The Batman Crew Was Relentless In Building The World Of The Riddler

Matt Reeves' first foray into the superhero genre with "The Batman" is by far one of the most critically-acclaimed films of 2022. After reinvigorating the "Planet of the Apes" franchise, Reeves delivered an instant classic for the Caped Crusader that is chock-full of nuanced storytelling and a villain for the ages in Paul Dano's Riddler. Every aspect of the three-hour epic is carefully crafted by the filmmakers behind the scenes, especially when it comes down to building the world of the aforementioned antagonist. With a tragic past and vengeful present, a lot of work was required to craft meaningful depth for the elusive villain. 

Although Robert Pattinson's Batman confronts several iconic villains from the source material, including the Penguin (Colin Farrell), it's Edward Nashton that relentlessly terrorizes Gotham and its hero. He mostly appears behind computer screens and on his puzzling website rataalada, which meant they had to create a unique language for the Riddler to weaponize during his path of vengeance on the city. "The Batman" production designer James Chinlund has detailed the extensive effort that went into creating the environment that the Riddler inhabits for most of the film.

Crafting the Riddler's world

Speaking to SYFY Wire, Chinlund spoke extensively about how the smallest detail in the film was carefully added to ensure that the world Reeves envisioned was fully-realized. From the tiniest clue only seen in the background of a shot or the complex, torturous traps created for his victims, they were determined to show how hellbent the Riddler was to enact his exact plan, much like his costumed adversary.

"Not only did we have to make all that stuff, but Matt had to conceive all of that incredible detail. So we were designing ciphers and a whole interface for the computer and the thumb drive sequence and the build for the rat maze...We were hoping that the impact would be one of just sheer awe at the relentless drive that the Riddler brought to his mission in the same way that Batman brought that drive to his mission. And, for me as a filmmaker, [the drive that] Matt Reeves brought to his mission, trying to bring these worlds to life. I think it really is a visual representation of the relentless madness of the character."

Arguably one of the neatest aspects of the film for avid viewers is the ability to actually solve the complicated riddles Nashton leaves for Batman. The Zodiac-like cipher and the handwritten notebook used by the Riddler were "incredibly detailed and sort of obsessive-compulsive," according to Chinlund, who adds that, "We had to develop a language, a physical written language." Not only appropriate for the Riddler, but it is also an immersive tool Reeves and co. utilizes to its full potential.

A blessing in disguise

Shortly after "The Batman" began filming in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and forced the production to be halted. However, the filmmaking crew took what was an unfortunate situation and made the most of it to fine-tune the details of the blockbuster project. Chinlund revealed to SYFY Wire that the abrupt stoppage allowed for them to further develop the film before shooting, improving the production design in the process.

"The break was obviously horrific in a lot of ways for the world. But I think for us, it was a real blessing in a lot of ways. It did allow us to catch our breaths and sort of reorganize and regroup. It gave us a bit of a second prep and we absolutely took advantage of that. A lot of our sets were up, but [for] things like the Riddler's [apartment] I think it really allowed us to refine what we'd been doing and be a bit more precise in the end."

Reeves himself was open about the advantages of the production break, stating to Deadline that, "With these movies, you never have enough prep time, because they're so complex and so enormous in so many ways."

If the final product is any indication, I would say that the extra effort was worth making in light of the unique opportunity. Perhaps the best superhero movie of the year, it would not be shocking if the inspiring work by the crew receives significant recognition during awards season.