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Adaptational Intelligence

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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. Maybe even more heroic, or more sinister, and in other cases dumber, if not completely non-sapient.

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, Adaptational Skill, and Xenafication.

Compare and contrast Dumbass No More where a character increases their intellect inside the particular work, and Adaptational Dumbass, this trope's polar opposite.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright manages to make several deductions on his own that in the original games often required other characters to give him a clue or use the Magatama to break Psyche-locks out of the witnesses.
  • In Attack on Titan: Junior High the titular Titans are no longer just lumbering, flesh-eating zombies, and actually attend school like the human children.
  • In One Piece, Luffy's generally an Idiot Hero who alternates between being surprisingly intelligent and making suicidally stupid choices depending on the situation. The start of the Drum Kingdom arc is the latter, as during a tense standoff with some soldiers in which Vivi accidentally gets shot, Luffy nearly starts a fight with them. It takes Vivi prostrating herself before the soldiers to beg them to help the sick Nami and calling Luffy a failure of a captain for letting his emotions get the best of him to get Luffy to calm down and ask for help, defusing the situation, In Episode of Chopper Plus: Bloom in Winter, Miracle Sakura, Vivi is no longer around, so Luffy's the one who accidentally gets shot (which does nothing to him, thanks to his Devil Fruit) and who begs the soldiers for help without anyone telling him what to do.
  • In the Persona 5 manga, Makoto is a downplayed example. She's one of the smartest Phantom Thieves and the group's strategist, but gets to put her intelligence on display more in the infiltration of Kaneshiro's Palace, her first mission with the Phantom Thieves. For example, she's the one who deciphers the clues in Kaneshiro's journal to find the lock codes, whereas in the game, it was up to the player to solve the puzzle, resulting in Joker inputing the code.
  • The 20th anniversary movie Pokémon: I Choose You! presents an alternate continuity where Ash is just starting out. While anime Ash was dumb as a Dunsparce for much of the original series, this version is a competent hero right from the start, who knows the names of all of the Pokémon he encounters and doesn't make any rookie battling mistakes.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 


  • Many a rewrite in general for series featuring an Idiot Hero protagonist, such as Ash Ketchum and Naruto Uzumaki, tend to make them intelligent enough to be considered smart, but not geniuses.

Specific Examples:

  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Both Mark Russell and Maia Simmons get hit with a combination of this and Adaptational Nice Guy by the story's end.
    • Mark gains Adaptational Emotional Intelligence due to Character Development; showing signs of growing out of his initial Overprotective Dad and Just a Kid tendencies towards Madison near the end, whereas his MonsterVerse canon counterpart completely failed at both those hurdles in Godzilla vs. Kong.
    • This fic's version of Maia is an Iron Lady who knows how to use a pleasant demeanor and other psychological tactics to get what she wants from people, and she shows explicit awareness of some of her Psychopathic Manchild father's shortcomings. The canon version of her was a near-transparent Rich Bitch who was little more than her father's lackey and who infamously shot at Kong.
  • In The Accidental Animagus, Quirrell gets this by proxy. Voldemort doesn't want to bring unwanted attention by acting unusually, so ironically he becomes one of their best Defense teachers.
  • Azumanga und Panzer has Sakaki. In canon, she gets fairly good grades, far better than the "three knuckleheads," but not nearly as good as Yomi or Chiyo, showing that she's a surprisingly good student despite giving off the appearance of being a delinquent. In the fic, she's considerd the smartest of the "Azu" girls, and is chosen to command "Team Kitty Kat," since Chiyo, being too young for tankerynote , is not allowed to participate in battle.
  • Cheer Up, Emo Girl: Lindsay is far more competent and intelligent than her canon counterpart.
  • Children of Remnant: Due to not having the rage issues coming from Raven's abandonment of her, Yang is much more tactically minded than she was in canon; while she can follow orders in canon and gets better control of her emotions later on, this Yang is able to keep an incredibly calm head during her fight with Jaune and was made the leader of her Beacon team.
  • Codex Equus:
    • Blacktip (from the IDW comics) is shown to be more intelligent with a passion for learning. Notably, he flew out the window with Raven Inkwell and an important document because he correctly guessed that Princess Celestia and Lord Gestal might be somewhere else in the Convocation of Creatures, and decided to take a shortcut.
