The pacing of The Phantom Menace is all over the map. It starts out with a bang as the Jedi go on a mission to see what’s up with these trade disputes. It then drags to a lull as they land on Naboo. It picks up a bit when they are on Tatooine, as there is the pod race and a brief fight with Darth Maul. It then again drags when they go back to Coruscant and slogs, even more, when they go back to Naboo and meet with the Gungans. It then picks up again with the duel of the fates. Overall it’s a herky-jerky ride that really lacks any flow.
The pacing is a major reason why the film feels like a rough draft. All the ideas are in there but there is no sense of urgency in the movie and they aren’t really building toward anything. That is one big difference between the sequels and the prequels. The sequels all have a good sense of pacing and quickly move the plot along with necessary scenes in a similar way the Original Trilogy did. George’s rust as a director really shows through in Episode I, as the movie has many unnecessary parts that slow it down to the point of being boring.