Follow TV Tropes


Villain Decay / Film

Go To

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animated 
  • Carface, the Big Bad of All Dogs Go to Heaven, was legitimately menacing in the original film (it was his henchmen who were incompetent jokes). The scene where he and his gang threaten Itchy at Charlie's Club may indeed be Nightmare Fuel for some. However, in All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, he loses several IQ points, and becomes the idiot henchman. The Villain Song, 'It Feels So Good to Be Bad', sung by Satan to Carface, seems to be about reversing Villain Decay and going in the complete opposite direction, but nothing ever comes of it. Carface never really regains the menacing quality he had in the first film, and ends up being sent to Fire and Brimstone Hell because he made a really stupid Deal with the Devil. While this plot point seems to be retconned in the series, he seems to only get worse, ending up playing a Scrooge archetype in "An All Dogs Christmas Carol". This was a chain-smoking, gravel-voiced, Manipulative Bastard Bad Boss that waits until Charlie's wasted and rolls a car into Charlie that if he didn't die from the impact would drown, took everything Charlie had, manipulated an orphan for gambling tips, beat Itchy with a gang of Mooks within an inch of his life then almost killed Charlie again until he himself was eaten by King Gator. Essentially if you're a Don Bluth villain in a sequelized franchise, prepare to be decayed. The only way out of that is to never appear in the sequels at all, which many Bluth villains do not.
  • Downplayed in The Book of Life, Mary Beth's narration explains that Chakal was King of The Bandits, when his medal was taken back by Xibalba, he pretty much fell apart as he continued to search for it. He's still however an excellent fighter, and still leads his band of bandits - its just that he's no longer invincible.
  • Sharpteeth in The Land Before Time sequels. The original Sharptooth was an unstoppable killer and a true force of nature who had seemingly supernatural stamina. As the series continued (and became progressively more kiddy), all the carnivorous dinosaurs in general have decayed to the point of no return. It got so bad in The Land Before Time TV series that Littlefoot and the other kids were able to chase off two raptor-like Sharpteeth and one Tyrannosaur just by throwing fruit at them. It's especially bad considering how Red Claw is constantly referred to as the "biggest, meanest, most scary Sharptooth ever". Yes, the Tyrannosaurus rex that runs from some fruit is supposed to be more big, bad and gruesome than the Tyrannosaurus rex who violently ended the life of Mama Longneck and terrified both the dino-kids and real kids.
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, the first Humongous Mecha Gallaxhar sends to Earth ends up shrugging off anything the US Army can throw at it and proceeds to waste half of San Francisco before being brought down by the monsters (and the Golden Gate Bridge). Near the end of the film, when Gallaxhar orders his army of identical robots to stop Ginormica, they all end up crashing into one another and collapsing like dominoes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The classic movie monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, Mummy) were the subject of comedies (usually with Abbott and Costello) by the late 40's, early 50's.
    • In the '90s, they decayed even further by becoming attractions at the Universal Studios theme parks in Hollywood and Florida. As part of "Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue," they danced, sang, played instruments and even rapped on stage. Fangoria magazine columnist David J. Schow wondered if, at some future date, audiences would be treated to a similar show starring Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers and Leatherface, and remarked that he couldn't wait to see how Hollywood would "pull the fangs" from that group of fun-lovers.
  • Star Wars:
    • General Grievous in the prequel movies. Viewers' first look at Grievous occurs during Star Wars: Clone Wars, in which the cyborg took on six Jedi at once and completely destroyed them without much effort, establishing him as an unstoppable killing machine. However, the series' production team developed the character independently from the films' team. For Grievous's live-action appearance, Lucas wrote him as a significantly lower threat. The live-action Obi-wan faces a significantly weaker Grievous and dispatches him fairly quickly all by himself. The second season of the animated series attempts to justify the discrepancy by revealing more of Grievous's evasive nature and showing how he received the injuries he displays in the live-action film. Star Wars: The Clone Wars also does its best to redress the balance; though he's not an unstoppable killing machine anymore, he's never shown to be outright incompetent again.
