Having carefully avoided The Phantom Menace - it's a matter of pride that I have not seen either of the top two grossing films of all time - I was cautious about this one, and prepared to flee at the first sight of J.J.Binks. However, by the end, I had warmed somewhat to it, not least due to the sight of Yoda bouncing around like a rubber ball. Hey, he still needs English lessons (what is he, 874, and can't speak the language?) but at least I no longer feel the urge to use his head to mop up spilt beverages. There are some things CGI can do better than foam puppets.
It does suffer from middle movie syndrome, without a beginning or an end, and Hayden Christensen is unconvinving as Anakin, whether romancing Padme (Portman - who needs to shoot her hairdresser) or slaughtering those responsible for the death of his mother. He never comes over as more than a spoiled kid, and it's hard to feel sympathy when you know what he's going to become. Ewan McGregor does better as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Christopher Lee is a fine villain, exuding presence - he'd have made a great Darth Vader.
The true stars, however, are the backdrops. Whether scenery or cityscapes, they are jawdropping, crafted with such detail you find yourself distracted by them - and almost able to forget that you don't really care particularly what happens to the central character.