There’s nothing better than a lovely, charming silver screen romance to leave your heart all aflutter, a smile on your face and a tear in your eye.
But if you fancy something that won’t do any of those things, apart from maybe inducing some tears of stinging agony, then I suggest you look no further than everyone’s favourite movie-punching bag, the Star Wars prequels.
Of course everyone knows that these films have an awful of a lot of problems, and they have been gone over with the very finest of critic’s fine tooth combs time and time again. But still whenever I find myself viewing them what astonishes me without fail, and what raises above all the goofy moments and plot-holes , is the sheer level of awfulness contained within the cinematic cringe-fest that is the so-called romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala.
It seems to be every moment that these characters are on screen together they just spend their time looking at each other doe-eyed and spouting laughable pieces of dialogue such as ‘I wish that I could just wish away my feelings’ and ‘Hold me, Ani. Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo. Where there was nothing but our love’. Nearly every line Anakin and Padme speak to each other is completely retch-inducing and cornball, sounding more like it was written by a ten year old than a professional film-maker.
However the cheesiness of this ham-fisted writing could be somewhat saved if we had a couple of good performances to enjoy. But of course we do not, and to confound the abysmal script, we get some of the most irritating, cringing and wooden pieces of acting ever put into a blockbuster movie.
Hayden Christensen spends his screen time completely unable to portray any emotional state apart from sulky adolescent pouting and even that he delivers with as much as wood as a barn door. Natalie Portman on the other hand apparently didn’t get the memo that she was supposed to be portraying a savvy and spunky young politician, instead Portman just floats through every scene with a sense of wide-eyed and lacklustre blandness as her character is wooed by Anakin’s best sand-related chat up lines.
Between them, Portman and Christensen are a toxic combination, managing to suck the heart out of every moment they share. They manage to leave so many scenes feeling so awkward, so clunky and so downright horrible that they the audience cannot help but grimace and find themselves just waiting for Padmé to die so Anakin can slap his re-breather on and become Darth Vader.
A much larger problem is that fundamentally when you strip these movies down to their core, and remove all the bells and whistles of clone armies, trade embargo’s, asthmatic robots and geriatric Sith lords, the story is simply Anakin’s fall from grace. This is of course one that is inseparably intertwined with his relationship with Padmé, yet Lucas managed to hash this romance so badly that it sinks like an anvil and drags the rest of the film with it.
What little of worth that is left is buried so deep beneath layers and layers of nothing but feted and cringing awkwardness that whatever emotion and connection we are supposed to feel for these characters and their problems is just completely lost.
It’s rare that you find something in cinema that just misses every single mark that it set out to hit and fails every objective that it set out to achieve. But this is exactly what this coupling ends up doing as we find ourselves being presented with the worst romance ever to be put up on screen.