Good article on Felicia Day’s Geek and Sundry site by Kendall Ashley, on the good points of the Star Wars prequels. Ashley writes:
You could argue that Lucas’ attempts to make lightning strike twice with the exact same formula on an audience who had only grown more jaded and cynical since their first viewing of the original trilogy doomed the project from the start. I think if we had come to Star Wars for the first time as kids with Phantom Menace, we’d feel a bit more fondly towards the prequels.
Having just watched all six Star Wars movies again, after not seeing them (except Phantom Menace, which I saw in 2012) for about 8 years, I would say that my impression was still that the prequel trilogy, while flawed, was far better than the original trilogy, which is entertaining but a mess. A New Hope was frankly rather silly. I’ve always felt this way, but this time the feeling was actually more pronounced. The Phantom Menace may have some of the best scenes of the entire saga–each time I see it, I’m impressed by how good it is.
I’ve written at length about why each of the Star Wars prequels are actually good here, here and here. I think people are gradually coming to appreciate them more.
A New Hope was a space melodrama and played well at that level. The Empire Strikes Back is when the series developed into what we think of as the whole Star Wars story.