The Last Jedi is currently in theaters, continuing to polarize the Star Wars fan base. The Phantom Menace on the other hand, was (and is) pretty much universally hated by critics and fans alike. Funny enough, George Lucas admitted long ago that he knew that the movie was in trouble, stating this after an early screening of the first prequel. The director can be seen in a making of featurette, clearly troubled by his editing decisions that made it into the final cut. So were fans when the movie came out in 1999. Cries of George Lucas ruining Star Wars and childhoods were major headlines at the time, and some have never gotten over the emotional scarring that the original Star Wars prequel inflicted.
Director George Lucas was not happy after an early screening of The Phantom Menace concluded. In the making of featurette, the director was perplexed at some of his own decisions and went on to admit to the audience in attendance that he may have "gone too far in a few places." Indeed, Lucas did go too far in a lot of places and has since admitted to it, but apparently it was just too late to go back and fix anything. He had this to say.
"It's a little disjointed. It's bold in terms of jerking people around. I may have gone too far in a few places... It boggles the mind. I have thought about this quite a bit, and the tricky part is you almost can't take any of those pieces out of it now, because each one takes you to the next place. And you can't jump because you don't know where you are."
The Phantom Menace film editor Ben Burtt went on to talk about some of the pacing issues, namely a dark scene involving the death of Qui-Gon Jinn, Queen Amidala and her troops escaping, and then flashes to the zany antics of Jar Jar Binks on the battlefield. The juxtaposition left many in the theaters scratching their heads and many more seeing red with hatred of the inclusion of that new Gugan character. George Lucas can be seen agreeing with Burtt's comments, but claimed that it was too late to go in and reconfigure an edit that would make sense.
The footage in the small theater ends and then we're transported into a kitchen as George Lucas, Ben Burtt, and producer Rick McCallum have, what seems like, a slightly heated exchange. Lucas seems to interrupt, defending the types of movies that he makes, but goes on to admit that The Phantom Menace is very hard to follow. It's here that Lucas admits that he over did it for a second time. He explains.
"I do a particular kind of movie of which this is consistent. But it is a very hard movie to follow. But, at the same time, I have done it a little more extremely than I have done it in the past. It's stylistically designed to be that way, and you can't undo that, but we can diminish the effects of it. We can slow it down a little bit, so if it's intense for us, a regular person is going to go nuts."
Critics did not care for The Phantom Menace as it holds a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes and fans were also pretty disappointed in the final product, earning it a 59% audience score. There are still some fans of the prequels and the ideas behind the movies are excellent, but they weren't executed very well at all, which George Lucas can be seen on film admitting. You can watch the entire making of The Phantom Menace below, courtesy of Mr. Anderson0001's YouTube channel. The screening footage pops up around the 54:42 mark.