Riddle Me This … Was Jim Carrey as The Riddler a Good Performance?

2022’s The Batman may well be the darkest outing for The Caped Crusader yet. Packing in three familiar Batman villains in the way of Penguin, Catwoman, and The Riddler, the movie does its best to keep the Nolan practicalities that made The Dark Knight trilogy so solid, but with the flair of the character’s inborn theatrics.

At the center of a very good (if certainly overlong) take on Batmanis Paul Dano’s The Riddler. Continuing the reality of setting a comic book character in a (mostly) realistic Gotham City presents the playful and cryptic villain as essentially no more than a deranged loser with access to the internet; a keyboard warrior and put-upon bully who blames society for his own obvious flaws. Finally peering in to Riddler’s home life in The Batman reveals newspaper clipping-clad walls, obsessive and dingy. Riddler picks up tips from like-minded weirdos on the web, there to cause havoc and advise him how exactly to craft homemade bombs. The Riddler we witness is grimy and unwell, and a far cry from the colorful take that we got in 1995’s Batman Forever.


The Riddler Then and Now

With the release of the latest Batman flick, and a new iteration of The Riddler, former Edward Nigma himself, Jim Carrey, chimed in on the latest performance. While on the press tour for Sonic The Hedgehog 2and without offering much on the actual performance itself, Carrey expressed his worries and safety concerns in an interview with UK’s Unilad. He said:

“I have not seen it. It’s a very dark version. I have mixed emotions about it. To each his own and all that. I love [Paul Dano] as an actor, he’s a tremendous actor. I do worry. There’s a spot of worry in me over gaffer-taping people’s faces and encouraging people to do the same. Some sickos out there that might adopt that method… I do have a conscience about the things I choose… I know there’s a place for it, and I do not want to criticize it, but it’s not my kind of thing… it’s very well done, those movies are very well done. ”

Riddler on the Roof

As a motion picture, Carrey’s Batman Forever is an anomaly. Regularly fitting into the so-bad-its-good category, it’s outward, campy, in your face, and just kinda stupid overall. Helmed by openly gay director Joel Schumacher, his version of Gotham is drag-savvy while lit by pink neons and held up on an uncertain bedrock of Dutch Tilts. His heroes have protruding nipples on their body armor, and the villains prance around and cackle like pantomime. Every sentence in the film feels like it’s some kind of quip. In a sense, Schumacher subversively queered Batman.

Related: How Batman’s Gotham Has Changed Over the Years

Schumacher’s Batman movies hearkened back to the Adam West 1960s TV show. In a monotonous current landscape of Snyder et al., Looking back on the Schumacher efforts these movies were actually, yes, ‘fun!’ with a hefty exclamation mark, in contrast to the grim gloom and doom of recent Batman films. Schumacher’s Batman & Robin and Batman Forever earn points for their wonderful costumes, lighting, and set designs (with the landscape of Gotham city itself remaining particularly outstanding) in addition to their wacky plots; these stories were out there. They recognized and appreciated Batman’s more colorful and sillier origins from the source material and on screen.

Lest we forget that the Schumacher Batman movies, as laughable as they are, aren’t comedies. Following on from Tim Burton’s exceedingly dark takes on the character, where the Penguin would gush black blood and Christopher Walken’s villain is murdered via 8000 volts of electricity, the studio (and McDonald’s marketing heads) wanted something lighter and more family friendly. This is where comedy actor Jim Carrey comes in.

The Carrey Element

Carrey’s unbelievable career in the 1990s would have Batman Forever directly squaring up against now comedy classics Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask (coincidentally based on another comic book), and Dumb and Dumber. Batman Forever and its follow up, Batman & Robin, are goony for sure, but they’re certainly not comedies.

For the often dubbed “rubber faced” actor, his whole body moves on the bat-stage. His gangly frame concealed in a skin-tight costume showing off the entirety of his dong, as if Kermit the Frog had been skinned for his pelt and then paraded around by a six foot tall man. Carrey’s Riddler fills the screen as mischievous, erratic, and impish, and is as high as he should be for the source material provided but in a universe of bad, his role is a symptom of that.

On January 9th 2022, a Twitter user tweeted a picture of Jim Carrey’s Batman Forever Riddler, his body backwards at the waist like a right angle, compared alongside Paul Dano’s bin bag-masked villain of the same name. The user (who goes by @riddlerology), opting entirely for lower case, wrote: “the tragic de-yassification of the riddler.“As tongue in cheek as the tweet certainly is, the evolution from Carrey’s fluorescent pajama-clad antagonist to underground alt-right things raver (at the very least wardrobe-wise) no longer * slays. *

Related: Jim Carrey Says He’s Considering Retirement: ‘I’ve Done Enough’

Add to that sound effects and slapstick beat ’em ups in a screenplay with wildly poor dialogue, and weird performance along with everyone else’s, including Tommy Lee Jones’ fellow villain, Two-Face (Jones won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Fugitive just a year earlier, mind you), and the whole thing comes off as one big car wreck of equally totaled vehicles in need of each being written off.

Batman For-Never

Following Batman Forever, Jim Carrey would move gradually into heavier material wherever he could. In ’96, we got The Cable Guy (which has more than enough similarities to his Wayne-obsessive Edward Nigma) and then opted for even more serious with The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindand The Number 23.

Right now, Jim Carrey is being praised for his role in the recent Sonic movies. His cartoonish energy in those fits the mph speed of his hero, and it’s fair to say that his Riddler walked so Doctor Robotnik could run.

If we were to cull Jim Carrey’s overacting as The Riddler from Batman Forever‘s world (a place already burdened with bad dialogue and overall ridiculous performances) then there would be much less warranted gold for us to look back on the film altogether. Jim Carrey’s take on The Riddler is not disappointing, not at all, but rather a product of something much larger. A garish cog in a very loud clock. His input is, in every sense of the word, chaotic and a movie as chaotic and high energy as Batman Forever required that.

In hindsight, you could even argue that the Batman character needed that, in contrast to the drab gloominess we seem so destined to receive. Ultimately, and quite frankly, Batman Forever may have its quirks, an amazing soundtrack, and for better or worse a cult following… but that still does not separate it from the simple fact that it just is not a very good movie overall. Carrey’s Riddler, however, lives on, if only as a delightful contrast to the Batman movies we’re all so used to.

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