8 Reasons Why The Riddler in Batman 3 Would Be a Bad Idea
|LISTS - MOVIE LISTS|
Edward Nigma, we think, might be a looney too far for Christopher Nolan's next Batman outing...
On April 30, Warner Brothers announced that an official release date for Batman 3 (working title) has been set at July 20, 2012. For eager Batman fans, this pretty much begins a two-year countdown until Christopher Nolan’s remarkable world of Gotham revisits the big screen. As the Caped Crusader’s franchise is arguably the most successful comic book set to film in recent years, there has been the requisite flurry of fanboy arguments over who would be a great villain for Christian Bale’s third and final act as Batman. One villain that has been strongly lobbied for as a possible opponent is Edward Nigma, better known as the Riddler, the evil and shrewd Silver Age genius.
Now just to be clear – I love the Riddler. I love the character. The ‘evil genius’ villain tends to be overdone in literature and cinema, but when it’s done right, it’s brilliant. The Riddler is done right. It’s no fluke that he’s universally agreed to be among the top four or five Batman villains ever among the hundreds of baddies that the Bat has tangled with over the decades. However, as great as the Riddler may be, here are eight reasons why Christopher Nolan would be smart in choosing otherwise for his Batman 3 antagonist.
1. It’s Already Been Done…and Badly
In an apparent attempt to bring Batman back to its goofy Adam West roots, Joel Schumacher pit the Riddler against Batman in 1995’s abysmal Batman Forever (only outdone in awfulness by Schumacher’s next directing “effort” - Batman and Robin). Eschewing Mr. E. Nigma’s traditional brilliance and obsession to be the man to outwit Batman, Jim Carrey instead decided to play him as the long-lost Fourth Stooge. Sure, he was the only film villain to find and destroy the Batcave, but between spending all his time mugging for the camera and trying to fill all of Gotham with neon green question marks, the Riddler may have been ruined on the big screen in the process.
2. After The Dark Knight, A follow-up Riddler Movie Will Just Feel Like a ‘Joker-Lite’ Version
Anyone who considers themselves a fan of the latest Batman incarnation can generally agree that whoever follows Heath Ledger’s incredible turn as the Joker will have immensely huge shoes to fill. So would it be a good idea to pit Batman against an enemy who, to casual fans, will appear to be exactly like the Clown Prince of Crime? Both are apparent maniacal lunatics and delight in using mind games to get under Batman’s skin as opposed to beating him senseless. For those who haven’t followed the comics, the two are far too interchangeable. Casting the Riddler will have millions of moviegoers who don’t know his history asking “so, is this guy the Joker’s son or something?” What’s worse is that while the Joker is genuinely psychopathic, the Riddler is perhaps only at the level of an obsessive-compulsive egotist. One of the worst sins a popular franchise can commit is to appear to be treading water, or (an even larger sin) to regress in tension and scope. As much love as I have for the Riddler, featuring him now would unlikely be anything else but a step backwards.
"Casting the Riddler will have millions of moviegoers who don’t know his history asking “so, is this guy the Joker’s son or something?”"
3. Batman Needs A Villain Who Is a Physical Threat: The Riddler Isn’t That Guy
In Batman Begins, Ra’s Al Ghul pummeled Bruce Wayne quite a bit…until Wayne was fully trained. By the end of the film, Batman was far superior in both strength and training and made short work of his former mentor. Then there is the puny Scarecrow, who hasn’t a prayer in hand-to-hand combat against the Caped Crusader. In The Dark Knight, the Joker relied on goons and trickery to keep Batman off balance. The Nolan Batman has simply yet to encounter an enemy who has the capability to pound him into submission. There have been mental challenges aplenty, but little physical threat. And the Riddler would certainly have no chance to put Batman down for the count. In such an extensive rogues’ gallery as Batman has in the comic books, it would be odd for Batman 3 to contain yet another villain without the physical strength to stand toe-to-toe with Wayne. Not to sound sexist, but the fact that Nigma was once easily beaten in physical combat by Poison Ivy in the comics is all you need to know about his fighting prowess.
4. With Rachel Dawes dead, a Female Villain Would be a Better Choice
Perhaps the most tragic side effect of the Joker’s reign of terror in The Dark Knight was the death of Bruce Wayne’s lifelong sweetheart, Rachel Dawes. Now heartbroken and more alone than ever, the Bat could be particularly susceptible to mixed feelings for a female villain. Fans who foresee this turn of events have been vocal in their support of Catwoman making a return to the franchise. Carrying on a love/hate relationship for decades in the comic series, Batman and Catwoman have frequently alternated between near-death battles and romantic rendezvous. Such an opponent could be perfect for Batman at this stage of his “career”, at the end of his emotional rope and torn between growing feelings for the new woman in his life and his duty to rid Gotham City of crime.