    • Urtica (also from the IDW comics) is noted to be extremely intelligent, and becoming a demigoddess of Knowledge, History, and Intelligence enhanced her natural intelligence to the point where she could rival some of the younger Changeling Queens. This wasn't apparent in the IDW comics.
  • Echoes of Eternity:
    • Maria is a Child Prodigy and is Wise Beyond Their Years. Intelligence runs in the Robotnik family. In Sonic canon there is nothing to signify this, because Maria is a Posthumous Character with only so much characterization.
    • In Adventure 2, Eggman initially confuses Shadow for Sonic despite the fact they look nothing alike. He doesn't make this mistake in The Memory. His stunned reaction is instead changed to wondering how a simple hedgehog could be the Ultimate Lifeform.
  • This is the basic premise of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Petunia married a scientist instead of Vernon, and the two raised Harry with love and instilled him with a love of science and learning. While Harry being smarter is the main draw, the author made everyone more intelligent than in canon, in order to balance things out and avoid self-righteousness. A non-canon interlude aptly titled "72 Hours to Victory" explores what the story would look like if he had only boosted Harry's intelligence.
  • Horizon: Star Driven: While Izuku was no Idiot Hero in his home series, here he is a Gadgeteer Genius with a firm grasp on rocket science (and the wit and adaptive skills needed to achieve such things with his limited resources), law, and the various loopholes he can exploit.
    Power Loader: The kid, and it is a kid, is fucking insane. I saw the tech video too. The shit he's pulling off? The designs he's making? They should be College Thesis projects. For the top of the class at Tokyo Tech. He should be being scouted by goddamn everyone. God, I've been trying to work out the basics of what the fuck his tech is. Ion Engines? I've been cracking open textbooks that have been sitting on my shelf for almost a decade. No one, and I mean no one I've ever seen with the possible exception of Midoriya on I-Island has energy work like this.
  • In canon, Izuku Midoriya was near the top of his class and known for his Awesome by Analysis. In If I Only Had A Heart, Izuku is an absurd Tony Stark-like super-genius to make up for the loss of his arm and eye as well as his damaged spine. At seven years old he was at the head of his class, finishing textbooks in a day and scoring perfectly on virtually all of his exams (to the point that a single 95 out of a 100 left him in tears). He also developed his own replacement prosthetic arm with a more functional four-fingered hand with an opposable thumb to replace his missing one after finding the one issued by the hospital (which amounts to a barely working appendage with a hook for a hand) with one that responds to his brainwaves with a headband with nothing but scrap parts. He was also fluent in both Japanese and English and was studying German before he met Aizawa. He also is a budding chemist who created darts loaded with his own unique blends of chemicals that can cause things they hit to spontaneously ignite, be shocked, or frozen in a device he calls "The Equalizer". Two years later, he chewed through countless neuroscience papers and books to develop a microtechnological implant that he injected directly into his own spine to directly link a new prosthetic arm he created, which has all of the functionality and fluid movement of a real arm, to his brain. Said implant was so technologically advanced and experimental that no doctor would perform the procedure for him. He also devised his own painkillers to help him deal with the transition process and said arm can be modified easily to accommodate weapons implants or simply his own growth. All of this, again, on a working-class budget and nothing but scraps for parts. He's still in elementary school at this time!
  • Infinity Train: Tesla Star: Luna Loud didn't fall on the belief that Lincoln was Bad Luck in this Fic, after he disappeared, she decided to distance herself from the Louds, hacked the camera system of the house and managed to stay hidden for 6 months.
  • It All Started with an OSHA Violation: Downplayed with Skid and Pump. In Spooky Month proper, the two are Fearless Fools whose insane luck is probably the only reason why they're both safe and sound. In the fanfic, they still have some sort of innocence (justified since they're both school-aged children), but they're not stupid enough to not think that Monster does not want to eat them.
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: In his original appearance, Darth Nihilus was a near-mindless Hungry Menace whose every action was dictated by a One-Track-Minded Hunger. This version is far more intelligent, being a patient Manipulative Bastard and a cunning warrior with goals that extend beyond merely satisfying his hunger. He's also much more knowledgeable about the Dark Side than his canon counterpart and is a Badass Bookworm proficient in various fields including Sith magic, alchemy, and history.
