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The Riddler's Drastic Change In The Batman Explained

Contains spoilers for "The Batman"

After years of waiting, "The Batman" has finally swooped into theaters. It's been a long road for this new version of the Dark Knight to make its way to the big screen, as the production was hit with pandemic-related delays and setbacks. Robert Pattinson himself reportedly caught COVID-19 during filming, so it's a minor miracle that Warner Bros. has finally been able to release the Matt Reeves-directed movie. Thankfully, the film pushes its cast of DC heroes and villains in new directions, many of which should even surprise longtime fans. The action kicks off in Bruce Wayne's (Robert Pattinson) second year of crime fighting, so audiences don't have to sit through yet another origin story.

When a sadistic individual called the Riddler (Paul Dano) starts targeting the corrupt officials of Gotham, Batman sets out to stop his violent war before the villain can hurt the rest of the city. The Caped Crusader also crosses paths with some other iconic characters from the Batman mythos, as he gets help from Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and Catwoman aka Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz). He even goes up against two other iconic Bat-villains — Penguin (Colin Farrell) and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) — who are at the heart of organized crime in Gotham.

That said, there's never any doubt who the big bad of this film is. When it comes to the film's cryptic serial killer, director Matt Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig take a new approach to the riddle-obsessed villain.

The Riddler's new costume

Let's get the most obvious change out of the way first: the Riddler's new duds. Gone are the days of bright green spandex with question marks painted all over — no, this version of the villain takes a more tactical approach to his look. He sports a dark green military jacket with a similarly colored hoodie underneath. Then there's his incredibly creepy mask that he wears with transparent glasses over the top to mask his real identity — which we'll get to later on. After the first teaser for the film arrived back in August 2020, comics writer Nick Derington took to Twitter to point out that Riddler's headgear is actually an Extreme Cold Weather Mask used by the U.S. military.

So why does Riddler take a DIY approach to his terrifying look? Well, for starters he doesn't have the same funds as Bruce Wayne to create a high-tech suit — so he probably shops in army surplus stores for his gear. Let's not forget that this version of the villain is much more of a homegrown terrorist than Jim Carrey's gleeful mischief-maker in "Batman Forever." He's also a huge departure from the sharp-suited version of the character in the "Gotham" TV series. The small screen's Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) is also a former GCPD forensic scientist.

Although he clearly enjoys taunting Gotham in his livestreams — a flamboyant, eccentric Riddler wouldn't fit into this universe that Matt Reeves is building. The Riddler also tells the hero that his mask allows him to become his true self. It's all an attempt to bond with Batman, as he points out that the Caped Crusader's persona is also his true face. 

It's the classic "we're the same, you and I" approach to connecting the hero and the villain.

He's called Edward Nashton

There's another surprising difference in the Riddler's character from what DC fans might expect: His name isn't Edward Nigma. It's not even Edward Nygma. This time around the villain uses his birth name, Edward Nashton, a choice that's mainly about making sure these characters feel natural to the world of "The Batman." The E.Nigma-E.Nygma joke wouldn't work as well here. It just feels kinda silly. Sure, Nashton's job as an accountant is the reason behind his war on corruption in the first place, but the Riddler persona is who he really is.

Plus, he's already projecting majorly enigmatic vibes even without the pseudonym. When the police eventually manage to arrest the Riddler, his wallet is filled with a couple of ID cards — so they're not 100% sure who he actually is. Riddler's detached personality, his unhinged crimes, and his bizarre costume even call back to a real-life serial killer. When speaking to MovieMaker, Reeves said, "The premise of the movie is that the Riddler is kind of molded in an almost Zodiac Killer sort of mode."

It's easy to see the connection, since the Riddler sends messages written in code, much like the Zodiac Killer who terrified San Francisco in the 1970s. Thankfully, Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis) happens to be a master code-breaker, which is hugely helpful when he and Bruce are picking apart Riddler's cryptic messages.