In The Batman, Paul Dano plays a very creepy serial killer who murders various Gotham City officials. It’s a very enjoyable performance, from the heavy breathing that opens the movie to the big Arkham Asylum tête-à-tête that kicks off its final confrontation. Dano is very convincing as a weird guy who’s turned his Skid Row apartment into a conspiracy-crank den, complete with newspaper articles taped to the walls, journals filled with incomprehensible scrawls, and a pet bat. I totally bought him as the kind of untrained loon who would somehow perfectly execute ever more baroque assassination plans for the mayor, the D.A., etc., but then not come up with anything better for Bruce Wayne than a mail bomb. (Does he think Bruce Wayne opens his own mail?! Maybe if it’s a package from Hot Topic. Otherwise, he’s got staff for that.)
I even enjoyed his ciphers and riddles, all of which were completely silly. But I bought it! The Riddler hangs out alone at his corner diner, sees everything as a conspiracy, and is a big-time poster. Of course he loves puzzles! The Riddler definitely tried Wordle once and abandoned it for Octordle, which he still views as “a little too easy.” His puzzles were properly nerdy and arcane: Thanks to the Riddler, I will always remember that it’s “la rata alada,” not “el rata alada.”
However, there is one aspect of Dano’s performance as the Riddler that The Batman gets absolutely, positively wrong: his glasses. Sorry, but the Riddler would not wear those glasses.
Come on! He’s a weirdo misfit who wears unstylish parkas and declares himself Gotham’s most forgotten man! Yet there he is, wearing beautifully styled, nicely chunky, clear acrylic frames of the sort worn by an artisanal hatchet-maker or a web magazine’s culture editor. They perfectly accentuate Dano’s owlish face, giving him the appearance of a trend-chasing social media manager. That’s totally wrong! The Riddler did not purchase Carltons from Warby Parker in “crystal”! [Update, March 8:] The Riddler does not wear $300 Lemtosh TTs from Moscot!!
The Riddler is a grungy, depraved serial killer. He installed carpeting over his hardwood floors, for god’s sake! He certainly is not wearing attractive fashion glasses. He’s either wearing rimless wire specs with fingerprints all over the lenses, or maybe—if you’re going for an old-timey pencil-neck vibe—Apollo 13 engineer guy dark plastic.
More likely, he doesn’t wear glasses at all! For instance, how does he even see while executing his complicated schemes? The last two years have certainly taught me how quickly glasses fog up while I’m wearing a simple cloth mask. The Riddler’s entire head, meanwhile, is covered in vinyl. You think those Lemtosh TTs don’t become opaque with steam the instant he puts ’em on, especially in a city like Gotham where it is never not raining? A movie as devoted to gritty authenticity as The Batman should have included a scene where the Riddler, mid–despicable killing, sighs, takes his glasses off, and wipes them on his shirt sleeve.
In conclusion, the Riddler should not wear beautiful, on-trend glasses. The Riddler should wear a tiny eye mask that matches his fluorescent green, question-mark–bedazzled Lycra bodysuit. Thank you.