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The exact opposite of Adaptational Badass. An Action Girl becomes a Distressed Damsel, a Complete Monster becomes Laughably Evil the list goes on. In short, when a character is notably less powerful than they were in the original source material.
This can happen for a number of reasons, and is in no way indicative of bad writing, the most common are:
- The character in question may just be The Cameo and there's no time to flesh out all their powers.
- The full scope of their powers would totally kill any tension and make them an Invincible Hero/Villain.
- Their powers might be seen as redundant compared to another character's so they have some of their abilities removed making them comparatively weaker. This is often used to keep large ensemble casts in check and is sometimes part of Cast Speciation.
- They're at least partly a Composite Character. Say for example that Alice gets Bob's ability to breath fire. If Bob later shows up in the work, he likely won't have fire breath since Alice already has it.
- The nature of the work doesn't need their full powers and/or might find them distasteful. For instance, if Alice is prone to Mind Rape in the source work and making others do heinous acts, an adaptation might just have her use her powers to make people into her slaves and build her doomsday device.
- The full scope of their powers is just absolutely ridiculous and there's no way modern audiences would swallow it or believe any defeats the character suffers.
- Time constraints. There just isn't enough time to properly flesh everyone out. Happens quite a bit in Pragmatic Adaptations.
- The character is Younger and Hipper and doesn't know all that they can do yet.
- And sometimes, it's just to set up an epic Took a Level In Badass moment.
- Or maybe it is indicative of bad writing.
There's also a thin line between one character (or a group of characters) undergoing this and others simply undergoing Adaptational Badass. Oftentimes, the two work side by side but it's sometimes just one or the other.
Not to be confused with Wimpification which is not only fanfiction exclusive, it works in regards to a character's emotional state (and almost exclusively in Slash Fics) while Adaptational Wimp is in regards to physical powers, durability and intelligence.
- Marvel Adventures, as a result of the more kid-friendly setting, features this happening a lot. Characters just have the most basic of their superpowers stapled onto them. The only exception is Janet van Dyne who becomes Giant-Girl instead of Wasp.
- Ultimate Marvel:
- In the original comics, Spider-Man's rogue gallery could give even the Avengers a run for their money. Here, Spidey walks over them like they're nothing.
- Doctor Doom himself. While not weak, he lacks his prime counterpart's skill in the arcane and is generally much less competent.
- IDW's Transformers comics:
- Menasor. In the original cartoon and comics, he was the strongest Decepticon combiner while here he's constantly getting his ass handed to him. Justified since his components can never actually agree on what to do resulting in them getting slapped around.
- Bruticus. Like Menasor, this is justified. One of his components is brain dead and the person who brought them down (Ironhide) has lots of experience in fighting combiners.
- The Thirteen Primes. While certainly not weak, they're nothing but ordinary Cybertronians compared to the usual depictions of them who are usually Physical Gods and three (Megatronus, Nexus, and Onyx) have been casually off-ed by two regular Cybertronians. To be fair though, those two were Galvatron and Shockwave.
- Prima, usually the greatest and most powerful of the lot, gets sliced in half by his own weapon in about five seconds flat.
- YMMV on Unicron. He's still an Eldritch Abomination, and managed to destroy Cybertron, but he's completely Doing in the Wizard and not a god, merely an insanely powerful superweapon fulfilling its programming.
- Primus. He's usually a benign Eldritch Abomination/Cosmic Entity but here he was merely the first Cybertronian to ever exist and only has some mildly supernatural powers.
- Tails in the Sonic comics. He becomes The Chick and a Cowardly Lion.
- The Borg is IDW's Kelvin-timeline Star Trek ongoing. In the original timeline, one ship could shrug off whole fleets. Here, a Borg Sphere is brought to its knees by the Romulan armada and Kirk's clever wit (to be fair the Borg did kill a lot of people before being destroyed and the Federation and Romulans both have more powerful ships than in the Prime timeline). Taken to its logical endpoint when Jane Tiberia Kirk single-handedly felled them in an alternate timeline.
- Emperor Palpatine in the new Star Wars canon by Disney. While still insanely powerful, he's just a exceptionally skilled Force user. His Legends counterpart performed feats that bordered on Humanoid Abomination levels and he was frequently implied to be the galaxy's equivalent to the antichrist which the new authors realize may have been Jumping the Shark a bit.