  • The Karma of Lies: Canonically, Lila Rossi is a Manipulative Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who gets away with her Blatant Lies about having famous connections primarily because none of her victims bother looking into any of her claims. Here, however, Lila is much smarter. Her over-the-top lies are her way of figuring out who the most gullible victims are, while luring those who see through her charade off guard, getting them to think they already have her number and making them vulnerable to more subtle manipulations. She also recognizes the importance of knowing when to cut her losses, and has prepared accordingly, having done her research well ahead of time.
  • Goku in Legend of the Monkey God never hit his head and got brain damage. As a result, he's more ignorant than stupid and quickly points out the flaws in Bulma's intended wish for the "perfect" boyfriend.
  • The Legend of Total Drama Island: Lindsay is a downplayed example. Although still of below-average intelligence, she is competent in the challenges when motivated and uses her brain (as well as other body parts) to win a challenge. She remains as Literal-Minded as her canon counterpart, but attributes her (canonically) chronic name butchery to "a speech impedicure or something".
  • 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.
  • In his home comics, Electro is one of the premier examples of a potentially terrifying Avengers level threat who's too small-minded and stupid to use his powers for anything other than petty crime. That's not the case in Polarity, where he makes the most out of his electric powers to help usher in Dormammu's hellish reign on Earth. His newfound craftiness gets to the point that he realizes that he could help conquer countless other dimensions, and happily murders his superior, Grim Reaper, for an enormous power boost.
  • In Robb Returns, Lord Orton Merryweather, the new Master of Coin, is thought of by Jon Arryn as astute, with a good head for numbers and laws, qualities that he never displayed in the books.
  • The Saga of Avatar Korra: While Asami 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.
  • The Sea Shadow: Rather then everyone simply falling for Lord Crump's Paper-Thin Disguise, several of the heroes are openly suspicious of "Four Eyes".
  • She Blinded Me With Science: Ryuko, thanks to being raised by her father instead of being sent to boarding school, is super intelligent with an instinctual understanding of Life Fibers. She's helped in the creation of many of Nudist Beach's most important weapons and helped her father create Senketsu.
  • Silent Partner, Unfinished Business Misa Amane goes from a Brainless Beauty who has no goals other than dying for Light, to a Genius Ditz who uses her charisma and film studies as a full-fledged investigator.
  • In Fairly Oddparents canon, it's never mentioned how Trixie Tang does in school. In Silent Wish, Trixie takes her schooling very seriously.
  • Start Again: Ryuji displays this in Valor and Discretion. He is still somewhat brash in nature (and fully aware of it), but when he discovers that he is thrust back into the past in November (before starting Shujin) without the other members of the Phantom Thieves to support or even contact, he starts thinking and planning things out more carefully, and also tries to be as discreet as possible so that he can try and save Shiho and Ann from Kamoshida while minimizing negative attention to himself. Ryuji's mother compliments him on his maturity with regards to how he's approaching the problem of Kamoshida, and Futaba is shocked that Ryuji has known since November of the previous year and managed to avoid telling anyone else.
  • Steal The Truth, Reach Out For Your Heart: This is downplayed with Ryuji. He’s still as unintelligent as he was in canon, but Nanako helps him discover why: he’s a kinesthetic learner, so he has to move, touch and interact with things to learn about them. This makes him a poor fit for school where most students learn from sitting down and studying.
  • Tales of Sonic the Hedgehog: Taking from his Archie depiction and his Stc depiction, Knuckles is a Child Prodigy and Genius Bruiser, able to pull off college-level math at age three. Furthermore, unlike the games and Sonic X, Knuckles is not Super Gullible or a Horrible Judge of Character. Once he learns the truth about Sonic and Robotnik during the events of Sonic 3 & Knuckles, he is not so easily duped by the doc again; while he does end up falling for one of Robotnik's tricks again during the Sonic Advance 2 adaptation, it was a much more elaborate and convincing deception.
