Follow TV Tropes


Adaptational Mundanity

Go To

The great thing about a Fantasy Kitchen Sink setting is that you can introduce crazy new powers and foes at the drop of a hat. This however can make adaptions tricky, especially to exposition unfriendly formats like movies. What happens then is that the character stays but their fantastical elements are either toned down or removed. For example a Vampire would be downgraded to a serial killer who has a thing for drinking blood.


Subtrope of Doing In the Wizard and Pragmatic Adaptation. Contrast Adaptational Abomination. See also: Mundanger where in a series with supernatural elements a real world danger provides a threat. Compare Demythification. See also Coffee Shop AU Fic and High School A.U., for common fanfic variants.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Jem and the Holograms downplays the more wackier aspects of the characters and series. For example, in the Jem cartoon The Misfits routinely did things that should end up with them in jail or with various restraining orders however rarely got their just desserts. In the comic their Jerkass natures are on a more realistic level where they don't crash parties and disrupt the peace on an episodic basis. The characters hair colors are also implied to be dyed rather than natural. The comics tone down the more cartoony aspects of the cartoon and give the characters more realistic depth.
  • Age of Bronze adapts The Iliad by removing most divine intervention (there is no mention of the Apple of Discord):
    • Many people referred to as children of gods are actually priests of that god.
    • Where Cassandra's gift of unbelieved prophecy was the result of refusing the god Apollo's advances, here she was raped as a child by a pedophile who told her no one would believe her.
    • Heracles was a roving warlord whose strength and charisma was such that he ended up revered by a god by his own men, and later killed by his wife.
    • Chiron, originally a centaur, is now a big hairy Mountain Man.
    • The story of Iphigenia being rescued at the last minute by Artemis was invented out of whole cloth by Odysseus to try to comfort her mother.
  • This is a major distinction from regular Marvel in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. There's no magic, and instead everything comes from mutations, evolution or tech. The stories are overall much more grounded in reality than the more fantastical 616 universe. In fact, all powers here are derived from Captain America's Super Soldier serum and the attempts to replicate it. Yes, even mutants.
    • Downplayed later on. Although Thor is publicly known as a Scandinavian super soldier knockoff, and his rants about being from Asgard are dismissed as mild mental illness. However, some of his feats strongly imply that he's telling the truth, and later on the ambiguity is done away with- he is indeed a god from Asgard.
    • Similarly, people are doubtful that the Ghost Rider's power could be satanic in origin... but they can't provide any better explanation for his power source, his logic-defying abilities, or that mysterious guy in red he's always talking to.

     Fan Works 
  • While loosely based on The Smurfs animated series of the 1980s, Empath: The Luckiest Smurf tends to treat humans as the only "giants" that exist in their world.
  • Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox transplants the cast of Naruto into modern-day Japan, with the various ninjas reimagined as delinquents, gangsters, and business owners. Several elements of the manga have been changed to fit this setting.
    • Gaara's Gold Dust is a drug instead of chakra-infused sand.
    • Hidan's main weapon, a three-bladed scythe on a cord, is changed into a set of kama, although a very similar weapon appears in the hands of the Spiral Reaper.
    • Deidara cannot use explosion-style jutsu, but he can use remotely detonated bombs and modern grenades.