- While Superman and Lex Luthor undergo Adaptational Badass, everyone else is hit hard with this (with the possible exceptions of Brainiac and Bizarro) in Superman Red Son. In the climax, Superman shrugs off Livewire, Parasite, Atomic Skull, possibly Ares, and Doomsday, all at once.
- A lot of Transformers fanfics have the Cybertronians suffer this so that the humans (or other organics in Crossovers) can seem more badass and not just be stepped on. The most grievous offenders are the "Super Jack" fics (Jack gets the Omnitrix, is Kryptonian, a demigod etc.) spawned by Transformers Prime which shows the Transformers as nothing but weak, immature, and inept fools with the Autobots desperately needing Jack to do their heavy lifting.
- In the Star Trek series, The Prince, Carol Marcus goes from Action Girl to Distressed Damsel. Granted there's some justification for this but it's far cry from how she's portrayed in the comics.
- Following Captain America: Civil War, the MCU fandom split into two camps which began writing fanfics detailing how either Cap or Iron Man was an incompetent idiot away from the rest of the team.
- Downplayed in Ben and Jen 10 but since Jen acts as his voice of reason, Ben is slightly more immature and prone to making stupider decisions or get beat up worse than normal.
- Every Marvel character in The Last Son.
- To be fair, DC characters are often the victim of this to display how much better than everyone else the Kryptonians were but they'll always be more powerful than their Marvel counterparts.
- Everyone ever in every universe in the Doctor Who fanfic, Time and Space. Since she's a Time Lady with all her Bad Wolf powers unlocked, Rose ascends to full God Mode Sue levels and casually walks through everyone and everything. Demons, Darth Vader, the Borg, Thanos, Ultron, Darkseid, the Daleks, the Cybermen, even Unicron himself are nothing next to her.
- Defenders of the Universe is perhaps the sole Voltron: Legendary Defender/Steven Universe crossover to do this to the Gem Empire. Most crossovers between the two shows cast the Galra as an Unknown Rival to the Diamond Authority; but here, the Gem Empire is consistently shown to be Always Second Best to its Galra counterpart; which is itself based more off its GoLion depiction. Even technology wise, Homeworld (which took vast leaps during canon's Time Skip) can't match the Galra Empire or the Castle of Lions.
- The most egregious example would have to be that Zarkon can dish out a Curb Stomp Battle to Blue Diamond! The same Gem that, alone, outmatched all of the Crystal Gems in canon and survived two starships falling onto her with just some ruffled hair.
- Likewise, Peridot has shown no signs of developing her Ferrokinesis (metal manipulation).
- Sherlock, John, and the Doctor sacrifices a bit of the Doctor's Awesomeness By Analysis powers in favour of Sherlock's. And then Sherlock himself seems to be hit with this as his wonderlust makes him more prone to making stupid mistakes and getting into trouble.
- Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke. She's reimagined as a Clingy Jealous Girl who's only fighting crime because she has a crush on Batman.
- Green Goblin, Tombstone, and Scorpion are some of Spider-Man's heaviest hitting villains. In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, they're cannon fodder for Kingpin with even Aunt May being able to beat them up.
- Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Any other incarnation of him is THE quintesential Badass Normal of the franchise, being able to take out robots, mutants and monsters armed only with a hockey stick and a baseball bat. In this movie? Well, to qoute Doug: "Oh, if only I had my intimidating hockey mask! Then they would know I have anger management issues!".
- From the Doctor Who films:
- Louise (a Barbara-expy) just screams a lot and most of Barbara's role in given to Tom (an Ian-expy).
- The Daleks themselves. While they're still ruthless and conquer planets, they just fire vapours of gas instead of energy beams. They're also much more prone to stupid mistakes.
- Played with in regards to Dr. Who. On the one hand, he's human and lacks the superior Time Lord biology. On the other, he's from the 1960s and built Tardis from scratch.
- The Harry Potter films. While Ron was never the brightest of the bunch, in the books he more often showed off his knowledge about the inner workings of wizarding society (which makes sense since only he lives there full time) and magical plants/animals. In the films, most of this role is given to Hermione who undergoes some impressive Xenafication. In fact, in the Devil's Snare scene in the first film, where Hermione saves both Ron and Harry, Ron is the one who angrily tells a panicking Hermione what to do in the book.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe. This happens for virtually every reason listed above:
- Clint Barton goes from being the Badass Normal to "arrow-guy". Justified given that the actor's age prohibits him from doing all the physical stunts that the comic character is so known for. He finally sheds this in Avengers: Endgame.
