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Why Paul Dano's Riddler Has The Batman Fans So Divided

The long wait is over and the highly anticipated new Warner Bros. film "The Batman" is finally in theaters. Directed by Matt Reeves (who co-wrote the screenplay alongside Peter Craig), the movie sees Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) in his second year of fighting crime as Batman, during which he finds himself pursuing the Riddler (Paul Dano), a serial killer who has been targeting Gotham City's most elite individuals. Batman works with Gotham City Police Department lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and nightclub worker Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), to find the elusive serial killer. The film also features Andy Serkis as Bruce's butler Alfred Pennyworth, John Turturro as crime lord Carmine Falcone, and an unrecognizable Colin Ferrell as Penguin.

Now that the film has hit theaters, the most ardent fans of the Caped Crusader have likely already seen "The Batman" and begun processing their thoughts. Considering that Reeves' take is far from the only Batman film out there, there is a lot of comparing and contrasting to be done regarding how the latest adaptation stacks up to what came before. When it comes to the world of villains, Dano's the Riddler follows behind examples such as Tom Hardy's Bane in 2012's "The Dark Knight Rises," Christopher Walken's Max Shreck in 1992's "Batman Returns," as well as several iterations of the Joker, most notably Heath Ledger's performance in 2008's "The Dark Knight."

Fans, of course, have a whole lot of thoughts and feelings about Dano's take on the Riddler. Here's why they are so divided.

Some fans think Paul Dano's Riddler is better than Heath Ledger's Joker

One fan of "The Batman," u/annonymous84, recently posted to Reddit to discuss what they called their "unpopular and possibly controversial opinion," which is that Paul Dano's performance as the Riddler is better than Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning turn as the Joker. They continued, "Paul would moan and wail when he was upset ... he would also scream uncontrollably and unpredictably in some of the videos. Heath was ... more confident when speaking about stuff and he was less passionate than Dano's Riddler was."

Another fan, u/Consistent-Low-1892, complimented both actors but stated that they believe Dano succeeded a bit more in one important factor. They wrote, "For me both actors did a phenomenal job ... but Paul's Ridder had me shaking in my boots." Redditor u/TeutonicRagnar responded in agreement, writing, "That opening scene scared me." That sentiment was shared by u/Dull_Sound957, who said, "Paul Dano knocked it out of the park. He brought this mixture of like the zodiac killer and the unabomber ... He made the riddler scary."

Meanwhile, u/ProfessorTeach came to the discussion with some evidence. They explained, "Every person I went to the theater to watch 'The Batman' with all agreed, and separately, that Paul Dano's Riddler was the pinnacle of on screen Batman villains. That early scene in the apartment, you know the one, was just PERFECTION."

While all of these fans were ardently on the same page that Dano's villain is better than Ledger's, other fans were less inclined to agree.

Some fans think it's too hard to compare the two

In contrast to debating the success of one actor's portrayal of a villain over the other, some fans think that Paul Dano and Heath Ledger's performances are too different to compare. One fan, u/dmorley21, likened it to "comparing apples to oranges."

Redditor u/LizzosChair776 noted that both performances unsettled them in the intended ways, and they explained why they are too unique to pit against one another. "The Joker to me was more of a sociopathic mob boss, killing all of Gotham's leaders and taking away their savior," they argued. "The Riddler was more of a psychopathic ... murderer who thought himself a vigilante who wanted to bring everyone to justice by his own means." Meanwhile, u/Dont_Hurt_Me_Mommy added to this point, writing, "[Ledger's Joker] was coldly rational the whole time. What I think is interesting about him is that imo his real motivation is not made clear. The guy is constantly lying to everyone, so that makes every explanation for his actions he gives questionable." They went on to add that Dano's more emotional villain was "beautiful, but different." 

Redditor u/kevonnotkevin offered up a few more concrete reasons for why the two villains simply cannot be compared. They wrote, "Paul Dano did a good job, but Batman takes center stage of this movie, [whereas] Joker took center stage in TDK. Hard to compare the two. Like someone said, Riddler mostly communicates via video and his riddles in this movie and wears a mask covering his full face so it's just not the same."

As fans continue to flock to theaters to see "The Batman," the discussion surrounding Dano's performance as the Riddler will likely continue on.