Many have discussed and written about the "Star Wars Prequel Trilogy." You usually hear how disappointing the films are on a narrative level, a character level, or even on the level of continuity from hard core Star Wars fans (such as myself).
The movie that is often singled out as the worst from this trilogy is also viewed by many as the worst film in the franchise — "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace." From Jar Jar Binks to midichlorians fans have found plenty to hate about this film to the point that it spawned video essays, in the form of the Mr. Plinkett Reviews, that detail every continuity error and story problem in a review that matches the runtime of many films. While I agree with many of the points made about "The Phantom Menace," I still don't feel like it deserves to be called the worst.
Sure, "The Phantom Menace" had the annoying Jar Jar Binks, wooden acting, messy scripting, and too many dull overly long political discussions (did I mention Jar Jar). But "The Phantom Menace" also had enjoyable battles, good cinematography, great score, fun pod racing, and an exciting lightsaber fight.
After re-watching the Prequels I can easily say most of them don't deserve the hyperbolic responses they get from most fans. While I believe people are well within their right to hold the opinion that these are disappointing films; to me, they only ever come across as mediocre installments that don't do much harm. I, however, have one exception to that statement.
"Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" was a film that I disliked even as a child, which is saying something because I liked "The Phantom Menace" as a child. Even to this day that film still stirs some negative emotions within me, and I always wanted to know why.
Why did I seriously dislike this film while I was able to find the other Prequels relatively watchable?
After re-watching the film, I finally found my answer — Anakin Skywalker's character. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is one of the most unlikable characters in the series, and we're supposed to see him as a likable tragic protagonist. I understand what the film is trying to do. The film wants to present Anakin as this cocky and emotionally flawed young man to show the audience how he could easily fall to the dark side in the third film (spoilers ahead).
The problem with the execution is that Anakin never feels like a hero at any point in the film. Part of the tragedy surrounding Anakin is watching his friendship with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) fall apart. The problem is these two never come across as friends. They are constantly bickering, and they both seem to be annoyed with each other; Obi-Wan describes him as arrogant while Anakin constantly complains about Obi-Wan being overly critical. It's hard not to side with Obi-Wan in this argument. While I don't blame the actor as much as I do the direction, Christensen's performance is really bad. He sounds wooden and when he's not he is either yelling or whining.
One of the worst aspects surrounding him, however, is the "romance" he shares with Padme (Natalie Portman). Not only is the dialog bad ("I wish I could just wish away my feelings" or "I am haunted by the kiss you should have never given me" — ugh!) but the relationship feels surprisingly toxic.
After Anakin returns to his home on Tatooine, he had just returned from his search to find his mother dead and taken by Sand People, he admits to her (in a creepy, crying rant) that in retaliation he killed the entire village of Sand People (women/children included). After this rant Padme (rather than being revolted) comes to him and actually tries to comfort him.
That was the real problem with this film. Anakin wasn't a good character who was corrupted into being evil, he felt like he was a character that was always evil, and they just put a black suit and mask over him to make it official. This is the core of my problem with the film and why it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to this day.