- Subverted with Thor. It first seems as though he's Willfully Weak but then it's revealed that Mjolnir functions as his Magic Feather and he's been focusing all his powers through it. When he learns what he can truly do, he's able to overpower a fully empowered Thanos.
- Mjølnir itself. As said above, it's Thor's Magic Feather and just a conduit to help him focus his powers, though Odin's enchantment still allows it to bestow lightning on a worthy wielder. Mjølnir's own abilities to deflect anything or allow travel between the realms are passed onto Stormbreaker, itself an impressive Adaptational Badass.
- Captain America. In Civil War, he had strength enough to fight Iron Man on equal footing. In Captain America: Civil War, he only defeats Iron Man by the skin of his teeth with Bucky's help. During their brief moment fighting one-on-one, it's painfully clear that if he were inclined, Tony could kill Steve in microseconds.
- Helmut Zemo zig-zags this. He lacks his comic counterpart's fighting ability, outright saying that he has no hope of fighting the Avengers personally, but is a hell of a lot smarter.
- The Nova Corps in Guardians of the Galaxy. In the comics, they're Marvel's answer to the Green Lantern Corps. Here they're just a Redshirt Army with their iconic bucketheads never being seen. Thanos later mentions he casually walked through them to get the Power Stone.
- The Elders of the Universe (or at least the Collector and Grandmaster) don't have their Reality Warping powers. Instead they just seem to have slowed aging, enhanced durability and a lot of political influence.
- Zig-zagged with regards to Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. While she lacks her reality warping powers, she's able (after great effort) to shatter an Infinity Stone. To be fair, this is the stone that gave her her powers in the fist place (the Mind Stone if you're curious), so it's unlikely she could do anything to the others.
- This comes down to Adaptation-Induced Plothole. In the comics, there is only one kind of magic, which is mystical in nature. In the MCU, there are two kinds of magic, in order to accomodate Doctor Strange and the Masters of the Mystic Arts with the "your ancestors called it magic, but you call it science" stuff already established. MCU Wanda has the same kind of quantum-powered pseudo-science "magic" as the MCU Asgardians, as opposed to the ACTUAL magic that Strange and the Masters wield.
- The Eye of Agamotto. In the comics, it was a discount Reality Stone. Here it's just a containment vessel for the Time Stone. When the Time Stone is removed from the Eye, then it's just a hunk of metal.
- The Infinity Gauntlet. In the comics, the Badass Finger-Snap was one of the lower end acts it could do and it was still perfectly functional afterwards. After being used to enact Thanos' master plan in the film, the Gauntlet falls victim to Explosive Overclocking. And when used a second time, it's clearly damaged beyond the point of usability, being outright fused to Thanos' skin from the strain. To be fair, this could be easily be interpreted as the movie Infinity Stones being so much more dangerous to handle than their comic counterparts.
- The Stones themselves, barring the Space and Mind Stones. In the comics, even a causal thought could reshape the universe. Here, intense concentration is required for a far lesser change. The Reality Stone's powers only work in the immediate area, the Time Stone needs immense focus for simply rewinding time, the Soul Stone does not possess mastery over all life and death in the universe, and the Power Stone is simply an endless battery (in the comics, it also bestowed Nigh Invulnerability upon its wielder). However, unlike their comic selves, these Stones still retain their power if brought to a different universe.
- In Spider-Man: Far From Home, the Elementals are defeated by Mysterio, something which would never have happened in the comics. Justified and taken ever further with The Reveal that these Elementals are actually robots that Mysterio is remote controling to make himself look like a hero.
- Mary Jane Watson in the original Spider-Man trilogy of films. Sure MJ got captured a lot in the comics but she at least stood up to her kidnappers. Here's she's only a stone's throw away from becoming a crying Distressed Damsel.
- The DC Extended Universe:
- The Amazons lose their superhuman toughness and can be easily killed by WWI-era bullets.
- Kryptonite in Batman v. Superman. In the comics, it instantly crippled any Kryptonian. Here, it just Brings Them Down to Badass. It can still weaken them enough for someone to kill them but it's a far cry from the comics.
- Doctor Doom in the Fantastic Four films. In the comics, he's Iron Man's Evil Counterpart and the ultimate example of From Nobody to Nightmare. In the films, all he has are Stock Super Powers making him seem more like Norman Osborn than his comic counterpart.
- The Transformers films have the eponymous robots often being felled by human artillery and firepower. In fairness, it is shown that some of this is the result of them being giants on Earth and having Autobot help in devising anti-Cybertronian attacks. When the humans come to Cybertron, a place scaled for giants, and with the Autobots mostly handling air attacks, the Decepticons dominate them.
- The Percy Jackson films:
- In Supergirl:
- While still very strong, Mon-El is more of a discount Thor as opposed to a full-on Kryptonian. His lead weakness is also much more prevalent.
- Manchester Black, while still very dangerous, is a Badass Normal who lacks his psychic powers.
- In the comics, Agent Liberty was an ex-CIA agent with all the hand-to-hand combat experience that that implied. Here he's an ex-history professor.
- In Superman Red Son, Superman was much more powerful than he usually is. His expy, Red Daughter, while having a few extra-Kryptonian powers, isn't that much stronger than Supergirl and can be, in a sharp contrast to the original story, defeated by Lex Luthor in physical combat.
- The V.F.D. in the Netflix adaption of A Series of Unfortunate Events. In the books, they've disbanded and the Baudelaries are following a cold trail of breadcrumbs. They're still active in the show and are complete Failure Heroes, never succeeding in properly informing the Baudelaries of their existence and are constantly bested by Olaf. It gets to the point that, when offered V.F.D. help, the Baudelaires choose to risk it on their own.
- Typhon in God of War. While he was a Monster Progenitor in the myths, here he's just a run of the mill Titan.
- Shockwave in Transformers Fall of Cybertron. He's still an Evil Genius but he's totally submissive and delegates most of the fighting to the Insecticons, gets beaten up by Cliffjumper and then seizes up in fear at the sight of Grimlock. In other incarnations, Shockwave is a Genius Bruiser who is a potential candidate for Decepticon leadership. Most of these traits however were passed onto Starscream in the first game. Come Transformers Prime however and Shockwave has beefed himself up.
- Cosmo, Wanda, Danny Phantom and Zim in the Nicktoons Unite! series. Justified since if any one of them had access to their full powers, they'd win instantly.
- Chairmen Drek in the Ratchet & Clank reboot. The Big Bad of the first game, now a Big Bad Wannabe compared to Doctor Nefarious. To be fair, at least part of this is the result of Popularity Power.
- The BMW M3 GTR shows up in other games post Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005), or it can be recreated using the game's customization options, but it's never as powerful as it was in the original game, at least not without using hacks. While part of this can be explained away as faster cars being produced since 2005, it's still very clear that the later games won't let the M3 E46 be upgraded to that level. Averted for Eddie's Skyline which is always just as powerful.
- Steven Universe: New Home offers an interesting take on it. While the Diamonds are subject to this, the comic was written and published before their canon counterparts appeared in the series.
- Superfriends might be the most infamous example. Aquaman was an utter badass in the comics but the writers realized his powers were too close to Superman's so they wound up reducing his role to "that guy who talks to fish", a stigma that persists to this day.
- Grandpa Max in the Ben 10 reboot. While the original was the ultimate example of Badass Grandpa, here he's a Bumbling Sidekick who seems barely aware of the aliens his grandchildren fight. He eventually grows out of it.
- In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Vincent Van Ghoul is a struggling actor. In The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo, he was a sorcerer.
- The Beyonder in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. While still the most powerful character in the show, he's more of an Eldritch Abomination/Cosmic Entity. In the comics, he was a sentient universe.
- An odd case with Toby from Thomas the Tank Engine. In the books, he was the wisest of all engines but here he's just as likely to Swap Roles with Thomas and Percy becoming just as impulsive and ignorant as they are.
- Edward too in recent seasons.
- The Autobots as a whole in Transformers Animated. Justified since the main cast in Younger and Hipper with the Great War having taken place and ended much earlier than normal in this timeline resulting in the decommissioning of the majority of Autobot military hardware. By consequence, most of the Autobots' post-War recruits have never actually seen a Decepticon.
- Subverted in Voltron: Legendary Defender. Though Voltron seems weaker than normal, this is countered by the Galra Empire having 10,000 years of technological advancement and Team Voltron still not knowing everything Voltron can do. When they're in the Quintessence Field and at 100% power, Keith and Lance comment that Voltron is capable of feats greater than they've ever dreamed. To hammer it home, some of the feats that Voltron does in the Field are his attacks from previous shows.
- Most of the Young Justice cast. Superboy lacks flight and Eye Beams while Miss Martian lacks her Super Strength. And that's just the start. Word of God is that this was done to keep the cast in check.