[This article contains spoilers.]
No, I don’t consider the Star Wars prequels to be bad. Episode II is really great and entertaining. Episode III is nearly a masterpiece – although each had one serious flaw – romance that did not work, and awkward transition from good to evil, respectively. Episode I is at least entertaining and actually does a number of things right, but considering it is a Star Wars movie I’ll evaluate it at a higher standard. Of the first six Star Wars movies (before the Force Awakens), I believe it is widely agreed that Episode I is the worst. Here’s my take on the flaws of Episode I.
Jar Jar Binks – it is easily the most hated character in the whole Star Wars universe. The first time I saw it I felt tremendously annoyed. Upon watching Episode I for the third time it became less painful to watch. By the 6th time I watch it I can almost appreciate its role of providing comedy in the absence of C-3PO, but it’s clearly a failure no matter how one looks at it. I think studying why C-3PO works but Jar Jar Binks fails will be a good lesson for film school, but that’s outside the scope of this article.
Politics – Episode I is the proof that politics are generally boring for a movie, even if it’s Star Wars politics. In the context of the prequel trilogy of establishing how a senator rises to become the emperor, and how the republic turns into an empire, politics are actually required in the trilogy. It’s hard to say how much of it would be optimal, but having too much of such political discussion slows down the pacing.
Midi-Chlorians – Although this is used as an objective means for Qui-gon to justify his hope in Anakin, it degrades the mystery and charm of The Force and a religion to a simple number. I still think this is a mistake. We’re not watching Dragon Ball Z.
Luck – While it is typical for different types of adventure movies to require some amount of luck for their protagonists to succeed, Episode I requires luck from start to finish. Avoiding being eaten by big fishes is just luck. Saying it’s the way of the Force is hard to swallow. Jar Jar Binks accidentally releasing all bombs to destroy a lot of droid army tanks is based on luck. The way Anakin destroys the droid command center, although fun to watch, has far more to do with luck than having a huge number of midi-chlorians.
Gambling – I agree with Padme’s assessment that Qui-gon is reckless in gambling their future while people in Naboo urgently needs rescue. He consciously chooses a path that not only depends on Anakin’s skills but also depends on a significant amount of luck. This makes the movie less serious than it should.
Single point of failure that disables the whole army – Although this characteristic is used in a variety of movies, it is inconceivable that a technologically advanced army of droids would be designed around a single point of failure.