10 Badass Characters Neutered by Their Sequels

Published 3 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 ThunderdomeYou 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 TerminatorMake 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 SoloIt’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 KruegerOriginally 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 RipleyYes, 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 4While 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 PredatorThere’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 SkywalkerOur 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 & RobinJust 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 SequelsSo 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. This website is the best lol- even the thought of the material Vic you rock. I’m cracking up at the anakin and Freddy k write ups. Happy holidays to all

    • Thanks, SME – and the same to you. :D


  2. No I can’t…you did not mention the t Rex from J Park that is epic

  3. True story:

    My buddy said to me, “Air Force One started Harrison Ford’s career”
    Obviously, I called him an insane idiot, so he challenged me, “Then tell me: what big movie did he do before Air Force One?”
    He’s 21 and believes Kevin Costner is the greatest actor ever.
    This only adds to my belief that any under 25 has zero wisdom to impart to others.

    • Yeah that is if you dont have older people exposing you to the wider world! Thought Han Solo was Harrison Ford’s greatest role, followed closely by Indiana

    • 1 thats funny as hell, and 2 im 15……….

    • lol. okay. im 21 and i think Cary Grant is the best actor of all time.

  4. Good list.

    Ripley’s demise is the most tragic. Sure, as a movie Alien 3 is awful, but I always thought it was a good Ripley story and a fitting conclusion to the evolution we had seen over movies one and two. Plus, Aliens is probably my favourite action movie, so starting Alien 3 with ‘Oh, Hicks and Newt are dead’ set me in a bad mood to begin with.

    With Batman, I was a little pup when the first one came out and loved it. Then a slightly older, hornier pup when Michelle Pfeiffer went ‘Miaow’. Then my whatsits dropped and Jim Carrey started to annoy me, finishing with George Clooney’s Batman nipples. In short, thank God for Chris Nolan.

    The Predator lost his ethical code of cool in the first movie. Despite some funky scenes in Predator 2 (the train), he was never the same threat to me.

    As for Star Wars? The prequels could’ve been masterpieces of uber-esque uberness, tying both trilogies together expertly through intelligent rationale plotting and it still wouldn’t have survived the horror that was Hayden’s “acting” (I presume Keanu runs a school somewhere), George’s “directing” or the comedy highlight of the last 100 years of movie making:


    • Yeah, Alien 3 I still refuse to even acknowledge that as a part of the Aliens series. For me, that story ended with Aliens.

      Looking forward to Prometheus though – it may be the first time in a long time I’ll be able to enjoy an Alien-related movie again.

    • Still waiting for that willow sequel… lol

  5. I think it’s kind of funny that there are 10 badass characters neutered by their sequels. It really does happen all the time, though.

  6. i actually think the entire star wars universe suffered a castration with the prequels. jar-jar binks, those army robots, and the diner dude from episode 3. when that scene came on i was like “ok, this is just ridiculous now. an alien in a wife beater with a towel over his shoulder.”

  7. I can’t argue with anything on this list. Sad, but true

  8. Waiting for Troll 3!!!

    • Troll 2: part 2

  9. Spot on I think.

  10. It’s Batman and Robin and everything else.

  11. If anikin would have fought and beat mace windo, I could have took anything else lucas would have thrown @ me….

  12. what about the mayor (played by robert englund no less) from 2001 maniacs…then followed by that travisty of a sequal

  13. Bruce the white pointer.

    What started off as a terrifying (if fake) great white slowly degenerated into one stupid franchise. By Jaws The Revenge it was truly laughable, it’s obvious Michael Caine was just after the paycheck on that one. But nothing you could do made that film frightening or enjoyable. They really should have just stopped after the first one, even Jaws 2 was crap.

    As for the Star Wars prequels there is only one good thing about all 3 and that is Ian McDiarmid’s performance as both Palpatine and Darth Sidious. He just got better and better with each film. Even Obi-Wan’s brilliance and mystique built-up in Ep. IV was eroded away. You can’t watch Ep. IV and feel the same way about him now.

  14. The one I disagree with the most is “the Predator”. I thought that the Predator was incredibly bad @$$ in AVP-R. I’m not saying the movie was great or anything, just that the Predator has not lost his bad @$$-ity.

  15. okay:
    10: mad max is crap. terrible movie.
    9. the terminator got BETTER in 2 and 3. seriously. wtf?
    8. didnt like Han solo very much to begin with.
    7. havent seen them yet
    6. okay YES i SERIOUSLY agree here. but its more like she diluted the franchise. not her character.
    5. havent seen the third or fourth one yet but i think he was losing his character in the second

  16. wow. weird browser glitches. anyway:
    4. wtf? the pred got better in AVP.
    3. ehhhh. meh.
    2. well haydn is a terrible actor anyway so its kinda hard to tel whether the character got ruined between movies
    1. hit it on the nail there.

  17. Maybe he does not qualify for this list, but I think Jack Sparrow is a character that has been severely neutered by the sequels, most notably in Stranger Tides. In the first movie, he was selfish, reckless and you were not sure that you could ever trust him…. by the 4th one he is basically just a boring good guy. You know he will do the right thing.

  18. The band geek comment was a low blow, Schrader. Guess it’s clear what jerk stereotype you were in high school. Punk.

  19. Uh. Why is this article from a year ago?

  20. Oh Damn I love this list. It’s brilliant and as much as I enjoyed some of them the write ups are so true.

  21. Awesome read… and pretty spot on IMO.
    I especially agree about what you said about Batman, Han Solo and Anakin Crywalker – I mean Skywalker.

    I do have one disagreement though: IMO, I thought they “neutered” Wolverine WAY before X-Men: Wolverine…. they already messed up Wolverine since X-Men 1! (IMO) — Wolverine has always been a bad ass in the comics, but the movie version so far (excluding his First Class cameo) has been terrible.

