Why Paul Dano's Riddler casting news has us worried about 'The Batman'

Dano's not the problem, it's his character that has us concerned.

paul dano the batman movie 2021 riddler

The Batman casting news is coming as hard and fast as a flurry of batarangs. We just learned that Zoe Kravits will take on the role of Selena Kyle/Catwoman opposite Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne, and now The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Paul Dano (There Will be Blood) is set to play the Riddler in the 2021 DC Comics movie from director Matt Reeves.

Now look, I’ve got nothing against Dano. He’s a great actor who picks his roles carefully. What worries me, is one small detail from THR’s report:

Dano’s version of the character will be named Edward Nashton, a departure from the comic books in which he goes by the name Edward Nygma.

While Riddler’s better-known alias is Edward Nygma, the comic book character’s original last name was indeed Nashton before he changed it as part of his transformation into the supervillain. Still, it seems an odd choice, and my only guess is that Reeves is trying to make the riddle-obsessed baddie a lot more serious (to borrow another Gotham City hooligan’s favorite phrase).

After all, the Riddler’s full name is a pretty silly pun. Edward Nygma. E. Nygma. Enigma. Get it? But in The Batman, there’s apparently no room for jokes. This is shaping up to be a serious movie with serious actors. Not a throwback to the lighthearted Caped Crusader of the 1960s.

This is the only live-action Riddler I recognize.
This is the only live-action Riddler I recognize.

But can the Riddler ever be serious? There’s a reason Jim Carrey played the part so perfectly in Batman Forever, and it’s the same reason the villain never showed up in Christopher Nolan’s gritty trilogy (though apparently not for a lack of trying fro Warner execs).

The Riddler is inherently goofy. This is a guy who dresses all in green and makes Batman solve complex riddles to stop jewel heists. Dropping him into a darker universe just feels wrong — though if that is what’s happening then The Batman’s best blueprint for success may be the popular Arkham games where Riddler comes across as a homicidal madman who’s watched the Saw movies on too many times.

Riddler in the Arkham video games.
Riddler in the Arkham video games.

Before you get excited for Arkham Asylum in live-action, take a minute and ask yourself: Do we really want another gritty Batman movie? After the Nolan movies, Battfleck, and Joker, maybe we’re due for something a little more lighthearted. Warner’s recent success with Aquaman and Shazam! shows it’s capable of matching the fun of Marvel movies without copying the rival studio entirely.

If we’re lucky, The Batman will follow that same trend and finally bring us a Batman movie that’s just plain fun. But based on this latest casting news, it looks like we could be racing towards another dark and twisted take on the Dark Knight.


The Batman swoops into theaters on June 25, 2021.

Media via Warner Bros., Rocksteady Studios, Ghoulardi Film Company