The Phantom Menace
Well, everyone and their bantha seems to have an opinion of the first prequel, and I guess I'm no exception.
My main complaint is that the trailers, publicity, and action figures revealed too much of the movie before it was released. I'm not blaming spoiler websites, which could easily be avoided; I'm talking official sources. I would have liked to be surprised when Darth Maul ignited the other end of his saber (spoiled by the trailer and action figure), when the battle droids transformed (spoiled by the trailer), when Padme revealed she was actually Queen Amidala (spoiled by the Hidden Majesty Queen Amidala 12" doll), or when Qui-Gon died (spoiled by the name of a track on the soundtrack CD).
My second problem was that the battle droids were unexpectedly moronic. They could have been more like the killing machines from the Terminator movies. Instead, they made jokes ("Um, Coruscant, that doesn't compute. You're under arrest.") and were worse shots than stormtroopers. I will grant that the Destroyer Droids were portrayed well though.
Jar Jar. Hmm. What can I say? Well, I suppose I don't dislike Jar Jar as much as some people. In smaller quantities, he would have been much more bearable. In other words, one scoop of potato salad is a good thing, but 9 scoops is not. I imagine his overuse was due to his "kiddie" appeal. Also, I know he fills the "comic relief" role traditionally filled by C-3PO, but it just doesn't work as well for Jar Jar. C-3PO is funny not because of what he says, but because he is a neurotic droid - a very ironic and novel concept. Jar Jar is just Disney's Goofy, with a funny accent. The only real irony attributable to Jar Jar is that his aimless bumbling ends up helping the Jedi get to Theed, uniting the Naboo and Gungans, and saving the Gungan army by surrendering. I understand that George Lucas is using Jar Jar to say that all creatures are part of the Force, but did he have to use a character with such annoying antics? In the end, C-3PO is ironically funny, and Jar Jar is ironically annoying.
Another flaw has to do with ratings. I think part of the problem is that George Lucas wants to stay in the "PG" ratings category. Keep in mind that the ratings categories have changed since the original Trilogy, and what was once PG is now either PG or PG-13. I believe more mature fans are looking for content in the PG-13 category. I mean, there was doubt that Episode I would get a PG rating because Darth Maul was cut in half.
In conclusion, I liked the movie about as much as Return of the Jedi, which also had a lot of "kiddie" appeal. Other interesting plot parallels include: a primitive force fighting a technologically superior force; simultaneous space, land, and lightsaber battles; and a hero's death on a funeral pyre. I'm almost surprised there wasn't a Death Star somewhere in there.