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Adaptational Badass

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Guess the people behind Namco × Capcom didn't dig the original.

"I'm not really into this fighting stuff unless it's in a courtroom. ...Oh, and with words!"
Phoenix Wright, playable fighter in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 note 

There are characters in the media who are known, simply put, for being less-than-dangerous. They might simply be the last competent fighter. They might be a Non-Action Guy or a Damsel in Distress. Worst case scenario, they're The Load. When danger rears its head, the character generally beats feet and lets their tougher friends deal with the problem.

But then, when the work is being adapted or rebooted, the character is made a bona fide badass. The reasons for this are myriad. In some cases (especially video games) this is the result of someone who's a non-combatant in their own series appearing in a setting where fighting skill of some kind is required, overlapping with Power Creep, Power Seep. These types of characters are the kind most likely to use tropes such as I Know Madden Kombat, Martial Arts and Crafts, and Fighting Clown.

Another possibility is that characters who were reasonably competent and skilled in their original incarnations had their capabilities and accomplishments elevated in their next depiction, sometimes to an Invincible Hero or Invincible Villain level. This is related to the Big Budget Beef-Up or Serial Escalation, the character is changed to match the intensity of the action.

In some genres, particularly Anime, the use of Filler story arcs or Non-Serial Movies can help in building up characters in a television or cinematic format that they didn't get in the source material. Both major and minor characters whose abilities were varying degrees of being relatively good, okay, or just plain subpar can receive the chance to shine more in anime-exclusive arcs, added filler scenes for padding, or movies, particularly if they were underused in the source material and didn't get much of a chance to show what they were really made of.

Regardless of the whys, there are two things to consider with such a change:

At its core this causes a significant dissonance with those familiar with the original character. It is not about a change in personality (Martial Pacifist to Blood Knight), method of fighting (defensive staff to offensive BFS) or battlefield intelligence (Dumb Muscle to Genius Bruiser), but in terms of how relevant they are in a fight. The key is how they are able to navigate through the story. Consider as a result of Power Creep, Power Seep that Superman himself has varied from simply "above human" in strength to near godlike, but he has always been Superman.

As the name suggests, this is based on different interpretations between adaptations. Took a Level in Badass is the same concept except treated as Character Development in the same continuity.

