Riddle Me This: Batman Three.
This one seems to have flown beneath the buzz radar. But I’m chomping at the bit at the prospect of having Johnny Depp take on The Riddler. Problem is, these early casting rumours rarely ever come to fruition. My other problem is: has the story treatment for Batman Three even been written yet? I don’t like the idea of The Riddler and Penguin being shoe-horned into a Batman story [though I surmise this is what happens with most comics, we’ve already established that ‘The Dark Knight’ has transcended its source material].
All misgivings aside, if anyone has a decent chance of one-upping Ledger’s Joker, it’s Depp. Not necessarily because he’s a better actor – and he is – but because he’s a great character actor, equally adept in Hollywood blockbusters as he is in obscure thrillers. That he’s worked with Tim Burton on more occasions than anyone else [with the possible exception of Danny Elfman?] damn-near infuses Mr. Depp with a biological connection to the Batman mythos. Whether or not you appreciate Burton’s Bat-films is entirely beside the point, one thing is clear: Burton has an innate sense of the Gothic, and the Comic.
I could care less that Philip Seymour Hoffman was approached to be the next Penguin. He looks like he could be a Penguin, but that’s merely an aesthetic consideration at this point. Without a doubt, he’s a fine actor, but a fine Penguin? Not so sure. I suppose that’s because conceptually, I hold Burton and DeVito’s Penguin on a pedestal nearly as tall as Ledger’s Joker [that and it marked the first and last occasion that DeVito played a character other than himself]. In a real-world context – that is, Nolan’s context – the Penguin simply bores me as nothing more than a mobster with a disfigurement. The Penguin of the comics has never been compelling. Ever. And I’ve read a lot of Batman comics.
But I can see The Riddler working, particularly in the hands of Depp. My story treatment goes something like this: Edward Nygma [surely they will need to change his name, who wouldn’t guess that this guy is secretly The Riddler?!] is the detective charged by the GCPD to track down the Batman and incarcerate him. When he clocks off, though, he becomes the terrorist known only as The Riddler, putting the Dark Knight through his paces with a series of life-or-death riddles, designed to trap and expose him. Here is a pragmatic force, determined to unravel the mystery of the Batman at all costs, even at the cost of civilian lives. This effectively fuses two of the most popular [and tenable] interpretations of the character: a villain obsessed with the mystery of Batman’s identity vs. a rival detective and GCPD informant, as he has appeared most recently within the pages of Paul Dini’s Detective Comics. It’s also a scenario that fits well with the Batman-as-Enemy-of-the-State theme alluded to in The Dark Knight’s final act.