    • General Armitage Hux is introduced in The Force Awakens as a Suspiciously Similar Substitute to Grand Moff Tarkin, even to the point of using a super weapon to blow up multiple planets. By the time of The Last Jedi however, the lack of respect given to him by his enemies, superiors and subordinates reaches comical levels. Poe humiliates him in the equivalent of a Prank Call on his Dreadnaught, Supreme Leader Snoke uses the Force to smack him around for failure in front of his men when he tries to save face by taking the call in his office, and Kylo Ren continues to treat him with no respect, Force choking and throwing him around like a rag-doll for raising objections, with even his own subordinates not batting an eye at it anymore.
  • Godzilla
    • King Ghidorah went from being the most feared creature in the universe his VERY film debut to being The Dragon for a variety of evil aliens in the sequels (As well as being the result of being three mind-controlled pets fused into one monster in one alternate universe). To make matters worse, he went from being a monster that took 2-3 other monsters to defeat and over 6 to kill to being EASILY blown apart by Godzilla with little effort. It doesn't help that he was portrayed as a hero in the film Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack!. That was due to Executive Meddling more than anything else.
    • And then there is Godzilla himself, who has suffered from this trope to an unbelievable degree, starting as a devastating monster representing the terrors of nuclear radiation, and was later portrayed as a child-friendly defender of the earth.
  • James Bond
  • Aliens in the Alien series. The first installment was a horror film in space, with a single, nearly invincible alien stalking and killing the helpless crew of a spaceship, with numerous rape parallels. However, the sequel Aliens was an action film, where a swarm of xenomorphs overwhelm a squad of space marines by virtue of sheer numbers (although this is justified due to the crew of the first film being completely unarmed and most of the cast of the second film being a large team of highly trained and heavily armed marines. Even then, it should be noted that the first encounter between the marines and the aliens results in the marines losing over half of their force before they flee.) Alien³ reversed this somewhat by having a single alien killing more and more people in an old prison, before Alien: Resurrection reduced them to the status of generic movie monster, albeit a still dangerous one. Since then, xenomorphs have increasingly been depicted as cannon fodder. The merchandise has further stripped the Alien of its mystique and creepy sexual undertones. The Alien vs. Predator series further decayed the villainy by focusing on kaiju-style monster battles. Pop culture has also participated in the decay with increasingly parodic tie-in marketing in the form of plush, Lego, superdeformed, etc.
  • Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street. In the original film, he was the menacing personification of evil; over the course of the various films that followed he gradually became an increasingly camp wise-cracking court jester. This was reflected in his marketing — he cut an album of cheesy pop songs, guest-rapped on a hip-hop track by The Fat Boys about his antics, was rapped about in a different Will Smith track, and was subject to all kinds of tie-in merchandise including yo-yos. It took years and the return of Wes Craven (in Wes Craven's New Nightmare) to address and attempt to reverse his decay. (In fact, the decay was Deconstructed, as Freddy showed up on a talk show to high five the audience, while Nancy stated Freddy was now like Santa Claus, all kids knew who he was.)
  • Transformers Film Series
    • Megatron is the menacing Sealed Evil in a Can Big Bad of the first movie, destroying whole cities and causing the only on-screen casualty of the movie. By the sequel, he's just The Dragon to the real Big Bad, The Fallen, and more or less just argues with Starscream for the second half of the movie. In Dark of the Moon, he's injured for the entirety of the film, doesn't get a single kill, and gets defeated along with the Bigger Bad in a matter of seconds. Then Transformers: Age of Extinction comes around and the Not Quite Dead Megatron uploads his brain to a new body, regaining his menace in the process.
    • Starscream. He easily defeats two of the Autobots in the movie, but in Revenge of the Fallen, he spends most of the movie reduced to being a joke and does not fare well in the third film either.
