Adaptational Intelligence

When adapting an existing character for a new work the character is often altered in transition from the source material. They might become nicer, nastier, more badass or a lot less badass.

Or they might become smarter. This trope is about taking a character who wasn't particularly smart in the source material and might even have been The Ditz and turning them into The Smart Guy.

There are several reasons why a character might gain IQ points in an adaptation. Some reasons include:

See also Adaptation Personality Change, Adaptational Comic Relief, Adaptational Heroism, Adaptational Villainy , Adaptational Badass, Adaptational Wimp and Xenafication.

Compare and contrast Dumbass No More where a character increases their intellect inside the particular work.


Anime & Manga
  • Subverted with Misa Amane from Death Note. While she wasn't the most intelligent person in the original manga, she did have a good head on her shoulders and was serious about her actions, knew simple, slightly dangerous yet effective plans on how to get what was needed, like in the Yotsuba Arc where she goes off on her own to investigate Higuchi from the Yotsuba group and records his admission that he is the current Kira which played a big role in finishing up that arc. The anime altered her intelligence to the point of downplaying any big moments she had in the manga and even changed her personality to be more airheaded and up-played her Yandere traits towards Light, making her a typical The Ditz character.

Comic Book
  • In Maximum Ride whilst Gazzy was capable of building bombs and various pyrotechnics, he otherwise came of as a typical 8-year old. In Max Ride: First Flight in addition to having manual computer skills, hes also been given an affinity with machinery and had his childishness severely downplayed.
  • The Dinobots from the Transformers Generation 1 comics typically are portrayed as smarter and more cunning than their animated counterparts.

Fan Fiction
  • Asami in The Saga Of Avatar Korra portrays her as being more intelligent than in canon. While she is far from stupid in canon and is considered The Smart Guy, her skills in science and business are much more pronounced in this story. She is a skilled inventor (in this continuity she is the inventor of the shock glove and not just its user) and she also holds a leading position in her father's company by the time she and Korra reunite.

Animated Film
  • The Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame makes Esmeralda smarter than she is in the book. In the book, she's very naive; in the film, she's more savvy.
  • Among the other revisionings done in Justice League: Gods And Monsters, Orion of the New Gods is depicted as a scientist and artist, as opposed to his warrior persona in the comics.

Live Action Film
  • Most modern adaptations of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory turn Mike Teavee into an Insufferable Genius. He did have a few Jerkass Has a Point moments in the book but was mostly just an excitable TV obsessed little kid. In both the 2005 film and the West End musical adaptation he has been depicted as a jaded computer hacker.
  • Get Smart
    • In the TV series Get Smart Max was a general purpose bungling idiot who only succeeds by luck and Agent 99's competence. In the film he's genuinely a clever guy and a great analyst, just a klutz who isn't well suited to field work. This was apparently done to make a romantic relationship with 99 more believable, as a modern audience would not accept someone as buffoonish as the original Max being attractive to a woman as capable as 99.
    • Larrabee in the original series is even more of a dunce than Max (he has been referred to as "Max's Max"), whereas in the film he's a jerkass but competent agent.
  • In Fantastic Four (2005) and its sequel, Ben Grimm (also known as The Thing) is a lot smarter than his comic book counterpart (though even in the comic book some writers have explained that Ben employs Obfuscating Stupidity.) For example in Rise of the Silver Surfer he instantly deduces that a picture taken of Silver Surfer arriving in Earth's atmosphere isn't a comet because "the trail is wrong". This is quite apt considering that Ben, like the rest of the Four, is a trained astronaut.
    • Basically, with Ben, it's this: it's established from the beginning that he's had a long, distinguished military career involving jobs and authority no idiot would have, was the one Reed got to pilot the ship during the space flight, which is why he was there, and also has multiple advanced degrees. However, he's got an appearance and accent that says Dumb Muscle, and as The Snark Knight, if anyone's going to poke fun at Reed's Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, it's him, meaning he's the one repeatedly depicted as not understanding something. So those who know nothing of the character beyond "It's clobberin' time!" - a population that has sadly included a writer or two over the many years of the franchise - do not realize that he's actually a brilliant mind, occasionally resulting in adaptational/Depending on the Writer unintelligence, and a few surprised fans on the days we see how smart he is. He's just no Reed Richards (but who is?) even if it's shown that he actually understands most of Reed's Techno Babble just fine, and if a supervillain shows up and starts smashing things and you happen to be ridiculously strong, well, what is the most logical course of action? IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME!
    • Susan Storm, who in the comics got to fly into space via being Reed's girlfriend, is a scientist in this version.
    • Comparatively downplayed version, but Johnny also gets this, going from a hot-headed teenage Casanova hipster (that really had even less of a reason to be on the original comics' version of the flight than Susan) to a qualified NASA astronaut... that is still a hot-headed Casanova.
  • In Jurassic Park Lex is made older than she was in the book and given knowledge of computer systems. Contrasting, her brother Tim was made younger and loses the computer systems scene, but maintains his knowledge of dinosaurs.
  • The Steve Martin reboot of The Pink Panther is predicated on the idea that Clouseau is to some degree employing Obfuscating Stupidity, quite unlike the book character or previous versions in film.
  • in Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Skull is upgraded to the head of the Nazi science division; the comics version is no fool, but he's certainly not a brilliant scientist on his own.
  • In their brief appearance in Star Trek: The Original Series, Orion women are presented as mindless nymphomaniacs. Dialogue from the original pilot even explicitly compares them to animals, suggesting they might not even be fully sapient. The 2009 reboot film gave us a sympathetic and obviously fully intelligent Orion woman as a supporting character whom writer and producer Roberto Orci theorised had escaped to the the Federation via an underground railroad.
    • Even before that, Star Trek: Enterprise showed them as the real power behind the Orion Syndicate, using the Living Aphrodisiac effect they have on male Orions to keep them in a permanent state of Distracted by the Sexy and doing what the woman want while nominally in charge. And even before that, the two Orion females we met in the original series were, in order, an illusion used to tempt Christopher Pike, and a criminally insane mental patient. Basing our idea of what Orion females are like purely on those two is probably not the best way to get a feel for Orion society.
    • The reboot movies also did a favor for Uhura. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Uhura's attempt to speak Klingon came across as You No Take Candle (which Nichelle Nichols was not pleased with). On the other hand, in Star Trek Into Darkness, Uhura describes her Klingon as "rusty, but good," and then proceeds to speak fluent Klingon.
  • While Gwen Stacy has always been smart in the comics The Amazing Spider-Man 2 raises her to being outright brilliant, as smart or perhaps even smarter than Teen Genius Peter Parker himself.
  • In the X-Men movie series, Jean Grey was turned into a doctor. Originally, they were going to include Beast as the resident smart guy of the team but when he was removed from the final film, they gave the job to Jean Grey.
  • In the original Sleeping Beauty, it took Maleficent sixteen years to find Aurora, because she was relying on her grunts. In her own movie, it takes her about a day, because she sends out Diaval instead.
  • Inverted big time with Bane in Batman & Robin. Whereas the comics Bane was smart enough to come up with a plan to beat Batman, the movie Bane was barely able to speak, only engaging in Hulk Speak and saying one or two words at most when he did. Turning the Genius Bruiser into barely sentient Dumb Muscle is one of the many, many reasons why fans would rather pretend that movie never happened.

