Attack of the Clones : While Lucas had the prequel trilogy mapped out from the beginning, he found himself struggling with the screenplay for Attack of the Clones given the harsh reaction to The Phantom Menace. As a result, the sequel leans more heavily into set pieces and lightsaber battles, which at least provide some dynamism to an otherwise sluggish, way overlong middle chapter that introduces us to Emo Anakin Skywalker.
Watching Lucas attempt an honest-to-goodness love story with Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman is straight up painful. The two actors have zero chemistry, and Christensen struggles to toe the line between playing a romantic lead and convincingly showing shades of the darkness within Anakin that would fully take over in the next film. The result is the worst performance of the prequels, and that’s saying something. Christensen’s delivery is wooden, unnatural, and strained. It doesn’t help that he was given little direction as to how, exactly, to pitch this performance, but more often than not Anakin comes off as a whiny, petulant kid who you just want to go away forever.
Obi-Wan’s side story involving the clones is at least mildly compelling, and indeed what makes Attack of the Clones a better movie than The Phantom Menace isn’t more set pieces; it’s offering up a plot that doesn’t bore the audience to tears. Visually the film is a step up from Phantom Menace as well, although Lucas’ camera remains cold and distant, which doesn’t do its actors any favors given their already stilted and dry dialogue. And the less said about that Boba Fett origin story nonsense the better.