I saw the movie on opening day. I had gotten my tickets early, but there was no line when I arrived to get my seats. (I should have figured that'd be the case for a daytime showing, but I was young, and the hype was getting to me.) The theater wasn't empty, but it was far from packed. The movie started, and I watched the whole thing, from beginning to end.
For a few days, I told myself that I had enjoyed it. Darth Maul was neat, and it had a good score. It was nice to learn some of the backstory of the Imperial age, even if the backstory was kind of bland. But the truth could not be denied. Before long, I admitted that I hated it. It was awful. Even the parts that most people liked, on reflection, were hollow and substanceless. A "pod race?" I have Speedvision for when I need a NASCAR fix. A Sith ninja? Not nearly as threatening as Darth Vader, and besides, he's dead. The parts that people didn't like, I really didn't like.
I didn't watch another Star Wars movie again for three years.
Admitting to myself that I hated TPM was very liberating. The three years between TPM and AotC were also very productive, for me. I stopped worrying about Star Wars "canon" (varium et semper mutabile), and decided to stick to my own interpretations of events. I discovered Tolkien, and read most of the published Arda saga. A lot of Tolkien's unpublished stories, rough drafts, and superceded editions are available in print due to the efforts of his son Christopher and numerous Tolkien scholars. This is almost exactly what Star Wars fans are doing, preserving earlier versions of the story for study, entertainment, and posterity -- only we're forced to do it in an underground samizdat style, while Tolkien's early writings are generally available in large bookstores.
But I digress! This is a Star Wars forum, and a Phantom Menace topic. You have seen that, while my first thoughts regarding TPM were positive with qualifications, upon reflection it nearly destroyed Star Wars fandom as an element of my life.