TPM is the only prequel in which the any of the main characters work well. Neeson as Qui Gon is great. Portman is mostly good as Padme. In contrast to how she was awful in AOTC and ROTS. McGregor is better than how he was in the later two prequels, more genuine, though still hardly inspired. Of course, the film doesn't do great with Anakin, but the later prequels do even worse. In the later prequels I found I couldn't give a fuck about any of the main characters, which seriously took from the story. TPM was better on that front.
But the final lightsaber battle in TPM is overrated. It's good in some ways, but it's overdone and the music is overdone. There was no need to beat the audience over the head with the message "This is Epic!" They did that even worse in the ROTS battle on Mustafarted, of course, and that battle had zero value, while the TPM one had some.
The podrace we could all have done without.
TPM totally broke the unspoken rules of star Wars films by loading on obviously cartoon characters. In the OT, some creatures were unconvincing, but the aim was to make them come off as real as possible. The OT tried to make things seem real. In TPM, we're hit with a lot of creatures who seem to be designed with no effort to make them come off real. This includes not only the CGI characters but also the cartoonish Trade Federation guys, who were really annoying, and the droid soldiers, who were just done as a joke (the OT never made its villains just a joke like that).
And the cgi backgrounds helped (along with the cartoon characters) to give a very unreal feel to the film. Admittedly the OT used some matte paintings for backgrounds, but TPM sometimes really went out of its way to make things look unreal when that could easily have been avoided. This of course did not improve in the later prequels.
The OT worked by bringing imagined things to life and making them seem real. TPM failed so badly here. TPM's reality fails to convince.
The Mustafar duel was largely designed and co-directed by Steven Spielberg who oversaw the artists early cuts of the live action with the pre viz. He is uncredited. But this was the first time lucas and him worked together since last crusade. And a precursor to Steven doing Crystal Skull and most of the editing choices via pre viz and computer cgi sequences.
Well most of the camera angles and editing choices were done during the pre viz on the Lord of the Rings films but nobody complains about those films. Or the heavy use of cgi in them, because the context it is used in. Plus the trilogy by Peter Jackson are damn good films and the star wars prequels are a giant black mark on the star wars legacy.
Plus you have the situation with the Gout and the originals being ruined via the special editions. To the point its a very hard thing to be a fan of star wars or George Lucas for that matter anymore. I am not surprised when people sell all their old star wars stuff and cease being fans because Lucas destroyed star wars.
To me if it was not for Zahn, the sequel era EU and the video games and comics star wars should have died in 1983 and died with some frickin dignity. Yeah It ended with ewoks and a teddy bear picnic, still better than Jar Jar stepping in poo and fart jokes and Hayden Christensen.
But at the end of the day i realize George Lucas is a businessman. and these films were made for a diiferent audience then the originals movies and a different generation of young people. Kids used to cartoon cgi and big explosions and little substance in the movies they watch today. Even though the series ended in 2005 the prequels are already looking pretty dated. And the audience they were made for have grown up and away from star wars. Whereas fans of the originals still have a huge amount of fond memories and nostalgia.
The prequels situation are like the kids who grew up on power rangers and thought it was the greatest thing ever and then when they watched it as adults said it was shit.
These films are mediocre and garbage and wil not be remembered twenty to thirty years from now and the cgi in them is already surpassed and is laughably outdated.