what people expected or wanted I guess. Perhaps it’s just hard not to take melodrama too seriously.
Is there criticism of a movie that you feel is overblown? Let me know in the comments
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