  • To Hell and Back (Arrowverse): Barry Allen. While canon!Barry was far from stupid (just a bad habit of grabbing the Idiot Ball), this Barry is a confirmed genius on par with Eobard Thawne. He correctly deduced the source of Kara Zor-El's powers when he was just fifteen, managed to become a capable Combat Medic in a year at the same age thanks to Shado's tutelage, and later became the League of Assassin's go-to doctor and Omnidisciplinary Scientist after his recruitment. He's even managed to replicate the Human Target's disguising abilities and create a rudimentary version of the A.I. Gideon.
  • Total Drama All-Stars Rewrite: Many of Zoey's Too Dumb to Live from canon are removed.
  • Total Drama World Tour The Animators Cut: The show's other hot blonde, Lindsay, shows increasingly frequent moments of intellectual eloquence. They're Played for Laughs however.
  • In the Friday Night Funkin' fanfic Two Idiots, Keith and Cherry are much more sensible compared to their canon counterparts.
  • In Steven Universe: Future, Greg accidentally drives a wedge between himself and Steven when Steven realizes that he matured very little from his teenage years, and he cites Greg never taking him to a doctor as one of his many failings. In the fanfic We Can Be Heroes! (Steven Universe), while Greg is still a bit late to the party, he's a lot more mature, and a flashback in Chapter 7 has him preparing to take Steven in to see Dr. Maheswaran for some long-overdue vaccines.
  • In You Were My Best Friend, Bloom is stated to have skipped two school grades, thus hinting at a superior intelligence to her canonical counterpart. Other than being marginalized for it, this doesn't impact the storyline nor it's the root cause of the canon divergence. It's probably due to being a prequel.
  • Zim the Warlord: Irken Reversion: Zim is a bit less senseless in this fic, knowing fully well that the Tallest sent him to Earth to get him out of the way of Impending Doom II. It's stated that he's essentially decompressed, being less hurried in thought. Zim also is more capable of accepting when others are better at what he does, and he's specifically noted to know what certain Earth terms such as "Spring Break" mean; he just speaks as he usually does because it's fun.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Most modern adaptations of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory turn Mike Teavee into an Insufferable Genius, with both the 2005 film and the West End musical adaptation turning him into a jaded hacker. This is probably a combination of modernizing his TV obsession from the book and an expansion of his moments holding the Smart Ball.
  • In the animated Cinderella Lady Tremaine was just a Wicked Stepmother who was mean to the titular heroine. In the live-action remake she's shown to be far more of The Chessmaster. Ella's servant girl status comes about thanks to manipulation from her, she's smart enough to blackmail the Duke into getting advantageous marriages for her daughters and discovers Ella is the girl from the ball much sooner.
  • DC Extended Universe:
  • In 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. Interestingly, 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.
  • 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. 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. This aspect of Sue's backstory is retained in the 2015 reboot, where she's initially introduced as one of the researchers working on the ill-fated portal project alongside Reed and Victor.
    • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Godzilla / King Kong:
    • Godzilla's intellect can vary depending on the series, and Kong is hardly dumb in any incarnation. But the MonsterVerse incarnations are exceptionally smart, showing intellect on par with an above-average human. Godzilla is capable of tactical thinking, baiting the MUTO to get into range of a collapsing building trap he had planned out in Godzilla (2014). Kong is able to make makeshift weapons, knows when certain individual humans aren't being a threat or trying to be one, and as revealed in Godzilla vs. Kong, can use Human Sign Language (the last one is very important as it's revealed that he learned it from observing Jia and Ilene but deliberately kept it to himself).
    • The MonsterVerse incarnation of King Ghidorah is exceptionally intelligent among the Kaiju. Most past incarnations had no higher strategy for achieving their Omnicidal Maniac goals than "beam spam anything that moves" and/or were under the control of alien invaders. But this incarnation of Ghidorah has an actual plan in mind, to take control of the Earth's native Titans and force them to create a Natural Disaster Cascade combined with Ghidorah's Weather Manipulation which will create an extinction-level event, and it's furthermore speculated by the characters that this version of Ghidorah aims to xenoform the Earth in his own image.

  • 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.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • 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 film versions.
