10 Badass Characters Neutered by Their Sequels

Published 2 years ago by , Updated February 15th, 2014 at 4:24 pm, This is a list post.

10 Badass Characters Neutered by Their Sequels

10 Badass Characters Neutered by Their Sequels

Sequels are definitely a mixed bag in terms of quality, but one of their advantages is an audience’s immediate connection and empathy towards a familiar and (hopefully) beloved character. No one really cares what’s inside the Temple of Doom or where the Holy Grail is hidden, they just want to go on another adventure with Indiana Jones. Our interest and investment in these characters and their worlds often percolates in the years (or sometimes decades) between installments, and the opportunity to revisit them is often greeted with unmatched fervor - which makes it enormously disappointing as you watch a film unfold and realize that while the character on the big screen may look and sound the way you remember, something is... missing. Characters originally depicted as being total badasses are often hit hardest in this regard. The problem is easily diagnosed: They’ve lost their edge, and the qualities that made them such badasses initially have been severely diluted. Metaphorically speaking, they’ve been neutered.

10. Mad Max - Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

  Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome You have to give the filmmakers credit for taking this franchise into unexplored territory and not just rehashing The Road Warrior. There are a lot of things in Beyond Thunderdome that are really good, but it would have been more enjoyable if it hadn’t been part of the Mad Max series. The problem is that this isn’t the same Max from the other films. He’s not really even all that mad - he’s more like "Slightly Perturbed Max." Granted, a great deal of time has passed since we last saw Max, but no matter how much you rationalize or appreciate that change I still don’t think this version of the character is remotely as compelling. He’s just not as much fun to watch or root for.

9. The Terminator - Terminator 2 & 3

  Wimpy Terminator Make no mistake, I’m not saying Terminator 2 wasn’t effective, but when you get right down to it, an unstoppable killing machine basically becomes the robot equivalent of Lassie. Instead of watching Timmy’s back, it’s John Connor he’s loyally protecting. Both sequels have the Terminator switching sides to help the good guys and promising he won’t kill anyone but while Terminator 3 was busy copying the entire structure of Terminator 2, it forgot one important factor: the age of John Connor. It makes a HUGE difference. There’s something endearing and sort of charming about a little boy teaching this machine morality and what it means to be human. While the Terminator was neutered as a character, it was done with good reason. In Terminator 3, Connor is a twenty-something and other than a few moments of nostalgia that are mostly played for laughs, there’s nothing to their relationship. I’d argue that the neutered, good-guy version of the Terminator is completely unnecessary in T3. Not only is the dynamic between him and John completely different and unrewarding, he actually prevents Connor from having to man up and start fighting to protect himself and the ones he cares about. I’ve always thought a better version of T3 would have involved the T-X reprogramming the T-850 much earlier in the film and having him remain an adversary all the way to the end.

8. Han Solo - Return of the Jedi

  Whipped Han Solo It’s common knowledge that Harrison Ford wanted Han to die in Return of the Jedi. We're not here to argue whether or not that would have been a good decision creatively because that’s not what Ford cared about - he was just sick of Star Wars. Sadly, it shows in the finished film. Ford’s heart is just not in it and Han’s trademark swagger and charisma have all but vanished. The blame doesn’t fall squarely on him, though. Han doesn’t do a single noteworthy thing for all of Jedi’s running time - he’s just there because Lucas knows fans want him to be. They take our favorite scruffy nerf herder and turn him into a mopey sad sack who’s jealous of the attention Luke’s getting from Leia. Is this Star Wars or Dawson’s Creek? Where’s that sarcastic self-assurance? What happened to the witty one-liners? He’s not even a resourceful or valuable asset to the team - he spends the majority of the film getting rescued by other characters (and I’m not even counting Jabba’s palace). The real Han Solo never came out of that carbonite.

