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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Attack on Titan: Junior High the titans from Attack on Titan are no longer basically giant flesh eating zombies. The go to school, just like the human children.
  • Inverted 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. Played straight in the 2017 movie, where her American counterpart Mia is as smart as Light and even turns on him.
  • The 20th anniversary movie Pokémon: I Choose You! takes anime Ash, who is dumb as a Dunsparce, and turns him into a competent hero who knows the names of all of the Pokémon he encounters and doesn't make any rookie battling mistakes.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • Inverted with Aang in The Stalking Zuko Series, as he's portrayed as more childish and naive than in canon. As a result of his immaturity and stubborn adherence to Air Nomad ideals, his decision-making skills are much worse than in canon and he rarely contributes anything useful to discussions.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, it's established that even before the time reset, Ash from the new timeline was less Book Dumb than his canon counterpart, being one of the only two trainers of Pallet Town to qualify for a Pokédex by passing Professor Oak's test (with a 90% or higher). This was later combined with early Kalos Ash's Taught by Experience smarts to create Reset!Ash as portrayed in the story.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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 is 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" and at one point in the series the Chief says that Max pretty much has Vetinari Job Security because if he got fired, CONTROL would need to promote Larrabee to Max's position, and the Chief is obviously very afraid of that), whereas in the film he's a Jerkass but competent agent.
  • 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! Doesn't help that Arch-Enemy Doctor Doom in particular keeps treating Ben as an idiot (which is an example of Doom's narcissism, since he actually went to university with Ben and knows that he is at least highly educated, but Doom treats him as a dumb rock.
    • 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 (who really had even less of a reason to be on the original comics' version of the flight than Susan) to a qualified NASA astronaut... who 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. By contrast, 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 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 (apparently retconning the 'Orions as secretly matriarchal' idea mentioned below.)
  • 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.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming changes Flash Thompson from a Jerk Jock who bullies Peter to a fellow nerd who acts as his intellectual rival instead. (This is largely an Informed Attribute, since we first see him getting a physics question wrong, and are later told he didn't answer a single question in the quiz team. On the other hand, he made it onto the quiz team [as a reservist] and Midtown High has been reinvented as a science school where all the students have to be pretty smart.)
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • Jean Grey was turned into a medical doctor. Originally, they were going to include Beast as the resident smart guy of the team, but when he was removed from the final script, the writers gave his job to Jean.
    • Inverted with Wolverine. Whereas he's still not an idiot, the film version lacks his comic counterpart's worldliness and Cunning Linguist skills.
  • 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.
  • DC Extended Universe:
  • In The Film of the Series for The Dukes of Hazzard, Boss Hogg is a great deal less stupid and childish, and is presented as a serious villain rather than a comical Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
    • In the initial episodes of the first season of the show, Boss Hogg (and Roscoe as well) were competent adversaries to the Dukes. Upon learning that a large group of children enjoyed watching this show, the writers decided to make Boss Hogg (and Roscoe) an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain. It was easier to write how the Dukes would triumph, and the two actors actually enjoyed partaking in the slapstick shenanigans.

  • In the pilot episode of Red Dwarf, there's no reason to think Lister isn't, as Captain Hollister believes, "so stupid you bring aboard an unquarantined animal and jeopardise every man and woman on this ship — not only that, but you take a photograph of yourself with the cat and send it to be processed in the ship's lab." In the book Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, Lister wants to be put in stasis until they arrive on Earth after breaking up with Kochanski, and developed a very convoluted plan to do so. The photo was an important part of that; he wanted to get caught with the cat, but he didn't want the cat to get caught and dissected. It's also established that Frankenstein was actually an expensive pet-shop cat that was inoculated against everything, although he told the captain she was a stray with an unspecified illness.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Arrow:
  • 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 medical student who's ahead of her time.
  • 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 Walking Dead: The Governor is a Manipulative Bastard who knows how to charm his way through people. It helps that he also underwent Adaptational Attractiveness.
  • Inverted with Jessica Wakefield in the television adaptation of Sweet Valley High. While her academic performance tended to vary in the books Jessica was almost always depicted as smart, sometimes extremely so. The TV version ranges from being cunning but Book Dumb to being a Brainless Beauty whose stupidity causes any scheme she embarks on to implode.

     Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, several villains receive intelligence upgrades:
  • 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.
    • In the comics, Sha-Shan Nguyen (a Love Interest for Flash) isn't dumb, but is never noted to be smart either. In this show, she's a geeky girl who initially won't give Flash the time of day. Word of God says that since they couldn't logically make her a pseudo-ninja Anti-Hero like in the comics, they thought that this was another way to make her someone who could challenge him.
  • Inverted with Knuckles in Sonic Boom. In the Sonic the Hedgehog games, Knuckles was a bit gullible, but not outright stupid, while in Sonic Boom, he's Dumb Muscle.
  • In Super Friends, Bizarro and Solomon Grundy keep their Hulk Speak but are as able to come up with the Evil Plan of the week and take the lead in it as anyone else in the Legion of Doom.
  • In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! and every animation since it, the Incredible Hulk is able to speak full sentences and stay in Hulk mode for extended periods while being much more than a mindless smasher. Of course, comics fans know that the Hulk's intelligence and mindset are a malleable thing due to alterations to his powers (and Banner's own issues). The way it works these days is that he's The Big Guy and a Boisterous Bruiser who would rather smash than strategize, but is no dummy when forced to use his head. However, the madder he gets, the stronger he gets, as ever before... and as his anger and power increase, his mind begins to revert back to the "classic savage hulk" state and his rage increases too. Worst case scenario is that he could enter "worldbreaker" mode, becoming strong enough to move continents, while in a state of Unstoppable Rage that leaves him unable to distinguish friend from foe.
  • In Avengers, Assemble!, The Falcon is a Gadgeteer Genius nearly on par with Iron Man. His comic counterpart, while certainly not stupid, is more of a relatable everyman who had his wings built by Black Panther. Here, he built the wings himself despite only being 18-years-old.
  • In Peter Pan & the Pirates:
    • Peter is considerably much more cunning and mature than most of his representations in other media. He still has bad memory and is impulsive, but not to the level of sociopathy shown in some version and is presented as a pretty competent leader and strategist and with much more social skills.
    • Tinkerbell is no longer an unintelligible fairy incapable of showing more than one basic emotion at the time; instead she is an intelligent mature woman well-versed in magic and a Deadpan Snarker.
    • Captain Hook is changed from the Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain he is in the original play to a Wicked Cultured intellectual.
  • Marvel's Spider-Man depicts Horizon Labs from Dan Slott's Spider-Man reimiagined as a high school for geniuses with several characters going there, including Harry Osborn, Miles Morales, and a pre-Rhino Aleksei Sytsevich. In the comics, while the former two aren't dumb, Harry wasn't as enthusiastic about science as Peter and Miles was admitted to a STEM school via lottery; and even before becoming the Rhino, Sytsevich was Dumb Muscle.