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After a very long wait, the highly anticipated, much discussed new entry into the DC comics film canon, THE BATMAN, is finally upon us. While Robert Pattinson is taking his inaugural turn in the famed cape and cowl to bring us a big screen Bruce Wayne / Dark Knight who’s actually sticking a bit closer to his comic book detective roots, there are — as you likely know — a number of villains along for the ride. We are introduced to Colin Farrell’s Oswald Cobblepot / The Penguin, John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone and other assorted baddies, but it was Edward Nashton, a.k.a. The Riddler, as played by Paul Dano, who nabbed the top spot as THE BATMAN’s primary villain. And, director Matt Reeves has revealed why The Riddler was chosen for such a major duty.
Matt Reeves, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay for THE BATMAN, stopped by CinemaBlend’s official ReelBlend podcast in time for the film’s debut, and was asked to explain his thoughts on an eternal question that has plagued many superhero stories — especially that of Batman — for many years: Which comes first; the hero as a response to crime, or a wild amount of masked criminals in response to the presence of a masked vigilante?
Reeves’ answer brought up the importance of those masks, and also how The Riddler and Batman are actually more similar than one might originally think, which is why he was chosen as the primary villain.
“When you're masked, you can kind of lose yourself. And there's an individuation. And I did a lot of reading about masks, and the idea of tapping into the shadow side…One of the reasons that I chose the Riddler in this story, aside from the fact that I was thinking of serial killers that were inspired from The Long Halloween, the Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale comic, I just wanted to do a story like that. And then that made me think of the Zodiac, but it wasn't just that. It was also the way in which they were two sides of the same coin. In a way, the Riddler doesn't have a problem with that line. He crosses it. But Batman comes dangerously close to crossing that line. And it's because he's not fully in control. And I think that keeps it very active.”
One of the things that many may find most interesting about this iteration of The Riddler is that he’s far more menacing than the last one we saw in a major motion picture, with that version being played to campy perfection by Jim Carrey in 1995’s BATMAN FOREVER. This time around, Riddler is — as Matt Reeves mentioned — a Zodiac-like serial killer who’s been targeting Gotham City’s elite political figures with ties to corruption, and then leaving messages behind for Bats and the GCPD.
But, while viewers outside of the situation can see that Batman is trying to clear up crime, Reeves seems to be saying that Riddler is doing the same thing. Unfortunately, with both hiding behind masks while doing things that they think are necessary for the greater good, both also find themselves being taken over by their alternate identities somewhat, and going down a path where they “kind of lose” themselves. Bruce is trying very hard not to cross that line and completely surrender to the darkness that led him to become Batman, but Edward has become so attuned to his “shadow side” that he’s gladly crossed the line and given in.
Most can probably agree with Matt Reeves that those similarities and differences end up making THE BATMAN’s story “very active.” This is especially true because the idea of whether or not superheroes are just as bad as the criminals they hunt is always something worth exploring. Showing Batman and The Riddler as people who are sort of two sides of the same potentially dangerous coin can make this exploration all the more intriguing for audiences, and creates a very good case for why The Riddler needed to be THE BATMAN’s main villain.
Check out the full interview with Matt Reeves on the ReelBlend podcast!
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