7. Freddy Krueger - A Nightmare on Elm Street 2-6

Freddy Krueger Originally we were only going to include A Nightmare on Elm Street 4-6, but upon further examination it was clear that the elements that ultimately made Freddy more funny than scary were already present in the first sequel. The two things that did the most damage to Kruger’s character were the nightmare set-pieces that (while admittedly imaginative) became more silly than disturbing and his exponential use of terrible one-liners. In the sequels they stop treating Krueger like a serious threat and more like some undead rock star that the audience paid good money to see play his greatest hits while eviscerating teenagers. The first film is as much about what we don’t see as what we do but the sequels became strictly about the payoff - everything was bigger, bloodier and more elaborate - and nothing was left to the imagination. They’re guilty pleasure fun for sure, but Krueger stopped being the face of nightmares and became the face of video games, action figures, and comic books.  He went from character to caricature and by the time they got to the sixth film, the series had all the subtlety of a Saturday morning cartoon.

6. Ellen Ripley - Alien: Resurrection

Ellen Ripley Yes, she’s a clone and technically not the same character from the first three films, but it's not incorrect to assume that she was brought back because everyone involved knew how much she meant to fans of the series. So there’s an important lesson to be learned here… You can call a character Ripley and you can even have the same actress reprise the role - it doesn’t make it so. Sure, she can still handle a flame thrower and dispose of xenomorphs with impressive precision but you know what made Ripley so badass in Alien, Aliens, and Alien 3? The overwhelming odds she was up against. If there was one word to describe Ripley in the first three Alien films it would be "driven." You know what word describes her in Alien: Resurrection? Bored. Ripley has nothing to fight for in this film. There’s nothing at stake for her. She grudgingly tags along with the other survivors and spends most of the film looking at everything going on around her with an arrogant indifference. When our main character isn’t scared or worried about what’s going on, why should the audience be? Ripley might still be tough on the surface, but they effectively neutered (spayed?) all the aspects of the character that made her so completely badass. We go from her laying the smack down on an alien to watching her snuggle up with one? Pass.

5. Martin Riggs - Lethal Weapon 4

Martin Riggs Lethal Weapon 4 While Lethal Weapon 4 isn't the worst movie ever, we recognize that it only works by relying on the goodwill and nostalgia the audience has built up for its characters - not because it’s a particularly great film in its own right. Riggs is (or was) the title character of this franchise. In the first film he’s literally a lethal weapon - that’s how the movie got its name. Violent and unpredictable, Riggs was a bigger danger to himself than any of the bad guys he was taking on. In the original version of Lethal Weapon 2, screenwriter Shane Black had Riggs die from his wounds after getting revenge on the man responsible for the death of his wife. He felt that ending was so important that when the studio decided to change it, Black left the project. As far as he was concerned, Riggs’ journey was complete and he knew there was nowhere left to take the character without completely altering what made him who he is. Riggs &; Murtaugh are incredibly well-developed in those first two films and their oil & water personalities crackle against one another in a unique and entertaining way. In Lethal Weapon 4, Riggs has become so watered down that the two are basically interchangeable and everything that made this series so distinctive has all but evaporated.

4. The Predator - Alien Vs. Predator

Alien Vs Predator There’s nothing worse than an event movie that makes false promises. When you call a film Alien Vs. Predator you expect to see the iconic characters from each of their respective franchises - but that’s not entirely what fanboys got when this Paul W.S. Anderson travesty hit theaters. In this film the lean, mean, and quick-witted predators from Predator and Predator 2 have been replaced by lumbering and awkward creatures that look more like linebackers than hunters. Fine, so they’re young warriors in training who’ve gained their freshman fifteen and this is some sort of rite of passage - but that’s not really what fans signed up for is it? AVP depicts the predators as being completely ineffective against the aliens until they locate their plasma casters - because if the Predator movies taught us anything it’s that these guys are useless without their guns… Then there’s the climax of the film where the last surviving Predator teams up with our heroine (Sanaa Lathan) and they form an alliance so that they can - wait, what?! Since when do these guys show compassion? It’s not like Predator ended with the creature patting Dutch on the back and saying, “Mud? That’s ingenious dude! Good game. You win.” Whatever reason exists to justify this characterization of the Predator, there’s no denying that it’s a severely neutered version of the character. The poster boldy proclaimed: "Whoever Wins, We Lose." No kidding.