     Film — Animation 
  • In the original Peanuts strips the Kite Eating tree was literal. In the The Peanuts Movie, it was just a tree that Charlie Brown lost a lot of kites to.
  • Downplayed in Batman: Under the Red Hood. Jason Todd's resurrection isn't due to reality resetting but with the life granting Lazarus Pits that have been in the Batman Mythos for some time.
  • The Snow Queen from Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy tale The Snow Queen was an omnipotent Humanoid Abomination who was implied to be the living embodiment of winter itself and possibly a member of The Fair Folk. In Frozen, however, Queen Elsa is a human being born with winter powers.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Zig-Zagged in the Super Mario Bros. movie. Koopa (Bowser) is no longer a giant dragon-turtle thing but a human from an alternate universe that evolved from a T-Rex. Basically it trades whimsy for dino-punk.
  • Dragon Ball Evolution. Goku is an average high school teenager rather than a kid raised in the woods and most of the cast, notably the dwarf Krillin, were left out. This is one of the reasons it's not looked upon favorably.
  • Troy is this to The Iliad: it removes all mythical elements from the story, turning it into a story about a mundane (although epic) war.
  • Batman is pretty grounded as far as superhero works go but the crazier elements get removed in the Christopher Nolan movies. Ra's Al Ghul is no longer immortal but uses body doubles to a similar effect, the Joker doesn't use Laughing Gas and other such clown based gimmicks (and uses hair dye and makeup as opposed to his hair and skin being permanently discolored in the comics) and Bane's mask simply provides anesthetic to dull his pain rather than pumping him with Venom.
  • The Jem and the Holograms film turns the cartoon from a romance-adventure with sci-fi elements into a Coming-of-Age Story. Synergy is a little Robot Buddy instead of a sentient supercomputer with holographic abilities and none of the campy drama is present.
  • The Smurfs was a live-action adaptation and instead of taking place in the Smurf world, they are transported to the human world.
  • The X-Men Film Series grew rather notorious for removing much of the comic book-related tropes and out-there elements in favor of a grounded, more realistic take.
    • Lady Deathstrike isn't a mutant; she's a cybernetically-enhanced human. In X2: X-Men United, she's just another mutant.
    • In the comics, Juggernaut is a human empowered by the deity known as Cyttorak, and very much not a mutant. In his appearance in X-Men: The Last Stand, he's very much a mutant like the rest. His reappearance in Deadpool 2 made it more ambiguous, with the general assumption that he's a mutant but nothing solid to prove it.
    • The Last Stand also turns the entity that is the Phoenix Force into just a split personality for Jean Grey.
    • In the comics, Kitty Pryde just isn't the same without her small alien dragon companion Lockheed. But in the movies, Lockheed was Adapted Out due to clashing with the tone they were going for.
    • Silver Samurai in the comics is a mystical mutant, but in The Wolverine, he's a man in a mecha suit.
    • Though this was the case for the alternate dimension known as the Mojoworld for many, many years, the existence of the world was actually confirmed by Shatterstar in Deadpool 2, if only as a gag. That said, its most famous members (Longshot, Spiral, and Mojo) never made it onscreen.
    • The cosmic side of the universe is virtually non-existent. In the comics, X-Men have had spacefaring adventures, menaced by the Shi'ar Imperium (a collection of different races) and the Brood (a homage to the Alien franchise), and have even had aliens as members of the X-Men. This never showed up in the movies even after the MCU did it, until the last film in the series, X-Men: Dark Phoenix introduced both the cosmic force version of the Phoenix and a group of aliens seeking it.
    • The Savage Land, a place full of dinosaurs that still walk the Earth, is never even alluded to in the movies despite Fox having the rights to them the entire time.
    • The New Mutants has Warlock Adapted Out. This is mainly because Warlock isn't a mutant, but rather a techno-organic alien, which was thought to be weird especially in a horror movie.
    • In general, all the X-Men are mutants. While this is mostly the case in the comics, there were some notable exceptions. Characters of other origins, such as super soldiers, cyborgs, mutates, aliens, magical beings, interdimensional beings, robots, and ordinary humans, have held membership as X-Men in their long comic book history. Same goes for the antagonists, apart from the Fantastic Racist humans.
  • Harley Quinn's voice in Suicide Squad doesn't sound much like her traditional voice. This is because it's a more realistic, toned-down variant to the point where it doesn't even sound like the same accent.
  • Averted for the most part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as most of the villains have similar origins to the heroes:
    • Iron Man 3: Played with for the Mandarin. His rings aren't alien weapons and are just for show. The true Mandarin turns out to be Aldrich Killian, using a more potent version of the Extremis Nanotech.
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: In the comics, The Falcon is able to telepathically read birds' minds and see out their eyes, including a particular empathic link with his pet falcon Redwing. In the MCU films, his psychic powers are left out. Redwing was later rewritten for Captain America: Civil War as a robotic drone aircraft.
    • In the Marvel Universe, the Elementals are a group of extradimensional humanoids who became immortals with power over natural forces and ruled a kingdom on Earth before the rise of the original Atlantis. In Spider-Man: Far From Home however, they are actually just a series of holograms and armed projector drones orchestrated by Mysterio and his crew as a part of an Engineered Heroics scheme.
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of The Phantom of the Opera suggests that the Phantom may have supernatural abilities, though at the end of the day, it neither confirms nor denies this. The musical's film adaptation, however, makes it clear that the Phantom doesn't have any special powers, leaving out the more supernatural stuff altogether and explaining other things away by showing how he does them (such as having him pull a lever to raise the gates in his lair or mess with Carlotta's throat spray to make her croak).
  • Judge Dredd is a dystopian Science Fantasy. While adapting the comics for the 2012 film incarnation Dredd, writer Alex Garland attempted to write several different scripts, one of which involved the supernatural characters the Dark Judges. The studio deemed this concept too esoterical for a first film, so Garland settled for a more "grounded" urban sci-fi story to properly establish the setting.
