The Batman: Why The Riddler is One of the Best Villains of the Genre

The Batman is the first live-action Batman picture since the Zack Snyder films in the DC Extended Universe.

In The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, Zoe Krovitz, Paul Dano, and Jeffrey Wright, the hero is a detective. The Riddler is a mysterious serial murderer who targets Gotham’s corrupt elite.

Batman’s popularity and place in mainstream culture has generated a phenomena all its own: his stories typically mirror the changing political and ideological landscapes of our time, adding to his enduring appeal. The Riddler in Batman is an example of this. Paul Danu’s portrayal of The Riddler is one of the most memorable Batman villains since Heath Ledger’s portrayal in 1989.

Paul Dano’s Performance

The Batman: Why The Riddler is One of the Best Villains of the Genre

Matt Reeves had Paul Dano in mind when he wrote the role of the Riddler for this picture. Dano’s depiction as an abused, maladjusted man with hidden intelligence and a caricature of psychopathy is what makes the picture so compelling. This is a testament to the performer and the screenplay, as he never appears to be a joke. Instead, the character’s madness is the product of unthinkable savagery. Actor Dano, known for playing shy geniuses, gives an aura of venom to the character. To see the character suddenly erupt in wrath is both startling and unnerving in the best possible ways. In part, this is due to Dano’s commitment and exuberance as the Dark Knight, making for an iconic performance that will endure the test of time.

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Locating the Origin of Evil

The Batman: Why The Riddler is One of the Best Villains of the Genre

In many superhero stories, the villains are the weakest link. It is possible that they exist solely as a source of conflict for the protagonist, or that the film’s primary focus on the protagonist prevents them from receiving the same level of attention and development. Even if The Riddler isn’t the most likeable nemesis ever portrayed on screen, he gets enough screen time to be important to the story’s growth. The Riddler, it turns out, is a child abuse survivor. However, despite the lack of specifics, it is evident that this man developed aggressive inclinations as the result of a history of abuse and torture. That this backstory is personal and, to some extent, understood is what matters.

When it comes to being evil, the Riddler isn’t simply bad for the sake of being evil. Compassion for one’s opponent begins with acknowledging that he or she is a victim of one’s own acts. As a result, far too many superhero films portray their enemies as evil without cause, even if such villains exist. Even Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the notorious Batman villain Joker falls victim to this peculiar idea. While this approach contributes to the tale, it also removes the audience’s capacity to empathies with the villain.

A Product of Institutional Failure

The Batman: Why The Riddler is One of the Best Villains of the Genre

The Riddler’s backstory is revealed, but The Batman delves deeper into his anguish. Thomas Wayne’s murder, staged by Gotham’s organized criminal syndicates, triggered considerable institutional supervision. Police officers and the elite class took money from a relief fund set up to help Gotham’s orphans. His motivation is a serious failure of the structures meant to protect and nurture Gotham’s poorest and most alienated. In the film’s concluding moments, the mayor acknowledges these flaws and promises to develop a more foolproof system. This film’s Batman and Riddler both embody the adage that people are products of their environments. The system’s flaw encouraged certain groups to purposefully injure others, a pattern that reflects a sad reality that occurs every day. The Riddler is an intriguing opponent because he prefers to examine crime, hurt, and their consequences in real-world analogies.

Getting to a Better Gotham

The Batman: Why The Riddler is One of the Best Villains of the Genre

In a strange way, Batman and The Riddler are both trying to punish the source of evil in Gotham. Unlike many superhero stories, Batman’s third act insight is that his vengeance mission is essentially identical to The Riddler’s. The audience is told that crime has increased throughout Bruce Wayne’s stint as Batman, and the man himself is unsure whether his actions have had any impact. Unbeknownst to Batman, the two work together to keep the scheme moving ahead. The Riddler’s puzzles lead to increasing brutality and seemingly endless puzzles.

Avenging himself and the orphans harmed by the unfulfilled relief fund, the Riddler seeks vengeance through violence. Batman wants retribution against violent villains. Both films treat the same concerns in very misguided ways, which drew Dano to the role. The Batman carefully balances these opposing drives, discovering that vengeance isn’t a path to healing. The Riddler’s tale is as vital to comprehending the film’s meaning as Batman’s.

Read more: MOVIE REVIEW: THE BATMAN (2022)