Originally Posted by Baby Lee
If you're talking about the pod races, that was nothing but pure surround sound porn. Nobody cared what was going on, just that things were whizzing and whirring all around them, or so Lucasfilms hoped.
If they cut out the pod-races, midichlorians, Watto, the entirety of the gungans, featured a different child actor, developed Darth Maul's character (how awesome would it have been to have had a Darth Vader like villain presiding over the entire prequel trilogy?) and perhaps developed Qui-Gon and the role of the Jedi council a little more, TPM could have been a terrific movie.
The movie did have a few things working for it, the casting (outside of Jake Lloyd, seriously, how could Lucas absolutely botch the two most important castings of the prequel trilogy?), the construction of Palpatine's character, and the lightsaber duel at the end, of course.
I think the central problem of the trilogy is that the excesses of Lucas' ideas were on full display throughout their entirety. Lucas has always had ideas that were on the loopy side, for example, Luke and his aunt and uncle were originally intended to be dwarfs, Han was supposed to be green creature who didn't have a nose, and 3PO was supposed to be a dirty "used car salesman" (remind you of anyone from the prequel trilogy?)
It's pretty telling that the Empire Strikes Back, now widely credited with being the best film in the series, had the least influence from Lucas out of any Star Wars film (Though, to be fair, it originally had a "ride off in the sunset" type of ending.)
You could argue that Lucas' over-control was first seen in Return of the Jedi, as the director and Harrison Ford wanted Han killed in the first 20 minutes (to demonstrate to the audience that nobody was safe), and the Ewoks were supposed to be rather ugly, lizard like creatures who were misunderstood by the rest of the galaxy, Lucas nixed both of those plot points.
The Prequel Trilogy was doomed from the moment Lucas decided to surround himself with a group of "yes men" who in no way would trim the excesses from his product.
I also have neglected Lucas' shortcomings as a writer, Harrison Ford swayed Lucas to change many of his lines in the first two movies, and I also believe that Hayden Christianson's acting was horrifically stunted due to the Lucas' writing (Shattered Glass
proves that Christianson does possess rather impressive range as an actor). When Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman are delivering wooden lines, it's evident the problem strays beyond the actors.
Lucas has always been a bit loopy, The Prequel Trilogy just put this reality on full display.