  • The first time around in The Mummy (1999) Imhotep is a walking plague, causing fire to fall from the sky, hordes of locusts and rivers to run with blood. In The Mummy Returns, he's just some guy with telekinesis who trades banter with an eight-year-old.
  • The Matrix
    • The Agents may qualify on the surface. They went from being the scourge of the virtual world and the most dangerous entity that could be encountered in the first film, to suddenly being little more than cannon fodder in the two sequels. However, while Neo has little problem dealing with them once he becomes the One, they are still a quite significant threat to everyone else.
    • Averted with former Agent Smith. After being destroyed by Neo at the conclusion of The Matrix Smith becomes effectively a virus that, especially after assimilating everyone in the Matrix, including The Oracle and her powers, Smith is completely unstoppable by anyone or anything—at least until the literally-named Deus Ex Machina from outside the Matrix, with a little help from Neo, saves the day.
  • Halloween
  • In the first Jurassic Park movie, the T-Rex is an unstoppable monster, who can't be fought and only run from. She takes on the other villains of the piece in the final scene and kills them with ease. Her face is the symbol of the franchise. In the second film, more of the same, only with a much higher body count. Third film? Hit by The Worf Effect: Killed unceremoniously by a dinosaur most dinosaur experts say would make for a very boring battle where nobody can winnote , even being replaced on the franchise symbol. Villain decay indeed. In the fourth film, Rexy (the same one from the first film) and a raptor tag-team the new hybrid Indominus rex, with some help from a Mosasaurus. As a callback to the third film, when Rexy shows up, she smashes through the skeleton model of a Spinosaurus, the same dino who killed another T. rex in the third film.
  • The first bug we see in action in Starship Troopers withstands the combined fire of four mobile infantry before going down. Later on bugs are seen taken down by just a few rounds. Justified by in-universe research into how best to direct rifle fire; we even see a clip of a training film.
  • Discussed in-universe in The Godfather
    Sollozzo: All due respect, the Don, rest in peace, was slippin'. Ten years ago could I have gotten to him?
  • The Djinn of the Wishmaster series was scary and so much of a threat in the first film because he was utterly evil beyond redemption, completely immortal, his powers knew almost no bounds, and he would bring about hell on Earth if he got his three wishes. What stopped him from being an Invincible Villain was that the entire plan hinges on granting wishes, so the protagonist could technically stop it by not wishing at all and had to be constantly wary of saying anything that could possibly be interpreted by the evil Djinn as one. In the second film, he suddenly has to collect 1000 souls first, and much of the plot placed him in prison, where he was significantly less menacing as a villain. The third and fourth films continue the process by making the Djinn killable, and having to pursue romance with a woman.
  • Hannibal Lecter was a genuinely horrible character in the original two novels and films involving him, however, by Hannibal Rising Lecter was rather a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds with a full set of Freudian excuses to explain for his deranged behavior, plus he only killed Asshole Victims by then.
  • Pinhead of Hellraiser series is a rare inversion. In making him more evil (and usually the main villain) after the second film, the writers also made him less interesting. He's also an odd case in that how malevolent he is goes back and forth across the films. He's pure evil in the third and fourth films; the fifth, sixth and seventh installments feature Pinhead about as much as the first two and in the eighth, the real Pinhead only shows up at the end.
  • Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He doesn't actually become less competent after his first defeats in Thor and The Avengers (2012), but a combination of more dangerous villains and shared interests with Thor lead him to be less of a scary villain and more of an occasionally comedic antihero. He does try to betray the heroes on multiple occasions after that point, but, as his brother points out, he's become predictable.
    • Thanos in the opening of Avengers: Endgame becomes this. After giving an incredibly difficult fight and effectively winning in the last film, he is subdued and killed very easily by the surviving Avengers. It's well-justified, as he was alone, injured, and had destroyed the Infinity Stones—not to mention, he didn't really care about putting up a fight anyway. Word of God says that he allowed the Avengers to kill him. Averted later on in the film, where Thanos's past counterpart remains just as dangerous as ever.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: