I think when it comes to reviewing the Attack of the Clones, I must think about one of the main reasons why the film needed to exist: it was the arena for Anakin and Padme to fall in love. Unfortunately that failed completely, and instead the confused and overly-complex attempt at a political coup, where the Sith are playing the two sides against each other becomes the best part of the film.
Why does no-one consider the fact that Senator Amidala is being targeted for assassination because she is actually the biggest threat to Palpatine’s/Darth Sidious’ plans? Of course Palpatine needs to pretend to be concerned and have her sent away for ‘her own protection’ from herself and her ideas about how democracy should work because she gets in his way. When she was Queen Amidala in ‘The Phantom Menace’, she turned out to be a kick-ass warrior, politically savvy and someone that Palpatine cannot control, manipulate or even anticipate.
Why didn’t Darth Sidious emerge from a shadow and kill her himself. Why go through the convoluted line of Bounty Hunters to do something himself. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to the Jedi for the Sith to murder someone, so making it look like she died because she defeated his attempts to control Naboo would have made sense. In truth it was amazing she was still alive by the time the Attack of the Clones is set in the Star Wars universe, because she is a genuine threat to his plans to form an empire. No doubt it is only because she outwitted her opponents that she survived as long as she did; she wouldn’t have survived a Sith Lord.
Instead, being assassinated becomes a bit of a side line in the film, because the impression I get from the film is that she is only there for Anakin to fall in love with because the film is a prequel and there has to be a woman involved somewhere in the Star Wars galaxy to give birth to Luke and Leia. It is something I don’t doubt the filmmakers and Darth Sidious decided to agree about; she couldn’t die because she was a threat, because it was more important that she was a mere love interest.
And there is a complete lack of chemistry in the romance. It was fine when Anakin was ten years old and he asked her if she was an angel because she is beautiful. It’s less okay ten years later when the Senator naturally comments on how a boy has grown into a man, and the only reply he can give is about how as a woman she has only grown more beautiful.
Fine, she should take it as a compliment, but I’m not surprised when her retort is that he will always be the little boy she once knew. He’s still talking like the little boy she once knew, he’s dismissive of her chosen career because he doesn’t trust politicians, perhaps with good reason, and is more than a little bit childish when she rebukes him for rejecting her own plans to protect herself once they reach Naboo. In truth I understand perfectly why he falls in love with her; who wouldn’t want to be with a strong and independent person capable of taking care of themselves, who is willing to stand by their opinions. Her physical appearance is merely a by-product of good genetics; while she dresses elegantly to a person like Padme, what she looks like matters less than how much a person respects her opinion and intelligence.
What I don’t get about the film, is why Padme falls in love with Anakin. He is immature and he doesn’t respect the opinion of his elders and their wisdom about his progress with the force. Fine he loves his mother, but his reaction to the Tusken Raiders who torture and kill her isn’t to be rational and seek justice via means that civilised people do, he becomes the monster that slaughters men, women and children out of anger and grief. She then justifies that as a perfectly normal human reaction. It might be a perfectly normal human emotion but it is not a civilised or rational reaction. And it certainly not the reaction of a Jedi; it is the beginning of his journey down the dark roads which she facilitates.
Apart from a fondness for the child she once knew, the only reason I can think that she does fall in love with him is because she trusts him. She is part of a political arena (and has been since a young age) and her actions and relationships would be something that would be publically judged. She speaks of regret at becoming the Queen so young, perhaps it is because as she has grown she has learnt that being in the public eye does come with consequences and being targeted because she is very good at what she does is one of them. There is a distinct lack of people in her life that she can trust; Anakin despite his faults, is one of those people, and it is the only reason I can think of as the reason why she falls in love with him and ignores that he is perhaps not stable and entirely sane.
Obi-Wan is another who she trusts, which is why she isn’t being head strong and stupid for rushing to try and save him from the captivity of the political mess he’s uncovered. She is going to try and protect a friend, because she has few of those. The film though could have been so much better if she and Anakin had been more strongly involved in Obi-Wan’s storyline. Her cunning and political savvy would have been very complimentary to Obi-Wan’s diplomacy. I guess then though, Anakin’s childishness would have been a great deal more apparent and she might have more wisely rejected her heart’s desires, and listened to her head which had been telling her that being with Anakin was not a good idea.
That’s the problem with prequels, they have to meet certain expectations, and wonderful characters end up making completely irrational and out of character decisions, because it has to fit the plot. Admittedly I’m not surprised that in the universe where the majority of women are only given prominence because the plot requires them to fulfil the role of mother, lover or scantily clad dancer, that it was an female character than needed to be compromised in order for the story to fit the original trilogy.