When this is done to a real-life person, then it's Historical Badass Upgrade. For a sister trope specializing in female characters, see Xenafication. The inverse of this trope is Adaptational Wimp. Often overlaps with Adaptational Skill.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • Angels of Music revolves around a team of female Action Girl detectives recruited from works of 19th-century literature. Most of them were not action girls in the original works — we're talking people like Christine Daaé, Trilby O'Ferrall, Liza Doolittle, and Gigi — let alone the Waif-Fu masters these versions are trained to be.
  • When Gaunt's Ghosts was first released, the Imperial Guard in Warhammer 40,000 were a puny Red Shirt Army led by idiots and maniacs that died in droves against every foe of the Imperium. After Ghosts depicted them as a terrifyingly competent Badass Army filled with Badass Normals and led by Four Star Badasses (with the odd idiot and maniac thrown in for variety), this portrayal proved so popular that Games Workshop near-completely changed their image to match it.
  • Oliver Twisted: In both the original story, Oliver Twist, and this alternate version of it, Oliver asks for more gruel from the cook and gets locked up. For the latter version, however, that doesn't happen until after Oliver dodges a ladle, grabs it to spoon gruel into his bowl and successfully avoid the staff while announcing to the other starving orphans to get their share of additional gruel.
  • Nor the mighty Bennett Sisters in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
  • You don't want to mess with Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella in The Princess Series, as they have magical powers to attack you.
  • Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner makes a number of people far more badass than they were in Digital Devil Saga:
    • In the game Cielo was either The Load or the Lethal Joke Character, depending on how you played him. In the novels he is The Big Guy, as powerful as everyone else in combat in both physical and magic terms, with his only drawback being that as a flying demon he cannot fight all that well indoors. in fact, at the very end it is him who manages to break out of Sera's control instead of Heat.
    • Jinana/Ushas originally merely had a few physical attacks and a Light 'em Up Signature Move that she needed help to execute. Here, she has Prehensile Hair and can create several different types of unblockable Frickin' Laser Beams and an actual Laser Blade.
    • The random encounter Atavaka is a unique High Atma depicted as powerful as some of the bosses.
    • Harley Q was a pathetic Warm-Up Boss. Now, he is a Nigh-Invulnerable Blob Monster that takes the heroes' combined efforts to take down. After that not only is he still alive, but he eventually turns into an Eldritch Abomination that devours everyone and everything in the Junkyard.
  • Return of the Wolf Man: In the [[The Wolf Man (1941) original movie]] altrough virtually immortal and even received offscreen many bullets, the Wolf Man never shows feats of super strength, even in the sequels. In this novel, he and his human self, Larry Talbot gained explicit superhuman strength. It's said that the Wolf Man's raw strength is superior to Dracula's own. Take note that Dracula is an One-Man Army physically, and he says that the Wolf Man is his most powerful enemy (counting armies and vampire hunters among his centuries as a vampire).
  • Star Wars Legends: When he was originally created in the Jedi Academy Trilogy, the Sith Lord Exar Kun was a rather underwhelming villain: pretty much Dastardly Whiplash AS A FORCE GHOST!. Tales of the Jedi portrays his Backstory in which he is a legitimate badass as a villain, while the P.O.V. Sequel I, Jedi expands on his role in the original timeframe and makes him significantly more threatening while simultaneously heavily lampshading his Card-Carrying Villain status.
  • In Upright Magic, a 1998 book based on a 1975 film of the same name, several characters fall under the trope.
    • Clear Trickle in the film is just a Nice Girl who doesn’t do much plot-relevant. The one time she fights with the Fire, he is victorious and she is extremely weakened, only recovering thanks to the main heroine’s efforts. In the book, she is a Plucky Girl who isn’t afraid to eavesdrop on the villains and manages to escape when found out, and who is an equally-strong opponent of the Fire and takes him down almost singlehandedly in their final confrontation.
    • The Fire as well. In the film, he looks menacing all right, but the only time he actually harms anyone is when he defeats Clear Trickle. When he attacks Glue Country, the locals rather easily defend themselves with extinguishers, and he is put out in a pretty anticlimactic fashion. In the book, he is the most dangerous of the villains, dries up the entire Glue Country with its residents almost dying out because of that, nearly kills the heroine by heating the rock she is climbing, and is only defeated because he is too stunned to see Clear Trickle alive (he was sure he had killed her earlier), allowing the latter to outsmart him.
    • The ogre in the film is a human-looking idiot who apparently thinks that a pretty silly Villain Song is enough to scare the heroine and runs away screaming merely because she says she isn’t scared. In the book, he is a frightening giant with some (if occasional) sparks of cleverness, and it takes quite some time for the heroine to escape from him.
    • The Fairy of Antique Miracles in the film is just another dog to kick for the Wicked Witch. In the book, while not the sharpest knife in the drawer, she knows enough magic and is smart enough to play subtle tricks on the witch.
  • In 2007, the CGSociety (for Creative Digital Artists) held a contest to create images and pieces using Greg Bear's The Way Series novel Eon as a reference point. The winning trailer was titled "Worlds Within Worlds". In it, the frant breaks a soldier's neck. In the book, frants are actually rather peaceful (they're useful due to their Hive Mind), and there's no danger at the moment in the book that the trailer portrays.


    Mythology & Religion 
  • Ares from Greek Mythology. Originally, he was portrayed as a bully who could only win against unaided mortals, got his butt kicked by anything supernatural, and was casually dismissed by fellow gods Zeus and Athena. Then the Romans came around and identified him with their god Mars, making him the patron god of Rome, second in importance only to Jupiter (the Roman version of Zeus), an ideal soldier, and an all-around badass. This might make him the Ur-Example. In many modern adaptations, Ares is usually portrayed more in the style of Rome's Mars in order to make him an imposing and threatening character. And since those modern adaptations often have Athena retain Greek role as Always Someone Better to Ares, she has to become even more badass than in the source material in order to keep pace.
  • Satan, in most Abrahamic scriptures where he appears, is a fallen angel whose defeat is a given from day one and whose antics on earth are basically a bully picking on the teacher's pets and who can be foiled by any yokel with faith or some brains. However, theologians began writing interpretations that elevate him as a threat, more or less expanding on details that the Bible left vague. As of today, Satan is viewed as a nigh-omnipotent force of evil second only to God Himself in terms of raw power, and is only kept from creating Hell on Earth by the forces of light remaining ever vigilant. Likewise, he even has a good chance at obtaining ultimate victory at the end of days.


  • In A Christmas Carol and most adaptations, Scrooge is terrified at Jacob Marley's appearance and warning. In Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, after his initial shock, he's unfazed by his theatrics, gives a speech dressing him down, and kicks him out of his room with his words alone.

    Theme Parks 
  • Godzilla vs. Evangelion: The Real 4-D: Who's the one to turn the tide in the battle against King Ghiodrah after Godzilla is drained? Shinji Ikari, who drives a katana into King Ghidorah. He's also the only one who accomplishes anything against Godzilla — and it's the Godzilla of Shin Godzilla he, Rei, and Asuka are up against.

