I saw the movie with 47 other Star Wars fans and not one of us left with a
smile on our faces. The original 3 movies worked for 2 reasons. 1) The effects
were state of the art and light years ahead of everything else. 2) The stories
were compelling and involving. None of this was true with "The Phantom
Menace". The effects were not state of the art nor were they or could they
be light years ahead of the rest. They were basically just standard fair for CG
Therefore the movie needed to rely on the story but unfortunately the story was
boring and predictable and uncompelling. Qui−Gon Jinn's (Liam Neeson)
confidence may make sense for a Jedi but unfortunately it removed all the
tension. He's not worried so why should we be. Therefore for example when they
are traveling through the underwater tunnels about to be eaten by sea monsters
we really don't care because he doesn't. And then even if we had cared it's
been done before. 1) in Empire, 2) in nearly every VR ride in the last 5 years.
Of course another problem is the very nature of being a prequel. We know who has to live and therefore (a) we know that Obi−wan will always prevail since we've seen him happy and alive later in the series. We know Anakin will become a great Jedi and therefore we know he will not die in the race nor will he die fighting in the spaceship. So much for tension.
Then there are of course the technical/effects errors. Star Wars is supposed to have the best effects yet the reflection mapping on the queen's ship is clearly substandard by even the standards of years ago. Notice that the reflections don't match the environment. Also, ships and people do not get reflected. Another example would be the queen and her men scaling the castle on ropes. The idea may have worked on paper but the execution on screen looked as bad as the old Batman TV series.
Next there is the bad acting. Liam Neeson seemed stiff as a board. Maybe that's the way his character was supposed to be but either way it's bad acting or bad writing. The kid clearly could not act. And finally the single worst actor in the movie was Samuel L. Jackson. I love him in most movies but in this movie it was not a character, Mace Windu, that I saw in the movie but Samuel L. Jackson. He was so out of place it was as if Mickey Mouse made a guest appearance. One didn't look at him and see "Mace Windu" one saw him on screen and said "Hey man, that's Samuel L. Jackson sitting next to Yoda."
Finally there is the luck. Luck is a BAD thing in a movie. It removes all skill, tension, sense of accomplishment from a scene. Some "luck" is okay. For example Qui−Gon Jinn meeting Anakin we can accept at fate. Anakin getting luckily shot in a spaceship but not killed just so he can luckily fall into the ship's hanger and luckily not get blasted into oblivion where he can luckily run out of energy just before he crashes in the back where he can luckily get energy back just before he gets killed where he can luckily happen to shoot the one thing that will blow up the ship and save the planet, well, that's just too much luck. If you go back to the original 3 movies you will find that such luck plays little if no part whatsoever. The biggest "luck" in the first series is convieniently finding the Ewoks just when you need help which is also one of the reasons why most people find the 3rd movie to be the weaker of the three. Advice to Lucas, if you want to do one thing to help Episode 2, remove the luck.