Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Batman.

It is always a challenge to bring back a decades-old character to the cinema screens. The Batman had to deal with the balance between being true to The Riddler’s essence while reinventing his personality, so the character fits the movie’s atmosphere as well as the current time.

Following the steps of Frank Gorshin and Cory Michael Smith, Paul Dano’s Riddler was an ode to the brilliance of the DC villain. While The Batman‘s Riddler is accurate in several ways, the movie also added outlandish aspects to the classic foe.


Right – The Riddler’s Apartment

The Batman is a detail-oriented project, and it is no accident that the set designs follow the pattern of excellence of the other departments. When the audience catches a first glimpse of the villain’s apartment, it is clear that it is the place that fits this version of Edward Nashton.

The messy design nails the villain’s complex personality, showing his hobbies and plan details. Special attention goes to the chemical tubes in the kitchen counter, the evidence wall, the abundance of files, and the nice touch of a green chair, a classic reference to his favorite color. Curiously, the way the files are organized spell “ED” frontward and backward and “DC”. That is precisely the kind of thing The Riddler would appreciate, and it was not overlooked in the movie.

Right – His Intelligence

It is due to his intelligence that The Batman‘s Riddler is one of the best villains who have faced the Caped Crusader. The villain’s intricate plan is ample proof of his unique way of thinking. From leaking the images of the mayor’s love affair to placing car bombs along the city’s seawalls, his timing and sequence of events had to be masterfully precise so his horrific plan would work. One wrong move by the villain would have ruined his riddle.

In DC’s pop-cultural outings, The Riddler has had an entertaining mix of malice and cleverness. Matt Reeves and Peter Craig understood the assignment making Paul Dano’s Riddler a cunning man. Instead of underrating the character’s intelligence and turning it into comedy relief by the ending, The Batman never allows the audience to depreciate his plan. By showing that Edward Nashton should not be taken for granted, the movie honors the iconic character.

Right – The Obsession With Question Marks

The Riddler is not The Riddler without question marks. Matt Reeves knew that and managed to fit the crucial element of the character in an aesthetic that would not deviate from the overall picture of The Batman.

There is no vibrant suit filled with question marks nor a question mark-shaped cane. In the movie, Riddler’s obsession is present in his sketches and painted on his jacket and video background. The fascination is particularly highlighted when Nashton draws a question mark in his latte. Although it is a short scene, the beautifully-shot cup of coffee reflects Riddler’s personality without making it out of place in the film.

Right – His Introversion

While many comics only focused on Riddler’s clever plans and his natural extravagance, Fox’s Gotham offered a deeper look at the personality of Edward Nashton/Nygma. In Season 1 of the show, Riddler is an introverted man who struggles with fitting in socially, a background that is vital for his later transformation.

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Because of that, Paul Dano’s Riddler seems like a natural consequence of Season 1’s Riddler. Although the audience does not get to see much of The Batman’s Edward Nashton, in a few scenes, Paul Dano encapsulated the aspects depicted by Cory Michael Smith in Gotham in a way that one could easily imagine their lives being highly similar. The actor’s performance as a timid, quiet man is proof that The Batman understood the character’s personality well, and it helps the film to be one of Paul Dano’s best movies.

Right – The Laughter

Since the golden age of comic books, part of The Riddler’s flair is in his teasing and malicious nature. In Reeves’ movie, Riddler shares a laugh with his new friend and Arkham Asylum inmate, The Joker. The scene is not only significant for making the two iconic characters interact, but it is also the moment in The Batman where Riddler gets to laugh.

Although Paul Dano’s performance would still be praised without that detail, adding the laughter rings true to who the character is. Seeing The Riddler in another light by the end of the narrative makes the viewer feel excited about what is to come, which is precisely the kind of depiction that the character deserves.

Right – The Riddles

In The Batman, the villain’s riddles are precisely what they should be: not too serious, but not too silly. Given the gritty aspect of the film, it might seem strange for some viewers that the riddles are meant to be funny. However, just as there are many funny moments in The Batman, riddles like the thumb drive honor the goofiness of the ones in Detective Comics and highlight the humorous potential The Riddler has.

The riddles prove that Matt Reeves did not overlook Riddler’s cleverness or humor, and that is why the villain makes Gordon and Batman look like fools on a wild “bird” chase.

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Right – Way Of Talking

The Riddler has had great onscreen quotes over the years, and their delivery is just as relevant as the character’s words. Paul Dano mastered this by offering a new approach to the villain, not forgetting to honor the portrayals before him.

There is a shift between the way Edward Nashton and The Riddler talk: Riddler’s voice is menacing, with his breathing under the green mask being almost Darth Vader-like, while Edward’s voice is vulnerable but resentful. Paul Dano delivered the lines as someone who is not used to social conversations. Those details fit the personality of the villain like a glove, and the credit for nailing this element goes to Dano’s marvelous performance.

Wrong – His Backstory

The Riddler’s backstory in The Batman is right for Batman but wrong for the villain. By depicting Batman and Riddler as two sides of the same coin, the orphan backstory pushes the narrative of both men being similar, which is relevant for Bruce Wayne. However, this backstory offers little depth about the villain individually, and it is a massive change from the original backstory and the character’s past depicted in Fox’s Gotham.

Seeing the character mistreated and taken from granted made Gotham’s Riddler a fascinating character, providing him a profound background. Although that aspect is not explored in The Batman for justifiable reasons, it would have been interesting to see the villain’s past not being exclusively tied to a traumatic childhood in Arkham Orphanage.

Wrong – Lack Of Flair

From the panels of Detective Comics to TV and cinema screens, The Riddler has had a unique style that makes the character recognizable even by non-fans. While the tones of green have changed and the spandex costumes were retired, the villain’s style was a constant until Reeves’ movie.

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It is perfectly understandable why the typical flair had to be kept out of a gritty, bleak project like The Batman. Visually speaking, the dark green jacket and the transparent glasses fit the project in a way the classic features of the character would not. Though it is easier said than done, a hint of The Riddler’s flair, through his videos or in the cafe’s scene, could have filled the gap of this crucial element of the beloved villain.

Wrong – Not Enough Screentime Of Edward Nashton

Along with The Penguin, Dano’s Riddler was one of the most anticipated features of Matt Reeves’ movie. Because of that, one could assume that Edward Nashton would have more intense participation in a runtime of nearly three hours. However, that is not the case, with the brilliant performance of John Turturro as Falcone stealing the spotlight.

The lack of scenes involving Nashton does not diminish Dano’s performance nor ruins the plan of The Riddler. On the contrary, the excellence of Paul Dano’s portrayal makes the viewer wish there were more screentime of him as Edward. Nonetheless, The Batman‘s Riddler has already cemented its impact in the minds and hearts of fans.

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