  • The true identity of the Evil Masked Figure in Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed turns out to be Dr. Jonathan Jacobo, who originally menaced Mystery, Inc. as the Pterodactyl Ghost, a monster the gang encountered in The Scooby-Doo Show episode "Hang in There, Scooby-Doo". Among other discrepancies with the monster's true identity in the original cartoon, Dr. Jonathan Jacobo is a scientist who ends up creating technology used to bring the costumes of past villains to life when Johnny only used the Pterodactyl Ghost to assist in a music piracy scheme.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes film Terror By Night, Colonel Moran goes from Professor Moriarty's sniper henchman to his academic colleague with apparent proficiency in mathematics and criminal scheming.
  • 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. Maleficent also raises Aurora herself, knowing more about taking care of human children than the three fairies — while she never displayed any such skill in the animated version.
  • 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 Star Trek (2009) 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 Federation via an underground railroad (apparently retconning the 'Orions as secretly matriarchal' idea mentioned below.)
  • Of all the versions of the creature, John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) features by far the most devious and cunning iteration. The Thing in this version is extremely careful about who it infects, generally going for the quietest and unassuming crew members as opposed to authority figures and scientists. Instead, it puts great effort into framing those authority figures in an attempt to remove the ones who stand the best chance of exposing it. When they finally figure out a way to test who The Thing is, all of the most likely suspects turn out to be human.
  • The Blob (1988): The advanced creature effects in this version allow the Blob to use more complex tactics in the way it hunts. It's now apparently aware that it must take its victims by surprise. We frequently see it hide from and ambush its prey rather than mindlessly ooze toward its next victim. It even seems to understand firearms, purposely sabotaging a flamethrower at one point.
  • The Twilight Saga: In the books, geeky Eric is the class valedictorian; in the films, it's Jessica.
  • 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.

  • George Gipe's infamous Early Draft Tie-In novelization of Back to the Future has Marty escaping detention by filtering sunlight through a projector lens which ignites a matchbook and sets off the sprinklers.
  • In The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Elizabeth Lavenza is a calculating woman who knows how to play people very well, and who has made her personality and appearance tailor-made for Victor to ensure her safety and comfort. It is quite different from Frankenstein, where she is portrayed as a sweet, kind woman who is devoted to Victor.
  • 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.
  • The novelization to Star Wars: The Last Jedi says that Poe's Black One fighter has an intelligent computer with its own personality that can only communicate with BB-8.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow:
  • The Boys (2019):
    • While Homelander was still a selfish, self-absorbed asshole in the original comics, it was also alongside his confidence issues and lack of real planning skills. This Homelander is more proactive, smarter, and worst/best of all, more creative — one of the weaknesses of the comic version is that he was incapable of being anything but a blunt instrument, whereas here he has long-term plans. He manages to achieve what comics Vought never did; get superheroes involved in national defense.
    • In the original comic, Vice President "Vic the Veep" was a Lethally Stupid Puppet King who could barely form complete sentences. His show counterpart Victoria Neuman is the complete opposite, being a cunning Mole in Charge who manages to deceive everyone she comes across with ease.
  • 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. The Season 2 finale had a flashback to Buffy's first days as a Slayer, which confirms that she was previously a ditz who underwent the same Character Development as her film counterpart.
  • Raye Penber of all people is this in the live-adaptation of Death Note. The original manga and anime had the FBI agent, after deciding Light Yagami wasn't Kira due to seeing a busjacker not dying from a heart attack, show his ID to Light, then dismiss Naomi's perfectly valid concerns about the busjacking incident he and Light were involved in, which gets himself, his fellow FBI agents, and Naomi killed. Here, he is not so easily convinced during the busjacking incident, so he never gives his real name to Light and only becomes more suspicious of him. During Light's plan to kill him, he has their conversation wiretapped to figure out how Light kills people, quickly catches on to Light's ploy with the FBI files, and comes dangerously close to killing him, only failing due to Misa's intervention with her own Death Note.
  • 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.
  • In the 2000 miniseries Frank Herbert's Dune, 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.
  • 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.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Daario proves thoughtful and intelligent despite his poor upbringing and violent past, providing Dany with sound political advice several times. In the books, he's a simple brute who always advocates Attack! Attack! Attack! or Murder Is the Best Solution because he's interested in little outside his chosen skill set of fighting and fucking.
