CS Soapbox: The Batman’s Riddler Needs To Be The Movie’s Main Antagonist
Batman has the best villains. Ra’s al Ghul, Bane, the Joker—we’ve seen these guys change the game onscreen. However, there’s a major player in the caped crusader’s rogue gallery that has been criminally overlooked: Edward Nigma AKA the Riddler. Director Matt Reeves’ Batman film outside of the DCEU, The Batman is set to feature a bunch of villains, one of them being the Riddler himself.
Not only does the Riddler need to be the film’s main antagonist, but there’s also a very good possibility that he will be. Robert Pattinson’s caped crusader will appear onscreen with Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, Colin Farrell as the Penguin, John Turturro as Carmine Falcone, and Peter Sarsgaard, who is rumored to be playing Two-Face. However, it is Paul Dino’s Riddler who hosts the most potential as a manipulator of the rest.
Batman’s best adversaries are the ones that challenge him mentally, emotionally, and philosophically. The best example of this is how the Joker has been utilized in films like The Dark Knight. Because of that film and depictions like it, that the clown prince of crime is Batman’s most popular villain but that doesn’t necessarily make him the best. The Riddler’s persona and history present a plethora of opportunities. Besides, we’ve seen enough of the Joker for now.
The iconic Riddler hasn’t appeared in a live-action film since Jim Carrey played him in Val Kilmer’s 1995 Batman film, Batman Forever. That film didn’t do the character any favors; he is often overlooked and underestimated by everyone (the fans included) because of his less than intimidating physicality and comedic nature—resembling more of a coked-up Jimmy Fallon than an actual threat. This is why he is dangerous. As his name suggests, the Riddler loves riddle, in particular, the biggest riddle of them all: who is Batman?
Edward Nigma is the type of guy with a chip on his shoulder. As overcompensation, he has to be the smartest guy in the room. If he isn’t, he will study, learn, and obsess until he is. His riddles are his way of giving the rest of the world the finger—he’s smarter than you. That said, he is the perfect opponent for a young Bruce Wayne honing his detective skills. In the comics, Nigma gives up his life of crime at one point and becomes a private detective, the best in Gotham. Reeves has repeatedly expressed interest in the detective aspects of the Batman while Pattinson his character’s moral ambiguity—it all fits.
When filming began on The Batman, Reeves posted a picture on Twitter of a clapperboard in front of a leather chair. This leather chair presumably sits within Wayne Manor. More recently, a photo from the set of The Batman found its way on Reddit of a murder victim sitting in that same chair. Rumors suggest that the victim is the Riddler; if the Riddler has murdered someone in Wayne Manor, he could very well know the identity of Batman.
In the comic book arc Batman: Hush, the Riddler knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. Batman defeats the Riddler early on in the story as the focus shifts to not so friendly neighborhood stalker named Hush. Hush is, of course, hell-bent on sabotaging Batman. As Batman hunts down Hush he encounters a handful of classic villains convinced and corralled by the big bad(there’s also a romance plot with Catwoman). The animated adaptation of Hush features a twist not seen in its source material: Hush turns out to be an alter-ego of the Riddler, who is still alive.
The thirteen-issue series, Batman: The Long Halloween (jack-o’-lanterns were seen on the set of The Batman), sees a younger Batman take on the mysterious killer named Holiday. Holiday murders people on holidays, naturally. So Batman has to beat the calendar each month and stop the killer. The storyline also includes a crime war going between the Maroni and Falcone families and the origin story of Two-Face.
Let’s assume, for the sake of conversation, that The Batman loosely adapts elements from either of these stories. A whirlwind of crime with a novice crime fighter at its center pits the Riddler as The Batman’s multi-faceted villain. Throughout the character’s history, he has taken over Gotham for an entire year in Scott Snyder’s Year Zero (something no other villain has ever done), and almost always portrayed as one of Batman’s biggest obstacles early on in his vigilante career. What better way to mold the world’s greatest detective than to present him with a tortuous amount of riddles? Pattinson’s Batman will go through hell.
What makes the Riddler’s appearance even more exciting is the casting of Paul Dano. Like the Riddler, Dano often goes overlooked (he’s the dude in the suit above). When you look at The Batman’s casting, It’s easy to imagine big names like Colin Farrell as the main antagonist. Dano is the perfect person to embody a character that isn’t taken seriously at first but is ultimately revealed as the man behind the curtain. Plus, he’s just one hell of an actor. Even if he gets locked up in Arkham Asylum, the Riddler could easily put Reeves’ entire trilogy in motion. Frankly, the character could use the publicity.
We’ll find out if this is even remotely accurate in June 2021.