3. Wolverine - X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a completely wasted opportunity. Here was a story perfectly suited for the Wolverine that comic book fans would recognize: unhinged, unpredictable, and unleashed. Not that we were expecting a nonstop orgy of blood and guts flying at the screen, but the worst part of the movie is that this pre-X-Men version of Wolverine is actually softer than the way he’s portrayed in the first two X-Men films. Somewhere deeply buried in this film is the idea that Wolverine and Sabretooth are cut from the same cloth - but while Sabretooth has embraced his animal instincts, Wolverine has learned to control them. Only, the movie never once makes that look like a struggle. There’s not a single moment where it looks like Wolverine might lose control and compromise his values. Even worse, we have no idea what it would look like if he did or why we should be scared of that. While Wolverine is arguably the most popular character from the comics, he’s not a leading man - and the movies should never have gone to such great lengths to make him one. At least in the first two movies he had the mystique of an unknown past. In detailing that past so ineptly, what X-Men Origins: Wolverine really teaches us is that the X-Men’s biggest badass has a lot more bark than bite.

2. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker - the Star Wars prequels

Anakin Skywalker Our thoughts on including Anakin were that this wasn’t a fair comparison because these films depict him before he became the badass we loved to hate to in the original trilogy. However, let us try and explain why his inclusion is so unique and completely justifiable. Unlike most of the other names on this list, Anakin’s characterization in these films is so downright awful that it actually has the power to affect future viewings of the original Star Wars trilogy. Some people can still watch episodes IV-VI the same way they did before 1999. But this writer is not one of them. It’s impossible for to look at Darth Vader now and not think that by demystifying one of the most badass characters in Star Wars mythology, they made him so much less interesting. George Lucas turned the Empire’s most badass enforcer into a giant baby in a suit of armor. The prequels don’t add another layer to the original trilogy or enhance the viewing experience in any way. Vader doesn’t become a richer nemesis - I still just see that sulky Jedi crying “Wah! It’s not fair!” It’s like the band geek from your high school who wound up being a successful lawyer or something. Yeah, he’s a hot shot now but you still remember when he ate his boogers and took his cousin to prom. So great, you can choke a guy without laying a hand on him and your voice is a lot more intimidating but guess what, Ani? Thanks to the prequels you’ll always be that boy I knew on Tatooine.

1. Batman/Bruce Wayne - Batman & Robin

Batman vs Batman & Robin Just look at that picture. Can you believe we went from one to the other in just four films? Batman started out as the last guy you’d ever want to meet in a dark alley and ended up some nut job covering his unmentionables in what looks like tin foil. There’s no discernible difference between Clooney’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman (an absolutely fundamental aspect of the character). When Keaton says "I'm Batman" I still get chills. Clooney introduces himself like he’s your neighbor from across the hall: “Hey, what’s up? I’m Batman from 6C… can I borrow your sugar?” Batman doesn’t need buckets of pathos to be effective, but oh baby did Schumacher take him to the other extreme. In Batman & Robin, he’s no longer a guy trying to work through the pain of his parents murder… he’s just some dude who loves throwing neon lights on all of his gadgets and making costume changes before the big third act battle. Quite frankly I don’t think you’ll find a more dramatic example on this list than George Clooney's Batman. It was a long eight years before Christopher Nolan started taking the character seriously again, but most fans would agree that films like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were worth the wait. And hey, I don't think we have to worry about any close-ups of cod pieces in Nolan's Batman 3. Some things you can never unsee.

What do you think?

10 Badass Characters Neutered by Their Sequels So there you have it, 10 badass character neutered by their sequels. It's a very sad thing - but seems to be almost inevitable when a movie franchise is milked for too many sequels. This is just our list... who would you put on yours?
TAGS: a nightmare on elm street, alien, batman, lethal weapon 5, mad max 4, predators, star wars, terminator, the wolverine, x-men

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  1. Batman is truly an “idea that can’t be destroyed.” He seems to fully survive any attempt to trivialize him.