    • Renly Baratheon in the books is a Book Dumb Jerk Jock who dislikes reading, while here he takes his brother Stannis' role as the most well-read and the intellectual of the Baratheons. Both his relationship with Robert and his role in the Small Council are changed from being a Yes-Man who goes along with whatever his brother wants to a genuinely savvy and competent politician who seems to be ashamed of Robert's mismanagement of the kingdom. Renly's part in the assassination attempt on Daenerys is changed from an act to please his brother into an act done to protect his house from its enemies.
    • A side-effect of Cersei's Adaptational Heroism is that her mind is less clouded by spite and narcissism, leaving her able to actually think instead of assuming everything's personal and she's always right. In particular, a couple of her Stupid Evil schemes are transferred to Joffrey and she wisely sends someone to negotiate with the Iron Bank instead of plunging the kingdom into debt and bad credit by essentially telling them to screw themselves.
    • Qyburn gets a small upgrade to his Omnidisciplinary Scientist license in the show, perhaps because he's less obsessed with torturing people, and he's actually in control of the "little birds" while in the books they're just pretending to be his.
  • Gotham:
    • Professor Pyg is a skilled strategist and actor, skills he doesn't have in the comics due to his mental instability.
    • Solomon Grundy is the expected Hulk Speaking dullard soon after transformation, but once his memories are restored, he acts like his pre-transformation self thereafter.
  • Merlin (2008) depicts Morgause as a cunning Lady Macbeth-like sorceress who is far more than simply King Lot's wife in the original mythology.
  • The Sporix beasts in Power Rangers Dino Fury are capable of speech, while their Minosaur counterparts from Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger were mindless beasts who had an One-Word Vocabulary at best.
    • Dino Fury's Big Bad, Void Knight, is a Badass Bookworm who can both combat the heroes and make ingenious devices (like robotic henchmen and an energy transfer device) out of old scrap. His Ryusoulger equivalent Gaisoulg was more of a straightforward Blood Knight.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Jason in the original Blaster Master series was just some kid who got hold of a tank and weapons and ended up saving the world from the mutants at least a few times. In Blaster Master Zero, he's a renowned Gadgeteer Genius with a Designer Baby background. Over the sequels, he and Eve were able to create all kinds of improvements to their equipment, which translates to new gameplay mechanics.
  • Dante's Inferno presents Lucifer as a suave, intelligent schemer who manipulates Dante into freeing him, even though the epic shows his true self as a slobbering, self-destructive monster who's too consumed by hatred to even speak.
  • Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine: Scratch and Grounder, and frankly all of the briefly seen Badniks, in the original Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, were completely stupid and often ruined every plan they came across. Here they seem to have gotten a huge AI boost, as they're actually formidable opponents and play Puyo Puyo quite well; Grounder is a difficult boss and Scratch is second only to Robotnik himself in skill. Gameplay and Story Segregation likely comes into play here.
  • In Jump Force, Light Yagami (the Villain Protagonist of Death Note) is surprisingly smarter, calm, collected, and fully capable of orchestrating successful plans. Sure, he is still as arrogant as ever, but also manages to lack the more obnoxious and childish traits the canon version of him was best known for.
  • Madagascar: Downplayed with Mort. He's still quite dimwitted, but is slightly smarter than he was in the movies, helping the player out at times and teaching the Tiki Minigolf mini-game.
  • Soul Calibur VI: Astaroth is given this treatment. As this version of Astaroth has the knowledge of hundreds of slain warriors, he's much more articulate than he was in previous games in the series. He's also much more cunning, and mentions how much he loves taking advantage of foes who think that' he's Dumb Muscle because of his appearance only to realize how smart he really is after it's far too late.
  • Hammerhead was hardly an idiot in the comics, but he also wasn't particularly brilliant either. That changes in Spider-Man (PS4), where he's a frighteningly devious tactician who runs circles around Spider-Man during the DLC side-stories. He regularly outsmarts him with carefully-applied diversion tactics, sticks to the shadows until he can level the playing field against Spidey's strength with a powerful suit of cybernetic armor, and does his homework on the Maggia-hating Yuri Watanabe and goes out of his way to anger her by horribly murdering her fellow police officers until she snaps and gets kicked off the force by going over the line with her revenge.
