No, the prequels aren’t as good as the original trilogy. Part of the disparity is due to issues of quality and coherence, but it’s just as much a symptom of the fact that they just aren’t comparable stories. If the original trilogy is a space opera, the prequels blow that framing up to biblical proportions. They’re on entirely different scales. That level of ambition, of course, is part of the problem, as there’s only so much that can be packed into three movies. The degree to which the story had to be pared down leaves behind a narrative that’s relatively slipshod, but what remains is fascinating, akin to the way skyscrapers seem to stretch on endlessly as they disappear into a heavy fog. The prequels were meant to be epics on that kind of grand scale; the idea will likely horrify, but perhaps they would have fared better in the style of old Hollywood epics, as large and as lush as possible with an intermission thrown in.
I love the Trade Federation plotline. I love everything with the Galactic Senate. I love podracing. Some of my affection for the prequels can probably be attributed to my age at the time—there was very little that I didn’t find entrancing, and podracing in particular was an absolute thrill—but the denser material of the story is something that I’ve only become more fascinated with as time has passed. I can recognize the relative failure in execution, but for me, it’s outweighed by the sheer ambition of it all.