I didn't care about "Phantom Menace" at all until 2016 or '17 (whenever I wrote that review) and the lofty expectations no longer mattered. I also felt a huge disconnect from modern "geek culture", which mostly celebrates movies completely disengaged from the original creators, but yet claims ownership, as fans, over the properties and they will throw fits when they feel it isn't right.
The "Star Wars" prequels were different though. The original creator was alive and making the movies. And, to me, his point of view matters. It's very interesting. Even if the movie isn't perfect (which "Phantom Menace" isn't).
And SO WHAT if it refers to the earlier movies? Lucas was part of CREATING that world. Why wouldn't he reference it? Also, I think in his head, a hundred years from now people are going to watch the "Star Wars" movies and start with "Chapter 1: The Phantom Menace" and it needs to all fit together.
Will people a hundred years from now watch the "Star Wars" movies and start with "Phantom Menace"?
I have no idea. Ask me in a hundred years.