The Riddler has long been one of the more malleable members of Batman’s rogue’s gallery. In comics, films, and TV he’s ranged from a B-grade Joker, a tragic figure haunted by his compulsions, and even (briefly) a hero in his own right. The Batman‘s Edward Nashton looks set to add to that, with Paul Dano playing a terrifying-looking character who knows Gotham’s darkest secrets.
Since his first unveiling, many fans have pegged him as a take on the infamous Zodiac, a serial killer who terrorized San Francisco in the late 1960s. The killer – whose identity remains a mystery – wore a bizarre homemade costume, communicated via cryptograms, and assembled cut-up images to taunt detectives. Naturally, all that makes him an obvious source of inspiration for a dark take on the Riddler.
Director Matt Reeves went into more detail during an interview with MovieMaker, confirming that he was inspired by 1970s cinema and the culture at large:
“The premise of the movie is that the Riddler is kind of molded in an almost Zodiac Killer sort of mode, and is killing very prominent figures in Gotham, and they are the pillars of society. These are supposedly legitimate figures. It begins with the mayor, and then it escalates from there.
And in the wake of the murders, he reveals the ways in which these people were not everything they said they were, and you start to realize there’s some kind of association. And so just like Woodward and Bernstein, you’ve got Gordon and Batman trying to follow the clues to try and make sense of this thing in a classic kind-of-detective story way.”
Paul Dano is a magnetic actor, though it’s curious they’ve kept his face under wraps in all the trailers and production shots. I suspect there’s more to this character than meets the eye, and that we could see the familiar comic story subverted in some interesting ways. Fans are already theorizing that this Riddler may be a member of the Wayne family, perhaps cast out for threatening to expose the dark secrets behind the family name.
We’ll find out fairly soon, as The Batman hits theaters on March 4.