  • In both versions of Super Mario 64 (i.e. Nintendo 64 and the DS remake), Bowser successfully invades Princess Peach's castle, steals the Power Stars, and imprisons Peach and the retainers within the castle walls. In the original, Bowser leaves the front door to Peach's castle unlocked. In the DS version, the front door is locked and Yoshi must nearly eat a rabbit (named Mips) to take the key off him. However, the door to Bob-omb Battlefield is still unsealed.

    Web Animation 
  • The How It Should Have Ended version of one of the scientists in Spider-Man 3 who ran the experiment that created the Sandman had the good sense not to continue the experiment and tells his co-workers to check after a change has been noted, not wanting to "mutate the crap out of something" because of their laziness.

  • Inverted Fate: Undyne and Papyrus are the Royal Scientist and lab assistant, respectively. Their inventions show this, including Papyrus inventing teleportation pads and Undyne creating Mettaton.
  • Scoob and Shag:
    • In the original cartoon, Dee-Dee is a complete ditz who fools around with her brother's machines on a regular basis with absolutely no understanding of what she's doing. Here, she's a canny and resourceful fighter capable of handily thinking her way through tense combat situations.
    • Inspector Gadget is normally a bumbling buffoon who only shows his (admittedly massive) competence when he knows the people he cares about are in danger. Here, he's a no-nonsense badass capable of quick and precise pre- and mid-combat analysis of his foes.
    • Patrick is a bumbling oaf in his home series, but here is able to keep his mind wrapped around the intricacies of his incredibly complicated time travel-based powers and flawlessly carry out orders given to him decades in the past.
    • Homer Simpson, who is typically a dumb oaf at the best of times, is a respected military commander, raising valid concerns about communicating with the Martians. He also takes action to have Bugs arrested when it turns out Bugs is working with the Martians, though this doesn't amount to much.

    Web Videos 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Tons of examples abounds.
    • In the original Dragon Ball Z, minor character Maron is just Krillin's ditzy girlfriend, while in Dragon Ball Z Abridged she works for the government to investigate and reveal Krillin's Insurance Fraud while pretending to be in love with him.
    • While the original Piccolo wasn't a pure Dumb Muscle, he tended to hold the Idiot Ball a lot, or have his emotions cloud his judgment. Abridged Piccolo is subtly portrayed as far smarter, partly because Kaiser Neko and Lanipator are self-admitted Piccolo fans.
      • In the original manga, Piccolo orders Gohan and Krillin to bring him back to Namek so he could fight Freeza, despite the latter's protests. This was monumentally boneheaded, as the whole reason they were there was to revive him (if he dies, the Dragon Balls disappear and the whole trip is pointless), and Nail outright confirms that he completely overestimated his power and never would have had the slightest chance against even first form Freeza. Here it's the opposite: Piccolo tells them not to bring him back to Namek, only for Krillin to do it anyway.
      • Instead of just letting Freeza transform, Piccolo gets distracted by Nail talking about the lack of apps in his brain.
      • In the original manga, Piccolo loudly agreed with Vegeta that they should let Gero create his androids for the challenge of it, which ultimately turned out to be a terrible decision. This scene is pointedly excluded in TFS's version and emphasis is put solely on Vegeta and Goku. Piccolo just stands in the background looking annoyed.
      • In the original manga, Piccolo freaked out and instantly assumed Cell killed Gohan after the first blow, not bothering to use his ki sensing abilities to confirm that Gohan was A. much stronger than Goku and thus able to take a punch, and B. completely undamaged bar a superficial cut. Goku had to be the rational one and point it out to him. Here, Goku has a line about Gohan intentionally hiding his power level, so Piccolo doesn't look too dumb for not even trying that method.

    Western Animation 
  • 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, taking after his aforementioned Ultimate counterpart, who likewise built the wings himself.
  • 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. Comics fans know that the Hulk's intelligence and mindset are malleable things 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 "world-breaker" mode, becoming strong enough to move continents, while in a state of Unstoppable Rage that leaves him unable to distinguish friend from foe.
  • Bunnicula: In the books, Chester the cat was The Ditz, while in the TV series, became an Intellectual Animal bordering on Insufferable Genius. Downplayed with the title character, who also became more competent.