  2. I agree with you about Anakin. I would add that we really don’t see him become evil as much as we see six hours of toy advertisement with fifteen minutes of him becoming disfigured and being stuffed into a suit. What I wanted to see was a gradual “seduction,” a choice on Anakin’s part to slowly become evil, perhaps for the power and prestige it offered. The suit really serving as a symbolic “death” and his being cut off from life. I even imagined Luke’s mother as a women swept up in this, but deciding to run away from it for the sake of her children.

    But I’m someone who can sort of still watch the originals. To me his history is contained in the few enigmatic lines of dialogue, and then in my imagination formed in the years between the original trilogy and the prequels. I guess mostly I just don’t trust the storyteller (Lucas) the way I wholeheartedly did so for many years. That affects my viewing.

    • What we see if Ani whining for 2 whole movies about how hes so powerful and its not fair that everyone recognizes. Hayden Christen you are a terrible actor yes, but I still place blame on Lucas for oking your casting and then not only letting him act like a b**** the whole time, but I suspect Lucas was actually directing him to act like that.

      Lucas is an amazing STORY and EFFECTS film maker. I just wish he realized he can’t direct, and he certainly should never be writing the scripts. Awful dialogue, painful, even in the Original, thank god for Irvin Kersner.

      Who Lucas effectively screwed over for the rest of his life, and claimed he wasnt a good director.

      Is it even possible for someone to have that much of a disconnect? What is widely regarded as the best Star Wars movie, Lucas himself says is his least favorite.

      Idiot.

    • It’s not the six or seven hours of the prequels whining so much as that one scene where Ani is finally Darth.

      “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo”

      I was wasn’t sure whether to cry or throw up a little in my mouth.

  3. Couldn’t agree more especially on Terminator 3,Alien vs.Predator and Batman with one exception Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker.

    • Yep

  4. ay yo this list is NOT complete without CHUDs… Bud the CHUD was a joke of a character compared to the original CHUDs… just sayin’

  5. That headline pic with the dog just cracks me up. :)

  6. It’s sad to look at Alien: Resurrection and know what Joss Wheddon wrote wasn’t translated to screen properly. If you can find the screenplay online I highly suggest reading it.

  7. There is no reason for this to be in a slideshow format. Terrible for reading, reeks of pageview mining.

  8. Sorry for the randomness. I can feel the sun (nice and warm)  I  also see the sun (nice and bright) but what dose the sun sound like???? Dose it rumble and rock in a nice melodic and ryhmic hum or does it (and more than likely destroy your speakers in the process) crack,bang a have (quiet literally) the most earth shattering and unprodictalbe bass note ever?? Just syn….. “Let me hear the sun” ; p.s having a cold + to many cold antidotes= a very active mind, acthoooo!!

  9. Ace Ventura. He kicks ass in the first film and then gets smacked around in the second.

  10. Good list. Very true on all counts, really. Though if you were going to add another, I’d say Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.

    Granted, he was always flamboyant, and perhaps even slightly gay, but in the first film he was at least mysterious and unpredictable – and he was always a man with a plan. He was always scheming, always coming up with ulterior motives, and you never quite knew what he was thinking at any given moment or if he was going to stab you in the back. That’s what made him so fun and eve cool. He was quirky and even bizarre at times, sure, but at core he could still turn around and be this tricky, self-serving, and even dangerous character. He was a PIRATE, and in the Curse of the Black Pearl, that word still meant someone you didn’t want to get too friendly with. In many ways he was the Han Solo of the PotC franchise.

    But then enter Dead Man’s Chest, and subsequent sequels. Jack has the Pearl back, and it’s like that suddenly strips him of his balls. Now Jack is played almost entirely for comic effect, unless of course he’s doing something heroically out-of-character. Mind you, this last part really only starts in At World’s End, since in Dead Man’s Chest he was still kind of a slimeball throughout (and good on him for it), but by the time we get to On Stranger Tides, Jack is just this sort of goofy parody of his original self, and what’s more, he’s played as the hero of the films.

