Vineet Aziz’s review published on Letterboxd:
I used to abhorrently hate this movie, not just because of how awful the dialogue and storytelling are, but because of its absolute waste of potential. Yet while rewatching Eps I and II recently with friends (some of them watching these for the first time), I actually came to a new sort of understanding.
I think the prequels do what Valerian did. They ruin a good story with horrible pacing and dialogue, but at the same time they also create CGI worlds that, while obviously are CGI, are totally unearthly and fantastical, and unlike anything else from other films. I can't think of any other movie from the 90s or early 2000s with anything like the Gungan underwater world. I can't even imagine how that same world would have been done practically in the 80s.
But what's more, there are a lot of ideas here that are really worthwhile. Forbidden love; Deep fake conspiracies; Armies of unfeeling, loyal clones; The origin of Boba Fett; A flying car chase; Obi-Wan, Jedi Detective; Anakin losing his mom; the perfect bittersweet ending--I could go on and on, because this movie has so much potential to be pure awesome, and from a certain pulpy style-over-substance point of view, maybe it even is. The score is godly, the sets, costumes, and overall art design are fantastic (just look at Padme's dresses! look at Kamino!), and the use of massive scale CGI is super impressive. What's more, it fits naturally after Episode I by returning to several minor characters 10 years later while also setting up the original trilogy in a way that feels natural and maybe even necessary. Sure, it's certainly not a well told story (it's the very worst Star Wars by a long mile) but revisiting it now... I think there's quite a bit here that the film should get credit for.
Most of all, the best, most underutilized part of this movie might be the lightsaber battle in the dark. I mean, what a fucking genius idea. With the focus on their faces instead of the actual fight, the glowing red/blue lighting, and the quiet, tense, percussive score, this scene is a total contrast to the fanfare of the operatic Duel of the Fates battle from Episode I, but in a potentially equally powerful way. This scene could have been probably one of the greatest moments in all of Star Wars, if it was just choreographed and directed differently.
And I think thats my problem with this film overall--it's fantastic on paper, the ideas are there, the budget is there, the production value is there, the talented crew are there, but the actual script and direction are not. Lucas really is a creative genius, with a very clear love of classic Hollywood. He knew everything this film needed to be great, maybe even to make it the best Star Wars movie, period. He was clever enough to put all the right elements in, but he just wasn't proficient enough as a writer-director to make them work together in a meaningful way.
Which kinda sucks.