There are few constants in the universe, and one of those is perhaps the fact that the Star Wars prequels are generally considered to be bad films. Whether it's the script, the directing or the mere presence of Jar Jar Binks, folks typically hate at least one aspect of them enough to dislike the whole movie.
It could have all been different, however, as apparently, George Lucas offered the director's chair to Ron Howard of Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind fame.
This revelation comes via an appearance Howard made on an episode of Josh Horowitz's Happy Sad Confused podcast on Nov. 23. According to Howard, he wasn't the only one approached to take the helm: Lucas also reportedly spoke with Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park), both of whom also turned down the offer. All three apparently told Lucas that he should be the one to direct them.
Now, in this alternate reality, would The Phantom Menace actually have been better? There's no telling. On the other hand, it'd arguably be difficult to have been any worse. It's also not clear whether a different director would have been stuck with all three prequels or just the first, but one imagines that anyone accepting the position would have been invested for the long haul, considering how attached the three films are thematically.
Ultimately, we're left with more questions than answers, and it seems like — in Howard's case at least — the idea of following up the massively-popular Star Wars films with a new set featuring basically zero of the original cast "would've been too daunting."