    The fact is, Jack Sparrow was never the hero. He was never really the leading man. Just like Wolverine and Han Solo, both of whom made this list, he was interesting because he WAS kind of unpredictable and even “bad” at times, and because he WASN’T the protagonist. When they started to make that shift in him because they knew he was the most popular character in the franchise, his character ceased to be the pirate we all fell for in the first installment.

  11. I disagree completely about Alien: Resurrection. Ellen Ripley went through hell 3 times and died. PERIOD. The hybrid creature in Resurrection IS NOT Ripley, it is something else entirely. Ellen Ripley is dead, she died 200 years ago. This is a film more about the scientists finally getting what they wanted from the first movie. Sure it wasn’t Weyland-Yutani, but it answers questions, like, what would the people who want the aliens actually do with them once they had them? Also this Xeno-Ripley #8 is a conflicted individual as if two entities are co-existing in the same flesh. I feel it was an incredible breath of fresh air to this series, and a fine conclusion indeed! People can hate it all they want, call it non-canon and what have you. I own it, I love it, and I’ll watch it with pleasure.

  12. How is wolverine not a leading man? I’m confused how you come to that conclusion especially since much like he got his own movie he has his own comics. Heck he has more than one of his own comics he spawned in to several solo franchises that have all been fairly successful. They have been good even some times surpassing X-men Comics them selves.

  13. ill also include rambo and rocky,

  14. ill include rocky 2-5 and rambo 2 and 3.

  15. hannibal lecter in hannibal rising, granted the actor chosen to replace hopkins is no hopkins but still. he wasnt the bad guy here just some good anti hero out for revenge and killing guys that are badder than him

  16. Put Danny Glover (or ‘one character’ Joe Pesci) into anything and it immediately sucks. Danny was lucky to have Mel Gibson in the first Lethal Weapon movie to cover his ineptitude.

    A watered-down Riggs wasn’t as much of a cover-up in the sequels, and don’t even get me started on the joke that was the second Predator movie. “Inept, over-weight, average intelligence, middle-age cop defeats (on his own ship) a God-like, high-tech, massive, warrior alien who just destroyed a whole Army ‘kill team’.”

    Just a bit too over-the-top, even for a Sci-fi movie.

    Anyway, other than putting that one a bit ahead of the rest, I’d say you were spot on. I was never so disgusted with George Lucas as I was when he basically destroyed the Star Wars series with his choice of pathetic actors. Without Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, and yes, little Jake Lloyd (who was like a little robot Hayden Cristensen), I think the prequels might have survived even Jar-Jar Binks (barely), however that pathetic, wooden acting, coupled with zero on-screen Chemistry and mega-flat dialog, was enough to finish off even the best of ideas and bury the Star Wars saga six parsecs under.

  17. dang, what da hell is wrong wit u pplz??! anakin wasn’t that bad! he gave depth to darth vader. his character development was believable & relatable to teen audiences & others who fall under that similar stereotype/category or whatever u wanna call it. maybe u guys should watch some youtube videos that really capture his fall & how it all ties up at the end w/ his redemption after joining the dark side. just type up “anakin’s requiem” or anything of that sort. u’ll see. there’s more than just “a whiny little boy stuck in a man’s body/suit of armor.” and i applaud hayden christen for his acting performance & yes george lucas directed him to act that way. it’s all in the bonus feature on the dvd if u haven’t seen it.

  18. i totally agree w/ wolverine & jack sparrow. esp batman (no need to explain that one). wolverine was just a softie as u said, not very animal-like as he was supposed to be. jack sparrow just became a joke as the series progressed.

    but martin riggs’ lost touch was acceptable for me. one, because his character was aging. two, it’s all part of his character development going from being “crazy riggs” to a more mature & stable cop. his suicidal tendencies were all due to his loneliness, but that void was soon filled by his cop partner murtagh when he became part of the family. and in reply to the other column on “no lethal weapon 5″, i think we can all agree that it’s for the best. there’s nothing more to add to his character. martin riggs has settled down just like bruce wayne & rocky balboa.

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