    Now I’d like to see a top 10 list of bad asses that just keep getting badass-ier after each sequel ;)

  22. Dead on with Han Solo and Darth Vader. I use to watch Star Wars (the original) at least once a year, but the prequels have damaged those characters so badly I haven’t watched it now in over five years!

  23. just wanted to say that accoring to the books the Predators respect warriors and so that is why the predator was willing to team up with the human at the end of the film, it was for the greater good but one day they would end up hunting their favourite’s once again, the soft meat better known as Uman’s, @(or Human’s to us ;))

    also the second Movie was an appaling Nightmare on elmstreet but Freddy didn’t really try to be funny or a comedy character from the 4th movie on really, yes he started with a few one liners but was still genuinly considered Scary.

    And back to the predators again, yes they are bad ass but you must remember that the huners were the Yautja (young bloods) of the clans and as such has NO exp fighting the aliens, they have heard of them and know what to expect but they are also EXTREMLEY cocky and brash believing none of them are able to be beaten by anything at any time and so of course they would try to take the aliens on and fale miserabbly, the only who made it was the one who came the rescue em, the only blooded one;)

  24. Mad Max beyond Thunderdome is great. Yes I was disappointed at first. But to me it’s a really gutsy movie because it didn’t simply feed the audience (myself included) their expectations (Road Warrior 2.1). Instead it showed the progression of that world, and Max was more mature. I was all up for more of those and I’d even love a movie with Mel Gibson playing a much older Max, perhaps with a new family (as one plot was supposed to be).

    Also, I think it’s a great counter-example to ROTJ, which was possibly messed up by Lucas’s unwillingness to change the formula and maybe not give audiences what they expected. In MMBT the Master Blaster character, in his Samurai helmet is a Darth Vader-like character. Inside this powerful figure is an incomplete man (in this case two). One lacks mental maturity and the other is physically stunted (like Darth Vader). There is even a rescue and redemption of this character. Then there are the children. I’ll take them over the ewoks any day, because they simply weren’t “cute.” They were little, “Lord of the flies” savages. There were even pregnant young girls, and the obvious fact that many of the kids were the offspring of the older ones. The movie doesn’t shy away from human nature. Their perspective and interpretation of the world made a lot of sense.

    I like the progression of Max’s character. I’ve said before that all of the movies have a similar plot. Max tries to isolate himself from the outside world. The outside world crashes in and takes everything from him. He seeks “revenge.” In the first movie it’s pure revenge. In the second movie it’s more ambiguous, is he helping others or seeking revenge? Both? It’s the same in the MMBT (early on his camels and vehicle are taken), later he desperately wants to live in peace in the oasis the children have been surviving in. But he chooses to rescue the children who’ve run off (notice he is wearing a black dress, as if he’s a “motherly” figure), and then sacrifices himself at the end in order to give them, and civilization itself, a chance to live. And he get’s a little revenge on “Aunty” by taking away “Master” and his apparent intelligence and ability to create methane.

    One thing that was so different about Road Warrior was the sparse dialogue, imperfect characters, and ambiguous motivations. It is more like a complex “foreign” film than the typical American movie. What is often typical of foreign movies that make it over here is that they have a deeper sense of characters. The people seem to have emotions and lives under the surface that influence their actions even though the audience isn’t let in on all of this. Like I said it’s a gutsy movie. It doesn’t shy away from letting the characters change.

    Obviously, I disagree with you. I’m able to watch all the MM movies again and again, especially the last two. To me, it’s one of the few successful trilogies.

    • On second thought, putting Max on the list as 10th is probably good. It’s worth discussing. And you did say that the movie gave us a lot of good things. “Thunderdome” is part of the lexicon. I loved how everyone missed and tried to mimic Television. That rings true. Aunty’s crowd swaying slogan “Break the deal, face the wheel” was years before “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” I like the “political” aspect of Barter town.

  25. Agree on this column.

    Dis-honorable mention goes to John McClane with that wannabe Die Hard clone, Live Free or Die Hard.

    I disregard that movie. Thank you PG-13.

    Also add Robocop from Robocop 3.

  26. I thought Freddy wasn’t really funny or anything till Freddy’s Dead. He had his one liners in the sequels before that film, even in the original Nightmare On Elm Street film he had one liners. Imo, each film the one liners & Freddy’s humor was taken up a notch more & more.

    For Batman, the picture does indeed speaks for itself. WB went from two dark Batman films, and took the franchise into a more family-friendly direction to what ended up as Batman & Robin. It wasn’t just the costumes, but the neon lights on the Batmobile, Gotham City being brighter in Schumacher’s films while it was dark & didn’t look like good people would wanna live in within Burton’s two films.

    In T3, i figure the the terminator was informing John how he’ll need to embrace his destiny. There was that scene in the cemetary where John is panicing about his destiny, etc then terminator chokes him telling him he’s not the one he wants, & he’s wasting his time. Getting Joh mad, then terminator replies to him for the better attitude when he got angry. We weren’t let on to know that the terminator was there to protect John & kate, mostly to ensure their survival at the end of the film. That’s one thing thats different from T2. And about Johns age was due because of how old Edward Furlong really was during filming of T2 which he was older than 10 last time i checked.

    As for Ripley from Alien 4? all i had to say was it sucked. Infact,imo AVP was better than Alien 3 & Alien Ressurection. Despite how the movie turned out, i thought the Predator in AVP-R turned out to be one who roughed up Aliens pretty well.

    Theres one franchise that should of made this top 10. Jaws: The Revenge. One of the worse films.

  27. Funny stuff especially the one about batman lol.
    Wholeheartedly agree with Lethal Weapon, it went fast down the comedic path and just plain silly.