5. The Riddler is Anti-Establishment, Not Anti-Outlaw
As shown in the closing moments of The Dark Knight, Batman will likely begin his time in Batman 3 as an outlaw and outcast. The Batcave is ruined, Wayne Manor destroyed. He has framed himself for the murder of Harvey Dent to preserve Dent’s reputation. In short, his life as both Wayne and Batman will be a mess. So what reason would a villain like the Riddler have to make an appearance and pile on the misery? To put it bluntly, he wouldn’t. His obsession is to outwit Batman and ruin him. An already-ruined Caped Crusader isn’t a challenge for the Riddler. In the opening reels of Batman 3, Wayne’s alter ego will be a man on the run, wanted for murder. In such a scenario, it is difficult to imagine the Riddler turning up to take him down a notch. Batman has already been disowned by the law and order elements of Gotham. He no longer has a reputation for Nygma to ruin. The inclusion of the Riddler at this point would be a puzzling choice (pardon the pun).
6: Gotham’s Gangsters Need More Screen Time and More Respect
The last thing the gangsters in Gotham City need, while being portrayed as holding Gotham City in an iron grip, is another villain to make complete fools out of them. In Batman Begins, crime boss Carmine Falcone is turned into a quivering, straitjacketed lunatic by Jonathan Crane’s Fear toxin. In The Dark Knight, the Joker barges in on a “secret” mob meeting with little resistance and later singlehandedly dispatches mob leaders left and right when they refuse his help to stop Batman. Sal Maroni, the mob leader implied to be currently controlling Gotham, is presumably killed by Two-Face, who simply shoots Maroni’s driver while his car is in motion, causing the vehicle to crash. These are the guys who keep Gotham’s lawmen up at night? Nolan’s third Batman venture might do well to raise Gotham City’s mobsters up to the level of danger that would be presumed in a mob-dominated metropolis. Adding another evil genius to the mix would only serve to relegate the crime bosses to the fringe of the story when they should be at the very forefront.
7. If the Nolan Films Are So Gritty and Realistic, Why Write In Another Gimmick Villain?
Writing the Riddler into Batman 3 would make a supposed realistic and edgy film series a perfect 4-for-4 in somewhat-unrealistic antagonists. Ra’s Al Ghul is a nutty anti-capitalist and anti-industrialist who is part of an ages-old secret society that wipes entire civilizations of the map when they don’t like how they’re progressing (in the comics, it’s even crazier – he’s immortal!). The Scarecrow is basically “the guy in the creepy mask with the insanity gas”. The Joker is a sociopath who takes the guise of an evil clown and, on several occasions, proclaims the positive merits of total anarchy. Yes, these are comic book movies, but for all the talk about Christopher Nolan’s “more realistic” view of the Batman universe, these three guys are characters who are seemingly popular because they are so unlike any actual living people. As fantastic as the first two films are, their villains stand out as gimmick characters, especially when compared to Bale’s flawed and human hero.
"In the end, the Riddler’s quirky brain teasers would not only be just another gimmick, it might be the corniest one yet."
8. Who Would Play Him?
To be sure, Heath Ledger’s brilliant portrayal of the Joker was a bit of a shock to many moviegoers who didn’t realize his depth and ability as an actor. To find another actor to play the Riddler as effectively would require Christopher Nolan to once again find the needle in a haystack, something that simply may be too much to ask. Robin Williams, Mark Hamill, Adrien Brody, Johnny Depp, and David Tennant (recently of Dr. Who fame) have been a few of the names circulated to be in contention if the Riddler is chosen for Batman 3. All are talented actors to be sure, but the difficulty in playing a villain so similar to the Joker and not ending up being accused of “copying” Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight would be an unnecessary headache for both cast and crew. Every maniacal laugh, crazed look, or hissed line of dialogue by the Riddler’s portrayer would be both consciously and subconsciously compared to Heath’s take on the Joker. With the ghost of Ledger hanging over the production, the bar would be set unfairly and impossibly high if a villain similar to the Joker is chosen. Passing on the Riddler would make such comparisons a non-issue.
But we're split - right down the middle...
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