Come on, Phantom Menace had a good Star Wars vibe going on and it felt like there was quite a bit of passion behind it. I can see how Episodes 2 and 3 would have felt soulless, but 1 wasn't at all.
I understand why an older person, who grew up watching the originals would be disappointed with the prequels, because they did change a lot, but embracing them for what they are is a better way to judge in my opinion. Clone Wars is garbage, yes, but the other two are solid movies.
My experience with watching Phantom Menace was a mix of confusion and irritation. What is the conflict, who are we meant to identify with, why should I care about anything I am seeing. Star Wars had a lived in world that felt real and lived in, from the characters to the ships. Phantom Menace had no character to attached to or moments that stuck with me. When Qui-Gon died it should have been this dramatic moment, but the character left no impression and Obi-Wan's reaction was so artificial lacking any emotion in his fight that took me right out of what could have been powerful moment, like Obi-Wan sacrificing himself in a New Hope.
Star Wars are about heart, and that is what I failed to see or experience in Epsiodes 1-3. I didn't care about Naboo or its people with this blockade or the parliament and voting procedure or the slaves that Annakin came from. I never really got why the republic was worth saving and the separtists or trade federation were so bad. I saw a bunch of useless robots getting chopped up by Jedi and then fighting some clones. By the end I almost welcomed the Empire as dark helmet said "Evil will always triumph, becuase good is dumb".
Wait... I was sure I had replied to this oh well.
I don't really know how to reply to this, actually. I think in the end it just comes down to opinions and our own personal experiences with the movies. Before I get started, I want to thank you for making this thread and engaging in discussion, because you got me interested in watching the movies again, which I have done (well haven't watched Return of the Jedi yet, but whatever) - last time I watched them was around 2-3 years ago I believe, so I didn't remember everything as clearly.
So, yeah... I don't know. I agree that Qui-Gon's death felt a bit artificial, but honestly, I didn't think it was any less powerful than Obi-Wan's sacrifice. They were both somewhat artificial to me. Honestly, the difference I did notice between the trilogies is that, while the originals have these very unique and iconic characters, the characters in the prequels feel more like average human beings - and that's not a good or bad thing for either, it's just different approaches. I think most people, myself included, prefer the original approach, but they're both acceptable.
As for acting, I wouldn't be so fast to say the prequels are worse either. Honestly, watching the prequels, I thought the acting was fine - that is, whenever Hayden wasn't on screen. I didn't remember his acting was so atrocious. That said, while the originals don't have one standout bad performance, I'm not very fond of Mark Hamill on them, and he does deliver some bad lines sometimes too. His "Noooooo" was just as bad as Vader's on the third episode.
Anyways, as I said before, it really does come down to opinion. Though it had been a while since I had watched the Star Wars movies, I'm glad to be reassured now that I can stand by my ranking.