In the umpteen years leading up to the premiere of The Batman, the film’s trailers all wanted to make one thing abundantly unclear: what the Riddler, played by Paul Dano, looked like under his mask. Although I stayed away from spending three hours in a theater to watch the newest cinematic outing of the Dark Knight, I’ve been on pins and needles waiting to find out. Now that The Batman hit HBO Max I’ve finally received the answer to this riddle, and boy, was it worth the wait.
First, let’s all remember how we got here. While the movie’s various trailers weren’t shy about showing the Riddler in his cold-weather military mask, the only vision of the man underneath was a behind-the-shoulder view that only gave us the hint of the glasses (...we’d seen him wearing on the outside of the mask):
The refusal to show more built an intense amount of excitement. Why not show us his face unless there was a surprise in store? And boy, was there! When he turned around to finally reveal the man behind the mask, I was agape. I mean, how could we ever have guessed that critically-acclaimed, well-known character actor Paul Dano could transform himself into this?!
When I first heard of Dano’s casting, like most of us, I had assumed the Riddler’s true identity would look something like... well... Paul Dano. This is what I had in mind:
Which is why this stunning reveal...
...had such an enormous payoff! A payoff that wouldn’t have been possible if The Batman hadn’t so resolutely teased it, thanks to the savvy marketing decision designed to build fan excitement over the years the movie was in production. In a very real way, it was more powerful than the similar choice in the final Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer, which only showed the torsos of mysterious Ghostbusters, one of which spoke with Bill Murray’s voice, tantalizing fans with the possibility that Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson might be returning as their beloved original characters in the film despite that this was already a well-known and highly publicized fact.
I mean, damn!
The Batman, a very long movie in which the Penguin gives Batman a Spanish lesson, is currently on HBO Max.
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