  • Wanted stripped out all of the superhero trappings of the comic book that inspired it, turning the Fraternity into a more mundane criminal organization with some Charles Atlas Superpower.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Adventures of Superman an alien with powers far beyond those of mortal men has to fight gangsters every episode because there is no budget for any other FX.
  • The Incredible Hulk has David Banner Walking the Earth and coming across various mundangers. Once he fought an older Hulk-like guy. And in the made-for-TV sequel movies, they brought in Thor and Daredevil.
  • Arrow is a lot more gritty than its source material and while it doesn't remove all fantasy, the few elements of such remaining are treated as they would in the real world.
    • Canary (aka Black Canary) uses a sonic weapon rather than generating sonic blasts with her voice.
    • GA's tradmark trick arrows are keep to realistic functions. Explosive arrows yes, Boxing Glove arrows, no (save for one Mythology Gag).
    • Cyrus Gold is no longer the immortal zombie, Solomon Grundy but gained super strength from a Super Serum. He still proves to be one of Arrow's most difficult foes to date.
    • Inverted for Deathstroke. In the original comics the Super Serum he received stops his aging and keeps him in top physical shape. In the TV series the serum he received makes him downright super human, able to punch through a man's chest and recover from more than third degree burns. Granted, he loses these powers at the end of season 2, but still...
    • Inverted to an even greater extent for Roy Harper. In the comics he is the Robin to Green Arrow's Batman but in Arrow he is injected with the same serum as Slade, making him super human. But also just like Slade, he gets the antidote for this serum at the end of season 2.
    • Since Barry Allen aka The Flash gained his own series, this trope has become rarer. If anything, Arrow became the series for the fantastic - while everything in The Flash goes back to the particle accelerator explosion, Arrow is the series that has Lazarus Pits, a villain granted magic powers by an idol that is powered by death, and John Constantine. Once Constantine became a regular on Series/Legends of Tomorrow, though, it became the magical series and Arrow is back to being a world with mostly Badass Normals.
  • The Flash (2014)
    • Downplayed with the Weather Wizard’s wand. In the comics, it could be used to manipulate weather to one’s liking. The show’s version, while still an impressive piece of tech (it can absorb electrons), is used to negate Weather Wizard’s powers. However, his successor, the Weather Witch, instead of being granted powers by the particle accelerator explosion, uses a wand similar to the one from the comics (it carries a shard of a satellite, infused with energy from said explosion, from a prior villain's plan.)
    • The Cosmic Treadmill, which allowed speedsters to travel through time, is Adapted Out. Speedsters can naturally travel through time, and Barry just uses an ordinary treadmill for training.
    • Inverted with Cicada’s dagger. In the comics, there’s no indication that it’s anything other than a conduit for his powers. In the show, it can project electricity, shut off metahuman powers, and be telepathically controlled by its user.
    • In The Flash, all powers come from the particle accelerator explosion in the premiere (even Barry; the lightning+chemicals origin is mostly maintained, but the lightning could do that because energy from said explosion had altered the clouds above.) Even in later seasons, the villains are a degree of two of separation from the original event but it's still there - the Earth-2 villains were empowered by their dimension's version of the event, and the Thinker, empowered by the original event, figured out how to recreate the same "dark matter" that it spread - as such, everyone given powers by his machinations (deliberately or accidentally) and everyone in the following seasons using technology that has been altered by pieces of his satellite (powered by the same dark matter, intended to brainwash the world) still counts - instead of their being near the explosion, a guy who was simply brought the explosion to them! So, while it contains fantastic elements, it's still a partial example of this - similar to everything in Ultimate Marvel being caused by attempts to recreate the process that created Captain America, a comic book world where people are powered by magic or mutation or mad science or a million other origins becomes a world where one event was the cause of everything.
  • Runaways (2017) tones down most of the parents in terms of supervillainy:
    • The Yorkeses, time travelers who genetically engineered a dinosaur in the future in the comics, are present day bio-engineers (who still manage to genetically engineer a dinosaur).
    • Robert Minoru is no sorcerer like his wife and daughter.
    • The Deans are both normal humans and not aliens. While Karolina's biological father Jonas is an alien, her dad Frank Dean is a human and not even a member of PRIDE.
    • The Wilders are...borderline. Geoffrey is a former gangbanger and Catherine is an Amoral Attorney who's not above bribery and murder, but they're not all-out crimebosses.
    • The Hernandezes are not mutants, and Molly's superhuman strength comes from a different source.
    • The only parents virtually unchanged from their comic book counterparts are the Steins.
  • The Umbrella Academy (2019): The tv-series tones down more outlandish elements from the comics that would be difficult to translate to live-action, such as Klaus's levitation powers, Luther's gorilla bodynote , and Five's boss being a talking goldfish in a human suit (instead she's a human woman).
  • In Game of Thrones, only Bran Stark can warg into animals, whereas in the books all the Starks have the ability.

  • In King René’s Daughter, a play by Henrik Hertz, Ebn-Hakia is a powerful sorcerer. In Iolanta, an opera based on the play, he is just a very skilled doctor, and all the magical elements of the plot are removed.

    Western Animation 
  • The last Madeline book written by original author Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline's Christmas, features a magician who sends the little girls home for the holidays on flying carpets. This stands out amongst the mostly naturalistic, Slice of Life tone of the series. The animated adaptation replaced the magician with an old woman who helps the girls in a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane manner.
  • PJ Masks: Granted, the show is still a long way from being grounded in reality with its kid superheroes and villains. But the original picture books that the show was adapted from feature tons of fantastical elements that were left out in order to make the show a more traditional superhero series. These include; the heroes going up against supernatural creatures (a plant monster, an evil Sand Man, a snow robot, and even an Egyptian god, just to mention a few), the moon having a face, and the heroes befriending a large werewolf (who turns into a smaller, humanoid wolf when there's no full moon).

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: