I found this interesting table earlier today. Its a depiction of famous trilogies, most are actually more than trilogies. The chart shows how the three (or more) films matched up to one another as far as how fans view them. As far as I can tell, concerning general nerdom sentiment, its pretty accurate. There are a few trilogies I would like to see added, including Toy Story, the other Star Wars trilogy, Silence of the Lambs, Mission Impossible, The mighty Ducks, The Mariachi trilogy (Once upon a Time in Mexico...), and Austin Powers.
Another trilogy that ought to be in this graphic is Transformers. The title of this post should be I Wanted More Than Meets Michael Bay's Eye, Tranformers Could Have Been Better, but thats way too long.
I saw The Dark of the Moon the other day. It was definitely better than the last Transformers film. When seen back to back to back, however, the trilogy is not good. It reminds me of Die Hard and Indiana Jones, where the 2nd movie (the one in the middle) is the worst. The biggest issue with Die Hard and Indiana Jones is the fact that they are prequels to the original. That and the chick in Temple of Doom is a terrible actress, and protecting an airport is not as cool as a one-man siege of a building. Transformers: The Rise of the Fallen doesn't have these excuses, however. Dark of the Moon is so much better that it has been able to highlight the glaring ineptitude of its predecessor, much like With a Vengeance and Last Crusade did to their previous films.
The problem with Rise of the Fallen is the same issue most film franchises have when making a sequel. The market success of the first film has creators, studio, and marketers clamoring for more. More new characters, more action, more explosions! The film suffers from the desire for more. Michael Bay decided the Dark of the Moon would be the last of the Transformers films, and neatly tied up all the loose ends. I wish he thought of doing only three movies to start with. Planning a trilogy ahead of time is much better than doing it piecemeal. If you dont plan ahead, you may end up with the second and third films sucking (see the graph for Jaws, Planet of the Apes, and the Matrix).
Planning ahead means you've either already written the complete story, or have a pretty good idea how it will progress (see Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Back to the Future). Star Wars is actually a really good example of a film in three acts, the middle film being the second act, seeing the protagonist seemingly defeated, and at his greatest despair.
Transformers doesn't do this. In fact, after watching the third film, it became clear that the second film (although references are made in passing) is not at all necessary to the plot. The main protagonist in the second film is never mentioned, which is odd as two primes hang out together in the third film. The Fallen (the prime who betrayed) is portrayed as such a powerful figure in Transformer history, you would think Optimus would maybe bring it up to Sentinel. Also, there are Transformers that are never seen killed that do not appear in the third film (both autobot and decepticon). On top of this, the arrival of the Transformers in the first film should have made someone involved with the Apollo Moon missions somewhere sit up in shock and make some important phone calls. No one would be able to watch aliens descend on the planet and still keep that secret.
I would like to point out too that arguably the biggest baddest decepticon has been upstaged in two consecutive films by another villain. Megatron vanishes in The Fallen, and has to be goaded into taking back his masculinity in Dark of the Moon by a human chick. And, as cool and badass as Shockwave was, I'm pretty sure he is supposed to be a constant rival for Megatron's power. Come to think of it, so is Starscream, although their methods vary significantly. And while we're on the subject of decepticons, I'm also pretty sure a majority of Megatron's followers transformed into aircraft, fighter jets to be specific, not police cars, SUVs, or Mercedes Benz.
And then there is the autobots. The only thing I did not like about the third film is the Transformers themselves. The characters that share a name with the title of the film are upstaged by just about every human character. I wanted to see a movie about shape changing robots, not a bunch of cliche human characters. The autobot characters are sadly underdeveloped. And the ones that are developed even a little bit are ones that no one cares about (like the old smarty pants inventor, and the two annoying little toy-sized ones). The Fallen had the same issue. The focus is put on the newly introduced characters and not spent making the older characters stronger. I wanted to see more Ratchet, and Sideswipe, and Ironhide. What I got was two smartass Chevy Sparks, motorcycles, a crusty old transformer named Q (watch Bond movies much?) an RC truck, Nascars, and a metal gremlin. Pretty lame. There are so many better autobots to choose from. Why make up stupid ones?
If Transformers had aspired to be a trilogy of epic proportions, a three act play ought to have been conceived ahead of time. Even if the first film flopped and no other films were made, they would still have an anchor with which to draw from, one film at a time. Continuity would have saved the second film, and made the third less awkward. Oh... and all three films may have had better plots.