  • Beast Wars: Uprising:
    • Rage, a one-off cutesy jellyfish from a Beast Wars Neo manga, is reinvented as a warlord who seized control of a city. During the Grand Finale, she fights alongside her own troops.
    • The Vehicons. In Beast Machines, they were brainless mooks who exploded if they were so much as sneezed on, their main strength being sheer numbers. Here, they're The Virus, capable of directly turning other Cybertronians into more Vehicons, destroying their Sparks in the process. Not for nothing is their rampage labelled the Vehicon Apocalypse.
  • The Incredibles has a mask book to sell merchandise that includes an official review of the movie. It includes an extra scene where Bob tried to fight the second omnidroid but it was a Hopeless Boss Battle. In the movie itself, the Killer Robot attacked him by surprise and started giving him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown without Mr Incredible having a chance to process what was happening.

    Web Animation 
  • Animator vs. Animation features Clippy The Paperclip as an enemy of the Chosen One in part 3. Here, however, he's not just an annoyance; he's a skilled fighter, able to use Voluntary Shapeshifting to block attacks and twist his body into a tornado for a Spin Attack, wields a sword made of ASCII Art, and was able to keep the Chosen One busy long enough for the animator to draw the Dark Lord.
  • DEATH BATTLE! gives this treatment to every character, no matter what franchise, as the general rule of thumb is that the Rule of Drama and Strong as They Need to Be conventions are averted and all characters are used at their absoute best with none of the personal or narrative handicaps from their own stories. This also means the Super Weight of the combatants is scaled to other characters within their universes, which gives a serious boost to various DC, Marvel and Shonen reps. For video game characters, all their tools and abilites from different games are given to them even if they were one time use. Expanded material is also used for franchises so long as it doesn't seriously contriadict the primary source material, this greatly helps Star Wars characters as EU feats put them on a far greater level of power than they usually display in the films and cartoons (barring Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003) of course).
    • "Goomba Vs Koopa" does this to both cannon fodder enemies as they display crazy power and skill they utterly lack in the games where Mario and co can take them out easily. The DBX remake takes this even way further with Goomba and Koopa being able to destroy the moon and break reality itself in their fight.
    • In "Justin Beiber Vs Rebecca Black" both teen pop stars showcase amazing fighting abilites that they lack in Real Life.
    • Downplayed in Chuck Norris Vs Segata Sanshiro, Chuck Norris as a Real Life person is of course plenty badass, it's just that the fight takes into account the various Memetic Badass feats he has amassed over the years as well as feats from his movies and cartoons. This allows Chuck to roundhouse kick with the force of The Big Bang and punch with the third fist that is his chin.
    • "Smokey Bear Vs McGruff the Crime Dog" has both Advertising amphomorphic animals as strong fighters, unlike the ads they come from where they supposed to be non-violent family friendly mascots who don't use their funny Cartoon Physics for battle.
    • In "Macho Man Vs Kool Aid Man", much like with Chuck Norris Randy Savage's feats include beating up Spider-Man and being able to destroy planets as Rasslor, which he (as far as we know) didn't perform in Real Life.
    • Played With in "Sponge Bob VS Aquaman" the fight affirms that Superfriends Aquaman truly is the lamest version of the character and doesn't stand a chance againist the god-like Spongebob but regardless Aquaman still displays skills and power that he completely lacked in the cartoon and is able to throw punches, something that wasn't even allowed in Superfriends.
    • "Sauron Vs The Lich King" gives this treatment to Sauron. In the source books every time Sauron has had to physically fight someone, he's gotten his ass kicked. The fight however scales him to the impressive feats performed by other Maiar such as Ossë and takes some clues from the Jackson films and Shadow of Mordor games and as such Sauron is portrayed as an exceptional warrior who can easily match someone like Arthas in single combat even without his dark magic or the power of the One Ring, in comparsion to the books where lesser beings like Gil-galad and Elendil could destroy his body in battle.
    • DBX follows purely Rule of Cool with no research involved, this allows Bruce Lee to beat up the numerous characters he inspired such as Fei Long and Rock Lee, despite said characters posessing superpowers and Bruce being just a superbly trained man who was very strong and fast by Real Life standards. Later DBX fights are vote based meaning the characters with the higher Popularity Power win, this means Gohan can kill Superboy and Vegeta can kill General Zod, whereas in an actual fight they likely wouldn't win againist them.
  • Dead Fantasy:
  • FreedomToons: Parodied. Pintsized Jewish and Nerdy right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro has hex vision.
