The Batman Director Matt Reeves Took Inspiration From Mindhunter For The Riddler

Matt Reeves' "The Batman" hasn't even been released yet, but it almost feels like a cliché to point out that the creative team behind the film has very clearly taken inspiration from David Fincher films like "Se7en" and, in a fascinating overlap between fact and fiction, the real-life Zodiac killer who terrorized California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We've covered Reeves' previous comments before, addressing the intentionally unsettling parallels between the unhinged serial killer (who was famously never caught) and Paul Dano's Riddler. Though some circles of fans may yearn for the much more flamboyant and traditional portrayal of the Riddler in years past, I find it hard to argue with Reeves' thinking. As he said at the time about finding a more unique approach to the Riddler:

"He made me think of the Zodiac Killer. He went around in a black, crudely-made costume, with an insignia and an executioner-type hood. In the darkest of dark ways, he's the real-world analogy for one of these rogues'-gallery characters. There was something very powerful and provocative in that idea."

While Fincher's "Zodiac" gets all the credit — deservedly so — for our most memorable pop culture depiction of the Zodiac killer (1971's "Dirty Harry" is another classic example of a movie based loosely on the real-life killings), Reeves is also giving some credit to a different true-crime staple of pop culture that fans have come to embrace. Netflix's "Mindhunter" is similarly concerned with the disturbing psychology and depravity involved in remorselessly taking the lives of fellow human beings. According to Reeves, reading the 1995 book "Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit" that the series is based on helped the director further fall down the Zodiac rabbit hole when it came to crafting the Riddler. As he told Total Film:

"I read 'Mindhunter.' It made me think of the Zodiac killer, and how he actually wore this primitive costume that really is a primitive superhero costume... a rogues' gallery costume. And I was like, 'Oh, that's really scary, the idea of people really wearing masks, and withholding their identities, and terrorizing people, and how scary that is.' And so I started thinking, 'Well, it could be an origin tale for the Riddler, and it could be an origin tale for some of these other characters.'"

He's Not Just a Serial Killer

But lest anyone believe that Matt Reeves' take on the Riddler is nothing more than a lazy knockoff of an outfit from a criminal mind that wasn't terribly original in its own right either (he just copied the standard medieval executioner look and I'm tired of pretending he didn't!), Reeves insists that there's much more to the Batman rogue than meets the eye. By the sound of it, we should expect a fully fleshed-out villain motivation that's a clear step above the usual superhero fare:

"He's not just a serial killer. He definitely has a political agenda. There's a terrorist aspect to him. He's indicting the city for what it is. And one of the things he's doing with each of these crimes is, he's attacking the so-called legitimate pillars of the city. The whole point of it was to put [Batman] on the path of trying to solve a mystery that was not only going to reveal the history of the city, and why it's so corrupt, but that also is going to turn at a point, and become actually quite personal."

The various trailers for "The Batman" definitely hint at this obsessive rivalry between hero and villain, with the heavy suggestion that Paul Dano's Riddler either finds out Batman's true identity or simply indicts millionaire Bruce Wayne as one of the many among Gotham's 1% who only contributes to the corruption plaguing the city. Either way, hearing Dano's creepy Riddler voice mention Bruce by name certainly adds to the "personal" aspect of their conflict that Reeves describes.

"The Batman" will release in theaters on March 4, 2022.