Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Batman.
It’s always a challenge to bring a decades-old character back to cinema screens. The Batman had to grapple with the balance between being true to the essence of The Riddler while reinventing his personality, so the character would fit the atmosphere of the film as well as the present day.
Following in the footsteps of Frank Gorshin and Cory Michael Smith, Paul Dano’s Riddler was an ode to the DC villain’s brilliance. While The Batman‘s Riddler is accurate in several ways, the film also added outlandish aspects to the classic enemy.
Right – The Riddler’s Apartment
The Batman is a meticulous project, and it is no coincidence that the scenographies follow the model of excellence of the other departments. When audiences get their first glimpse of the villain’s apartment, it’s clear that this is the place for this version of Edward Nashton.
The messy design reflects the villain’s complex personality, showing his hobbies and plan details. Particular attention is paid to the chemical tubes of the kitchen counter, the evidence wall, the abundance of folders and the beautiful touch of a green chair, a classic reference to his favorite color. Oddly enough, the way the files are organized spells “ED” back and forth and “DC”. That’s precisely the kind of thing The Riddler would enjoy, and it wasn’t overlooked in the film.
Right – His intelligence
It is thanks to his intelligence that The Batman‘s Riddler is one of the best villains that have faced the Caped Crusader. The villain’s intricate plan is proof enough of his unique way of thinking. From leaking the footage of the mayor’s love affair to planting car bombs along the city’s levees, his timing and sequence of events had to be perfectly precise for his gruesome plan works. One false move by the villain would have ruined his puzzle.
In DC’s pop-cultural outings, The Riddler has had an entertaining mix of villainy and smarts. Matt Reeves and Peter Craig understood the mission making Paul Dano’s Riddler a cunning man. Instead of underestimating the character’s intelligence and turning it into comedy at the end, The Batman never allows the public to depreciate his plan. By showing that Edward Nashton should not be taken for granted, the film pays homage to the iconic character.
Right – The Question Mark Obsession
The Riddler is not the Riddler without question marks. Matt Reeves knew this and managed to incorporate the crucial character element into an aesthetic that wouldn’t deviate from the overall image of The Batman.
There’s no vibrant costume filled with question marks or a question mark-shaped cane. In the film, Riddler’s obsession is present in his sketches and painted on his jacket and video background. The fascination is particularly evident when Nashton draws a question mark in his latte. Although it’s a short scene, the beautifully shot cup of coffee reflects Riddler’s personality without making it out of place in the film.
On the right – His introversion
While many comics focused solely on Riddler’s clever plans and natural extravagance, Fox Gotham offered a deeper look into the personality of Edward Nashton/Nygma. In Season 1 of the show, Riddler is an introverted man who struggles to fit in socially, a vital context for his later transformation.
Because of this, Paul Dano’s Riddler seems like a natural offshoot of Season 1’s Riddler. Even if audiences don’t see much Batman’s Edward Nashton, in a few scenes, Paul Dano sums up the aspects portrayed by Cory Michael Smith in Gotham in such a way that one could easily imagine that their lives are very similar. The actor’s performance as a shy and quiet man is proof that The Batman captured the character’s personality well, and that helps the film be one of Paul Dano’s best films.
Right – Laughter
Since the golden age of comic books, part of The Riddler’s flair has been in his teasing and malicious nature. In Reeves’ film, Riddler shares a laugh with his new friend and Arkham Asylum inmate, The Joker. The scene is not only important to make the two iconic characters interact, but it is also the moment when The Batman where Riddler can laugh.
Although Paul Dano’s performance would still be praised without that detail, adding the laugh rings true to who the character is. Seeing The Riddler in a different light at the end of the story leaves the viewer excited for what’s to come, which is precisely the kind of portrayal the character deserves.
On the right – The puzzles
In The Batman, the villain’s puzzles are exactly what they should be: not too serious, but not too silly. Considering how gritty the film is, it may seem odd to some viewers that the puzzles are meant to be funny. However, just as there are many funny moments in The Batmanpuzzles like the thumb drive honor the clumsiness of Detective Comics ones and highlight The Riddler’s humorous potential.
The puzzles prove that Matt Reeves hasn’t overlooked Riddler’s wits or humor, and that’s why the villain makes Gordon and Batman look like fools in a wild “bird” chase.
The right way to speak
The Riddler has had some great on-screen quotes over the years, and their delivery is just as on point as the character’s words. Paul Dano has mastered this by offering a new approach to the villain, without forgetting to honor the representations in front of him.
There is a shift between how Edward Nashton and The Riddler speak: Riddler’s voice is menacing, his breathing under the green mask almost sounding like Darth Vader’s, while Edward’s voice is vulnerable but resentful . Paul Dano delivered the lines as someone not used to social conversations. These details fit the villain’s personality like a glove, and credit for nailing this element goes to Dano’s wonderful performance.
Wrong – His backstory
The story of the Riddler in The Batman is good for Batman but bad for the villain. By depicting Batman and Riddler as two sides of the same coin, the orphan backstory pushes the two men’s narrative to be similar, which is relevant to Bruce Wayne. However, this backstory offers little depth on the villain individually, and it’s a massive departure from the original backstory and the character’s past depicted in Fox’s. Gotham.
See character mistreated and taken okay done Gotham Riddler a fascinating character, providing him with a deep background. Although this aspect is not explored in The Batman for justifiable reasons, it would have been interesting to see that the villain’s past wasn’t exclusively tied to a traumatic childhood at the Arkham Orphanage.
False – Lack of style
From Detective Comics panels to TV and movie screens, The Riddler has had a unique style that makes the character recognizable even to non-fans. While the tones of green changed and spandex suits were retired, the villain’s style was a constant until Reeves’ film.
It’s completely understandable that the typical flair had to be strayed from a gritty, dark project like The Batman. Visually speaking, the dark green jacket and clear glasses fit the project in a way that the character’s classic features wouldn’t. While that’s easier said than done, a dash of The Riddler’s flair, through his videos or in the cafe scene, might have filled the void of that crucial element of the beloved villain.
Fake – Not Enough Screen Time by Edward Nashton
Along with The Penguin, Dano’s Riddler was one of Matt Reeves’ most anticipated feature films. Because of this, one would assume that Edward Nashton would have a more intense turnout in a nearly three-hour runtime. However, that’s not the case, with John Turturro’s brilliant performance as Falcone stealing the show.
The lack of scenes involving Nashton doesn’t diminish Dano’s performance or ruin The Riddler’s plan. On the contrary, the excellence of Paul Dano’s portrayal makes the viewer wish there was more screen time of him as Edward. However, The Batman‘s Riddler has already cemented its impact in the minds and hearts of fans.
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