The Force Awakens is breaking box office records and earning mostly positive reviews, which makes this a great time to look back at the last time a new Star Wars trilogy began. The official making-of documentary for Episode 1 is up on the Star Wars YouTube channel, and holy hell is it worth your time.
While everyone involved went in with the best intentions, the editing on the documentary seems to suggest people had some inkling things were going badly from the beginning. This was the reaction to Lucas' initial pass over the storyboards, where he color coded what would be digital, and would actually exist.
The documentary goes into great detail about the making of the film, but the scene inside the screening room when an early cut of the film was shown for the first time shows that the initial reaction to Phantom Menace didn't seem hopeful either.
History has not been kind to the prequel trilogy, and this hour-long look at Phantom Menace suggests many of the creative folks involved didn't have many illusions about the movie on which they toiled.