The legends say that on May 19th 1999 there was a great disturbance in the Force. It was like tens of thousands of voices crying out in unison "What the f*@k is this?!" This was the entirely appropriate response of Star Wars fans to seeing The Phantom Menace. How else does one react when seeing Jake Lloyd as Darth Vader? George Lucas had taken all the good will he had earned from the original Star Wars trilogy and bet it on a pod race. He continued on with Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, rounding out the trilogy that finally showed us the downfall of Anakin Skywalker and his transformation into Darth Vader. It was unfortunate though that they mostly dealt with political machinations and the tepid love story between a petulant Anakin Skywalker and a never-aging Padme. It might be an exaggeration to say that the Prequels did more damage to the Star Wars franchise than the Galactic Dance-off featured in Kinect Star Wars, but I'm going to say it anyway. Luckily the damage can be fixed with some mostly minor changes to the Prequel trilogy. I present to you how The Phantom Menace exists in my head.
Okay, I lied about the changes being mostly minor. This movie is unfortunately beyond saving and needs to be completely overhauled. Introducing Anakin Skywalker to audiences as a nine-year old slave boy caught up in a war over taxation of trade routes is unnecessary and most of what is accomplished story wise in this movie can be summed up in a handy-dandy opening crawl. Explain what the Jedi are, explain what the Force is (no midichlorians) and explain who the Sith are. Done. From here you can introduce the same main characters from the original film with some slight variations. Anakin is introduced as a teenager who is already an apprentice to Qui-Gon Jinn. Obi-Wan is only slightly older than Anakin and has just become a Jedi. Padme should be the same age as Anakin. This is important because the original relationship between them in The Phantom Menace was creepy. Darth Maul is still your villain for this film and he does not die! We're not going to waste good villains this time. Also, there is no Jar Jar, no pod racing and Anakin did not build C-3PO. The two droids are still in the film to an extent, but C-3PO is simply a protocol droid that Padme owns. It never made sense to me why a 9 year old boy who lives as a slave in the desert would build a protocol droid anyways. It makes total sense however for one to work in a royal court.
The story would involve the reemergence of the Sith who were thought to be wiped out. Qui-Gon, Anakin and Obi-Wan are sent by the senate to Naboo because Palpatine has secretly orchestrated an attack there by a droid army whose affiliation is not revealed. There is no vaguely racist Trade Federation in this movie. Anakin and Padme meet. They make some goo-goo eyes at each other because they are both teenagers, but that's it. Qui-Gon reprimands Anakin and tells him to concentrate on his Jedi training. Padme is too concerned with being a queen whose planet is under attack to worry about some teenage boy. While the Jedi and the armies of Naboo (not the Gungans) are defeating the droid armies, Darth Maul makes his appearance and draws the Jedi off to fight. Obviously Darth Maul is more than a match for Anakin and Obi-Wan and quickly takes them out of the fight. He and Qui-Gon have an epic light saber battle. Darth Maul eventually gets the upper hand and is in a position to cut down Qui-Gon. At the same time, some of the remaining droids come in holding Padme hostage. Anakin is faced with a choice; he can save his master or he can save Padme. He chooses Padme, Qui-Gon is killed and Darth Maul escapes. Obi-Wan and Anakin take Qui-Gon's body back to Coruscant and report what happened to the Jedi Council. Obi-Wan is tasked with completing Anakin's training. After the council dismisses Anakin, they reveal to Obi-Wan that Qui-Gon believed that Anakin could be the chosen one who would bring balance to the force. Mace Windu asks what it all means and Yoda says something like "Arrived the darkness has." The End.