— Dear Iron Man:
We like you. We really, really like you. And we're looking forward to your sequel, “Iron Man 2.”
But we’re worried. You’re the first silver-screen superhero to physically resemble an ATM, so it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood starts treating you like one. And dumbing down the plots. And shoe-horning in superfluous characters to help them peddle more action figures. In short, ruining the franchise.
So we encourage you to heed our warning and learn from the mistakes of past superhero sequels.
Don’t forget: Action, action, action
While we loved “Superman Returns” (really, we did), the blue Boy Scout didn’t really fight anyone. At all. In fact, Lex Luthor took away his powers and sucker-punched him — not a great use of Superman’s abilities. Yes, yes — superheroes are modern-day Greek myths and the psychological journey is important. But we also want to see two guys in pajamas beating the hell out of one another.
The obligatory dark side
Both the original Superman and Spider-Man movie series have our superheroes actually drunk on screen in their third installments. This is embarrassing. (Remember Christopher Reeve hunched over a bar stool? He looked like a divorced dad: Sloshed and angrily flicking bar peanuts.) Tony, we know that your character in the comics is an on-again, off-again alcoholic, so tread lightly.
Don’t explain everything
In “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” we learned everything but Wolverine’s Social Security number. Producers even forced a young Cyclops into the mix and added a family soap opera. But, really, we don’t need to know every single detail of our hero’s upbringing. It kills the mystique. Remember “Hannibal Rising” and the entire set of “Star Wars” prequels? Sometimes, more is less. Keep it mysterious and refrain from producing: “Tony Stark: The Wonder Years.”
Know thy fan base
When fans saw “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” they all waited for one thing: Galactus, a planet-eating wanderer of the cosmos. What did they get instead? A giant dust bunny creeping toward earth. We wanted to see the gargantuan purple guy in the goal-post helmet. So show us the characters we love, without too much augmentation.
On that note, another cameo by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury would be welcome. Maybe Ed Norton as Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk). Or even newcomer Chris Evans as Captain America? With Joss Whedon slated to direct the upcoming “Avengers” movie, keep the cameos and tie-ins coming.
That being said:
Don’t be afraid to make changes
Zach Snyder’s augmented ending for “The Watchmen” was better than the comic book, even more plausible — and it got rid of the silly-looking giant squid from outer space.
Thus far, Iron Man, it’s been going well. You’ve updated the politics and set the original movie squarely in modern-day desert warfare and corporate espionage. Keep it up, and whatever you do, keep your arch nemesis, the (possibly racist) Mandarin, out of the franchise. Let’s not even talk about the villain in the bushy porcupine suit.
We like Jon Favreau as a director and onscreen sidekick. Keep him around. Don’t shuffle the deck and tempt fate. Exhibit A: Though “X-Men 3” was the strongest movie of the series thematically and in terms of risk taking (major characters — killed!, surprising sacrifices!), it fell flat in the hands of Brett Ratner after two installments by Bryan Singer. So, stick with the guy who brought you to the party.
The revolving cast
Again, fans like consistency. But there were five actors playing Batman in the first six films, if you count Adam West. (And we do.) Katie Holmes was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal in “The Dark Knight” — a trade-up, yes, but ultimately distracting. Beware. In “Iron Man 2,” Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard and gets his own suit of armor, which leads to...
When movie series add chapters, they tend to pile on new characters unnecessarily, leaving our favorite characters with less screen time and giving newcomers short shrift. “Spider-Man 3,” for example, featured three villains and two love interests.
And remember “Batman & Robin”? Despite the casting of George Clooney in the nippled Batsuit, that movie was basically an excuse to sell toys of Poison Ivy, Robin, Batgirl, Bane, Mr. Freeze, etc. Don’t confuse a movie with a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
Some things to keep
The banter. You made Tony Stark magnetic and funny outside the armor. Keep that.
The romantic tension: Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) added some spice and a human connection to your otherwise corporate playboy lifestyle. She keeps you grounded, even in rocket boots.
Manageable, human villains. Even James Bond got tired of saving the world in every movie. Keep your villains life-size and evil, please.
Oh yes, and keep the badass armor.
Your Iron-clad fans