  • Curbside, an unsuccessful pilot consisting of an Animated Anthology starring revamped versions of Terrytoons characters, gave this treatment to Deputy Dawg. He's nowhere near as incompetent and gullible as he was in The Deputy Dawg Show. To compensate, Muskie Muskrat, a troublemaker who outsmarted him regularly in the original cartoons, is made his bumbling sidekick.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • In Batman: The Animated Series, several villains receive intelligence upgrades:
      • The Riddler is reinvented as a Gadgeteer 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 scot-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.
      • In the original comics, The Ventriloquist act is mediocre, because Scarface has a Speech Impediment (he substitutes the letter "B" for a letter "G", an unfortunate fact when you are going to fight "The Gatman") that is a common problem with Ventriloquism. Batman: The Animated Series upgrades the Ventriloquist’s skills to ridiculous levels: Scarface not only can perfectly pronounce the letter "B", but "Read My Lips" shows the batcomputer analyzing The Ventriloquist and Scarface's voices like two different people. Also, Batman knew the greatest ventriloquist of his time, recognized as the world's best Stage Magician, Zatara (Zatanna's father), and believes the Ventriloquist could teach him lessons.
    • Justice League:
      • While the Wally West of the comics is by no means an idiot, this version of him is depicted as a scientist (more specifically, due to being a Composite Character with his uncle, Barry Allen, a forensic scientist).
      • Doomsday is fully sentient and capable of speech, in contrast to his comic book counterpart, who is traditionally depicted as little more than a mindless, feral brute.note  He's also fully aware that his singleminded obsession with killing Superman is pointless, but chooses to act on it anyway:
    Doomsday: Superman is Superman, and I will kill you.
    Superman: Why?
  • Marvel's Spider-Man:
    • The show depicts Horizon Labs from The Amazing Spider-Man (Dan Slott) 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 before becoming the Rhino, Sytsevich was Dumb Muscle incarnate. Likewise, John Jameson, while himself not an idiot, is also a Teen Genius.
    • Though she was never portrayed as an idiot, and after the Amazing Spider-Man saga it's not unprecedented, it's almost surreal to see Oh, Crap! reactions to the idea of going up against the nigh-legendary intellect that is Gwen Stacy.
    • Most of his supporting cast and rogues' gallery appear as students or staff members of this school for geniuses or its rival school Osborn Academy, so you can say that the only characters not affected by this are Aunt May and Norman Osborn (Norman is, as always, a highly intelligent Diabolical Mastermind and Evil Genius, but that is not something limited to this series.)
    • And it's not just a Fridge Logic thing — "huh, all of Peter's usual classmates and a couple of pre-evil bad guys are here, but since it's this school it means they're all geniuses, right? Even the Rhino?" No, science plays a much bigger role in this series than most, so you see them all putting those brains to work.
    • Flash Thompson is a heavily downplayed example of this trope. While not a genius by any means, he's shown to have some skill in science, can build a working baking soda volcano, and used his football knowledge to help Spider-Man stop the V-252 — which will come to be known as the Venom Symbiote.
  • 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 versions, 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.
  • In the 1980s version of She-Ra: Princess of Power, Hordak was a boorish idiot. In the 2018 reboot, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, he's highly intelligent, articulate, and proficient in multiple sciences.
    • Similarly, the 1985 version of Catra was a run-of-the-mill henchwoman of the aforementioned boorish idiot; while the 2018 version schemes/works her way up from ordinary trooper, to field commander, to Hordak's 2IC, to functional power behind the throne in turn despite being barely out of her teens and skirting a nervous breakdown for the latter bit.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man: In the comics, Tombstone was a thug who dropped out of high school and became a leg breaker for the mob. In the series, he's the head of a major crime organization and posing as a legitimate businessman.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Debra Whitman went from a Shrinking Violet in the comics to an intellectual rival to Peter Parker.
  • 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.
  • Slade from Teen Titans is by no means 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 of villains more competent than him. In the Teen Titans cartoon, he is portrayed as a criminal mastermind and the show's biggest Chessmaster.
  • 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.
  • Much like in the DC Animated Universe, Wally West is depicted with knowledge in science in Young Justice (2010).