Live-Action Television
  • In the original film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy started as a Brainless Beauty who turned out to have Hidden Depths and went through some serious Character Development, leaving her pretty smart by the end of the movie. Not nearly as smart as she was in the First Season of the television show however. TV Buffy, especially in the first few episodes was whip smart, extremely perceptive, a better researcher than Giles and explicitly singled out as having a first class mind by one of her teachers. In fact her brilliance was subtly downplayed in the Second Season to make Giles look less useless.
  • In Arrow, Malcolm Merlyn is a clever schemer with shades of Corrupt Corporate Executive; in the comics, Merlyn is merely a Professional Killer with archery skills that rival those of Green Arrow.
    • Similarly, Solomon Grundy goes from the Hulk Speak zombie of the comics to a much more articulate Psycho for Hire with regenerative powers thanks to Pragmatic Adaptation.
    • The Clock King goes from the doofy version of the comics to a skilled hacker and computer expert.
  • In the 2000 Dune mini-series, Irulan is far more clever than she is in the books (in which she's still fairly intelligent - she becomes a respected historian, after all - but otherwise just a typical princess.) In the mini-series, she quickly figures out that her father aided House Harkonnen in its violent overthrow of House Atreides, and actively works to spy on the Harkonnens by sending one of her servants to seduce Feyd.
  • The 2013 Dracula television series upgraded Mina Harker from a reasonably smart school teacher to a brilliant, ahead of time medical student.
  • Joan Watson in Elementary. Watson in the Doyle stories was competent enough, but as a normal person working with Sherlock Holmes, he frequently found himself Overshadowed by Awesome. In Elementary Joan shows above-average observational skills from the start, and she becomes a competent detective in her own right over the course of the series. Probably to the point where she doesn't need Sherlock's help.
    • By at least the third season, she's definitely graduated to Sherlock's apprentice, no longer just tagging along. Holmes even once sent her to get his dry cleaning, never even hinting that something was amiss at the place he sent her to, knowing she'd be able to work out what was really going on there. With no help, she did.
  • The The Walking Dead, the Governor is a Dangerously Genre Savvy Manipulative Bastard who knows how to charm his way through people. It helps that he also underwent Adaptational Attractiveness.

Western Animation
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, several villains receive intelligence upgrades:
    • The Riddler is reinvented as a technological genius, capable of creating advanced virtual reality devices and inventing best-selling, sophisticated toys. He even manages to accomplish all of his goals in his first appearance and get away scott free!
    • The aforementioned Clock King becomes a true example of the trope that bears his name, and, like the Riddler, is one of the few villains to escape Batman in their first encounter.
    • Inverted with the show's take on Hugo Strange, however, who is far less clever as a manipulator or as an inventor than his Psycho Psychologist and Mad Scientist comics counterpart.
  • Slade from Teen Titans is by no mean stupid in the comics, but he is more of a Hired Gun and mercenary more comfortable on the field, and while he can be good at manipulation, there are plenty villains more competent than him. In the Teen Titans cartoon, he is portrayed as a criminal mastermind and the show's biggest Magnificent Bastard.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Debra Whitman went from a Shrinking Violet in the comics to an intellectual rival to Peter Parker.
  • In the original Winnie-the-Pooh books Kanga is just as stupid as the other residents of Hundred Acre Wood, but Disney's adaptations tend to make her smarter, acting as the Team Mom of the cast.
  • In the comics, Tombstone was a thug who dropped out of high school and became a leg breaker for the mob. In The Spectacular Spider-Man, he's an expy for The Kingpin, being the head of a major crime organization and posing as a legitimate businessman.