Summary

  • Movie sequels can dramatically change a character, making them seem almost unrecognizable, like James Bond becoming more violent and threatening.
  • Revealing more of a character’s backstory can recontextualize their decisions and personality, like Darth Vader becoming a tragic figure with a mysterious past.
  • Some sequels completely rewrite a character, like Bo Peep in Toy Story 4 adopting a new personality and becoming a central character.

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Movie sequels can often change how an audience sees a popular character, even in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes a hero takes a villainous turn, or vice versa, but character changes aren’t always as dramatic as this. Sequels have to reveal more about their main characters, and this can lead to some remarkable changes. If a new director or a new writer joins the franchise, they can put their own spin on a well-known character that makes them seem almost unrecognizable. Even a seemingly minute change can affect an audience’s perception of a character.

Sometimes revealing more of a character’s backstory can recontextualize their decisions and their personality, but often the change in a character between sequels is less subtle than this. Some characters have much bigger roles in sequels, and this shows a deeper layer to them. But even a famous main character can seemingly become a whole new person. This isn’t always intentional, but it can be a conscious choice to subvert the audience’s expectations, and use their assumptions against them. Whatever the reason, plenty of popular sequels have completely rewritten a character, and they could never be viewed in the same way again.

10 The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

James Bond

Roger Moore and Britt Ekland in Man With The Golden Gun

The usually suave super spy was more violent and threatening than before.

Roger Moore’s version of Bond was tweaked slightly to distinguish himself from Sean Connery, but The Man with the Golden Gun was still a dramatic gear shift. The usually suave super spy was more violent and threatening than before. In one memorable scene, Bond threatens to shoot off a man’s genitals if he doesn’t reveal some key information. When Bond confronts Andrea Anders, he manhandles her roughly and even slaps her in the face to get her to talk. It’s a shocking scene that jars with the movie’s campy tone. The Man with the Golden Gun almost killed the Bond franchise, and its more brutal 007 is a big reason why.

9 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Darth Vader

It has often been claimed that George Lucas didn’t have much of a plan when he embarked upon the original Star Wars trilogy, but Darth Vader’s reveal that he was Luke’s father was a stroke of genius. This gave Darth Vader a whole new dimension to his character. Instead of being an unambiguous force of evil, he became a tragic figure with a mysterious past. This one moment also had a huge effect on Luke’s character, and Obi-Wan too. The Empire Strikes Back visually reinvented Darth Vader to go along with his character transformation, and he instantly became one of cinema’s greatest villains.

8 Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Vanessa Kensington

Vanessa Kensington Fembot Austin Powers

Austin Powers spent the duration of International Man of Mystery trying to win the heart of Vanessa Kensington. Within the first five minutes of the sequel, The Spy Who Shagged Me, it’s revealed that she was an evil robot all along. It’s such a ludicrous reversal that it pokes fun at all other movies with massive retcons in their sequels. Mike Myers reads his lines direct to camera with as much confusion as anyone in the audience. It’s not just that the characters are baffled by this sudden change, even the actors feel short-changed. Austin Powers lampoons the way that James Bond always has a new seemingly disposable female counterpart.

7 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Albus Dumbledore

Dumbledore interrogating Harry about the Goblet of Fire

In the first two Harry Potter movies, Albus Dumbledore is played by Richard Harris, but his death forced the studio to recast his role. Michael Gambon took a different approach to Dumbledore, but it wasn’t until Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth movie in the series, that he really showed a darker side. Harris’ Dumbledore is a kindly and wise head teacher, almost like a humorous grandfather. This character would never leap at Harry and interrogate him over whether he put his name in the Goblet of Fire. With this one action, Dumbledore becomes more frightening than before, and he seems to lose some control momentarily.

6 Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)

Indiana Jones

Indy regresses back to an immature adolescent constantly embarrassed by his father.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade opens with a young Indiana Jones on one of his first adventures as a boy scout. This sets up one of the movie’s major themes, as Indy is confronted with his past and his uncomfortable relationship with his father. The first two Indiana Jones movies introduced Indy as a swashbuckling and charming adventurer. With Sean Connery as Henry Jones Sr., Indy regresses back to an immature adolescent constantly embarrassed by his father. His cool persona is whipped away immediately, and his adventure with his father alongside him is much more personal than the franchise’s previous two movies.

5 Toy Story 4 (2019)

Bo Peep

Woody and Bo Peep leading the toys in Toy Story 4 (2019)

In the first two Toy Story movies, Bo Peep is little more than Woody’s love interest. She motivates his actions sometimes, but she doesn’t have much of a distinct personality and she more or less blends in with the rest of Andy’s toys, alongside Slinky, Rex, and Mr. Potato Head. Her character gets a complete overhaul in Toy Story 4, and she becomes a central character. Bo Peep lives proudly as a lost toy, and she ditches her hoop skirt and bonnet to fit in with her more action-heavy lifestyle. After her absence in Toy Story 3, Bo Peep adopts a completely new personality.

4 Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle (2017)

Harry Hart

Harry Hart, Eggsy’s mentor at Kingsman, is shot from point-blank range in the first movie. It’s a pivotal moment in Eggsy’s character development, as he is forced to mature and face up to Richmond Valentine without any guidance. Kingsman 2‘s retconning of this scene is so ludicrous that it’s almost admirable. Harry is saved by a sci-fi procedure involving “Alpha-Gel”, which is able to restore his damaged brain tissue. Harry has amnesia, and can’t remember his training that made him such an exceptional agent. He’s a completely impotent spy, and it’s strange that Kingsman shoots its own credibility to rescue a character who ends up being mostly inconsequential.

3 The Fate Of The Furious (2017)

Luke Hobbs

Hobbs (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson) with gun - The Fate of the Furious

Dwayne Johnson was a brilliant addition to the Fast and Furious franchise when he joined as DSS agent Luke Hobbs in Fast Five. He was a no-nonsense, tough-talking antagonist, and his game of cat-and-mouse with Dom was the driving force behind the heist movie. Johnson proved to be too much of a box office draw for just one movie, and the franchise brought him into the fold. This necessitated a change of character, and by The Fate of the Furious Luke Hobbs had become a more generic Dwayne Johnson-type. His opening scene coaching a girls soccer team is more Tooth Fairy than Fast and Furious.

2 Rocky III (1982)

Apollo Creed

Apollo Creed with smoke behind him in Rocky III

Apollo Creed is the antagonist of the first two Rocky movies, but after his retirement from boxing, he becomes Rocky’s coach to help him defeat Clubber Lang. Apollo and Rocky unite against their common enemy, and they soon become good friends, so much so that Apollo’s death at the hands of Ivan Drago destroys Rocky emotionally. Rocky III does most of the work in reshaping Apollo’s image, as he connects with Rocky outside of the ring. He goes from just being one of the best boxers in the Rocky franchise to becoming a more layered character. Although they were enemies in the ring, Rocky and Apollo make a great team.

1 Live Free Or Die Hard (2007)

John McClane

John McClane hanging in an elevator shaft in Live Free or Die Hard

12 years after Die Hard with a Vengeance, Bruce Willis returned as John McClane in Live Free Or Die Hard, the fourth installment in the franchise. McClane must have been putting in a lot of work in the intervening years, because he returned as a much more powerful character. The appeal of Die Hard and its sequels is that John McClane is not a typical action hero. He suffers burns, cuts, and broken bones, and there is a real sense of jeopardy. In Live Free or Die Hard, McClane is just another indestructible superhuman, who doesn’t just jump the shark, but even jumps a car into a helicopter.

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