If there's any problem that every bad sequel has in common, it's that they try to go bigger than the first film. It turned the zippy Iron Man into the bloated Iron Man 2, the thoughtful first two Spider-Man movies into the villain-overloaded Spider-Man 3, and whatever it is that happened between Transformers and Transformers 2, going too big was at least part of the problem. In a way The Avengers might be the end result of that kind of thinking, taking superheroes we've met in their own movies and mashing them all together, creating the ultimate superhero convergence. But if you ask the movie's director, Joss Whedon, the key to their success going forward will be to boil it all down to the essentials.

Asked by SFX (via Digital Spy) how a second Avengers could top the first one, Whedon had a plain answer for them:

"By not trying to. By being smaller. More personal, more painful. By being the next thing that should happen to these characters, and not just a rehash of what seemed to work the first time. By having a theme that is completely fresh and organic to itself."

Being Joss Whedon, he then threw in a Godfather 2 joke, but that doesn't cover up the fact that he said he wanted to take his Avengers sequel in a "painful" direction. That's pretty much the Empire Strikes Back mode of thinking about a sequel, taking your heroes from the first film and taking everything away from them before the grand finale in the (presumed) third film. But unless your Christopher Nolan, saying that you want your superheroes to be darker doesn't really get you anywhere, and the Marvel universe has set itself apart from the Batman films by being sunnier and happier. Will they let Whedon take things in a sadder direction?

That all depends, of course, on how The Avengers does when it opens May 4. But the fact that Whedon is talking somewhat openly about what he might do with a second film indicates he's happy with how this one turned out. Let us know what you would want from an Avengers sequel in the comments, and if you think Whedon is taking it in the right direction.

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