  • Discussed in Overly Sarcastic Productions. Despite what The Camp Half-Blood Series would have you believe, Greek demigods rarely boasted amazing superpowers as a result of being Semi-Divine. For instance, Bellerophon, son of Poseidon, is an amazing equestrian rather than having any kind of Making a Splash. In fact, the most famous Greek demigods, Heracles and Achilles, got their powers through other means.note 
  • Power Star: In a stark contrast to the Cowardly Lion in the games, Luigi is depicted as a stalwart warrior who stops at nothing to prevent his corrupted brother from obtaining the Power Stars and conquering the Mushroom Kingdom.
  • Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventures does this with Luke and Leia. Luke's first fight against Darth Vader reimagines him as being far more adept in lightsaber combat than he was at that point in time, and he even manages to kick his Archnemesis Dad in the face. Before being captured by Vader, Leia personally helped defend the Tantive IV and goes hand-to-hand with a stormtrooper.
  • In Super Mario Bros. Z, Mecha Sonic is reimagined from a one-off Metal Sonic-based robot from Sonic & Knuckles into Metal Sonic's Fusion Dance form and becoming a Omnicidal Maniac.
  • Transformers:
  • Toon Sandwich's Super-Hero-Bowl and Super-Villain-Bowl as well as Fanfictasia gives this treatment to many characters alongside Adaptational Wimp, though it's mainly Played for Laughs.
    • The Dark Knight Trilogy Batman is pretty badass already, but he certainly wouldn't be able to defeat Wolverine, Spider-Man and almost kill Rey like he does in the bowl.
    • Ethan Hunt diguised as Jason Bourne defeats both 007 and Jack Bauer, despite the former being nigh-superhuman even compared to other action heroes.
    • Jay and Kay the Men in Black are able to take out all of the Guardians of the Galaxy at once, this contrasts to the films where one alien cockoroach almost killed them both.
    • Aragon with Andúri is able to overpower Luke with his freaking lightsaber and dismember him. Granted, it appeared to be the inexperienced The Empire Strikes Back Luke, but Aragon anywhere else would usually get swatted against a Force User.
    • Similarly Jon Snow is able to kill Iceman (mistaking him for a Whitewalker), despite Bobby being a Omega Level mutant i.e. unlikely to get easily cut down by a muggle, even a skilled one like Jon.
    • The Terminator is able to kill both Robocop and Judge Dredd simultaneously and then crush Iron Man's head. Sure, the T-800 is badass, but nowhere near that badass.
    • The Hulk is able to give Superman the Loki treatment (i.e smashing him into the ground repeatedly). While MCU Hulk is extremely strong, he still wouldn't likely be able to mandhandle DCEU Supes like that, especially given that, unlike the comics, Hulk isn't the strongest in The 'Verse of his films while Clark for the most part is.
    • Rey is pretty powerful, but nowhere as powerful compared to other Force Users in Star Wars (she needed all the deceased Jedi's spirits powering her up to beat Palpatine). Here however, she almost wins the bowl, killing Batman and even beats both Neo and Scarlet Witch (in any other fight, Wanda and Neo would make mincemeat out of her, especially the former).
    • Cyclops is able to use his Optic Blasts to shoot through Captain America's vibranium shield and put a hole through Steve's sternum. In the comics, Cap's shield can reflect Scott's blasts no problem. Doubley impressive given the Fox version of Cyclops' Optic Blasts are pretty pathetic compared to the comics.
    • The Jurassic Park Velociraptor, despite being a regular dinosaur, takes down both the Xenomorph and Venom simultaneously.
    • Darth Vader is always badass, but this version is ridiculous. He one-shots Sauron before taking down Darth Maul, his grandson Kylo, the Predator, and the Alien Queen all without breaking a sweat. In Fanfictasia, Annie matches both Thor and Hela, giving them the Psychic Strangle while tanking Thor's lightning, despite lightning being the very thing that kills him in the films!
    • The Wicked Witch of the West is a serious threat within The Wizard of Oz but not so much anywhere else, yet here she has an incredible kill streak taking down Bellatrix Lastrange, Scarecrow, Sabretooth ("Cowardly Lion"), and even goddamn Ultron ("Tin Man").
    • The X-Men Film Series version of Jean Grey's Dark Phoenix was nowhere as powerful as she was in the comics (not being able to survive a Mercy Kill snikt from Wolverine). Here however, she takes down pretty much everyone and is even able to match and kill MCU Thanos himself.
    • Both Deadpool and Harley Quinn, despite being not being heavy hitters in their franchises, are able to win/survive the respective Superhero and Supervillain Bowls much to their disbelief. Though it turns out it was All According to Plan from both the heroes and villains in order to stop Greater-Scope Villain Oscar.



Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Badass By Adaptation, Took A Level In Badass By Adaptation



Chuckie, an enemy from the very first Kirby game, can only pop its disembodied head out of its box and move around before going back in. In the anime, however...

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / AdaptationalBadass

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