Personally, I think Lucas "****ed up" the prequels after TPM because he listened to the fans.
People were clamoring for something far less simple than the PM and more in the vein of ESB. I think had he stayed true to his original vision, the prequels would have been better received.
The bottom line for me is that The Phantom Menace looked and felt like a Star Wars film to me. It was filmed on location in Venice and Tunisia and looked like it
. It was shot to film (not digital) and has a very "rich" look. It feels
like a great film, even though Jar-Jar was annoying for many.
AOTC looks cheesy digital with too many blue screens. The Geonosis segment looks like a bad video game, especially the superimposed actors. The lightsaber fights were poorly coordinated and Jango Fett's death was an afterthought. Besides that, George Lucas could have gotten a better performance from a digital character than he did from Hayden, who's an absolutely awful, wooden actor.
ROTS was better, but Palpatine's transformation was comical. The Wookie Home World looked far less digital than any of the worlds in AOTC, but it wasn't that
convincing. I liked the storyline much better and it was cool to see the lightsaber battle between Anakin & Obi Wan but overall, it felt forced and rushed.
Anakin killing children was whitewashed, Natalie Portman had a difficult time showing any interest in the film and character (besides the fact she "died of a broken heart"
) and the ending was ridiculous and should have ended when Obi-Wan gave baby Luke to Owen Lars.
It was sewn up far too neatly for my taste.